When I bought a franchise, it never crossed my mind that it would fail.
It got so bad, that every week I had to meet with my bookkeeper to look at cash flow, to see how much longer I could go on.
Those meetings used to make me want to cry.
For the thousandth time, I wished that I hadn’t let my rush to be my own boss push me into ignoring all the signs. It was a bad buy, but I did it anyway.
I FIRST GOT INTO BUSINESS BECAUSE I WANTED ALL THE ‘TOYS’
I started out as a ‘Roll Boy’. This was the name given to a casual weekend baker at the popular franchise chain, Bakers Delight. I used to work 5-9am Sunday mornings every week while I was in school.
As part of my work, I met some other great Bakers Delight franchise owners. Some of whom had left school early and undertaken an apprenticeship, and then went on to buy a bakery. They had money and cool cars! I wanted that!
It was at this stage that I was lucky enough to meet one of my mentors, Mat. He would later hire me as a roll boy in his bakery.
Once I graduated high school, I went to University. I completed a degree in Business, focusing on Hotel & Catering Management. But during this time I was still working at my mentor’s bakery and he offered me an apprenticeship.
So for three years, I took university classes part-time at night. I also baked early morning shifts 5 days a week, completing the apprenticeship. It wasn’t much of a life sometimes, but I loved baking.
I left the bakery to work in a 5-star hotel (to complete my degree) and then overseas for 9 months in ski resorts. I realized I did not want to work for someone else ever again. I flew home to an opportunity of a lifetime.
I caught up with Mat when I came home. He offered to lease me one of his bakeries, so he could downsize for a while. I jumped at the chance! I wanted to be my own boss and have all the toys, cars and ‘stuff’ I saw Mat and his business friends had!!
I completed all the required training in 3 months and was leasing the store by the time I was 25.
I FINALLY OWNED MY OWN BUSINESS – SORT OF…..
Then reality hit me!
I had to manage my own staff, pay all the bills, bank all the cash, do all the bookkeeping. I also had to deal with my accountant, and my lawyer, all while baking full time and working in sales.
I was SO lucky to have my mentor there to guide me. The Franchisor training was good, but not complete.
Mat would visit me every week for the first 6 months and help out with the ‘business side’ of everything.
He would teach me everything; from how to manage cash flow, to strategies to grow sales. I definitely wouldn’t have been as successful without his help and advice.
I wanted to ‘Be My Own Boss’, but what I thought it was like, and the reality of it, were two different things.
I was so tired, I often thought ‘what have I done?!’
Two years later, I had grown sales by 30%. This was great, considering Mat was a great franchisee and had been in that business for 10 years. I made some great money and enjoyed life a lot!
I traveled, I had a nice car and I was finally able to repay my parents for all the trips they took me on whilst growing up. I loved the day I could send them on a month long trip overseas all expenses paid!!
As great as it was, I was only leasing my bakery and that lease would come to an end soon. I realized I wanted to build my own business and not do it for someone else. I started to look around for a bakery I could buy but there were few sites around at the time.
I found a 1-year-old store in a smaller shopping mall on the outskirts of Melbourne. It didn’t have great sales but I thought, “I’m great at this business stuff, I can do it again”!
There were two other Baker’s Delight bakeries nearby. They were already established, in bigger shopping centers and had great sales. My location had high rent, low traffic numbers and wasn’t making much of a profit.
But, fear of missing one of the few sites left and my overconfidence meant I bought it anyway.
NOW I WAS A REAL BUSINESS OWNER!
LOCK, STOCK AND BIG FREAKIN’ BANK LOAN!
This is where my real business education began!
I had to scramble like hell to survive!
I had to learn how to budget, control my spending and increase sales ASAP!
I had to personally guarantee the loan and that was incredibly stressful! I would be bankrupt if this didn’t work out.
To save money, I was doing double shifts, baking, and sales afterward. I was training all staff through government schemes to receive incentives. I trained new franchisees to gain extra income. I looked at subleasing part of my store (somehow!) to reduce my rent. I also learned to negotiate with the bank for lower loan payments.
During this time I even undertook a 12-month lease on a second bakery. I managed to grow sales in this second store, but no matter what I tried in my store, sales just would not increase.
I remember vividly every week meeting with my bookkeeper. I would go home in tears, as she would tell me that I would be broke in 6 – 8 weeks if I couldn’t change things.
I was devastated. And I was exhausted.
I could do this before, why not now?
My self-confidence was rock bottom and I was always worried about failing. What were the consequences for myself, my staff, and what was bank going to do to me??
SAVED BY A PLANNING DECISION!
The mall decided to add an escalator to the underground parking lot that entered the mall just outside my store.
This change in traffic pattern completely saved my store! Now I had more people walking past and all the customer service training kicked in. Sales grew.
Not by a massive amount though. But enough to take some of the pressure off. My bookkeeper gave me months now, instead of weeks before I went broke! Sales finally got to a point where I was comfortable, but I still wanted out of the business because I was ‘over it’!
6 long years later, I sold that store for EXACTLY WHAT I PAID FOR IT.
All that work, energy, stress, tears and time for no reward, other than the feeling of BEING FREE!
And the ironic thing in all this was that I bought a franchise because I wanted all the money, toys and freedom!
NOT SO YOUNG & DUMB ANYMORE
I have gone on to buy other franchise businesses. 2 in fact. And I am still a franchisee now. I realize now, how crucial it is to buy the RIGHT franchise or business.
Because if you don’t, it doesn’t matter what you do once you’re in, you can be pushing uphill from day one. If that’s the case, you may be better off not buying it in the first place.
The one thing I am thankful for every day is that I wasn’t married and I didn’t have kids when I had this business. I had the time to work 6-7 days a week to survive. It gives me chills to think about having to do that while I had a family like I do now.
IT’S WHY PARENT BOSS LIFE WAS BORN.
My wife, Teriann’s story is similar. This is why we are so passionate now about making sure the business you buy is the RIGHT one!
I want to stop parents from making my mistake and putting their family under this pressure.
I get that you have a yearning to be your own boss. That was why I bought that bakery. I KNOW you want more say over your time. AND you want to build something for you. BUT, no business is worth your family.
If you’re like me, looking for freedom and a business that will enable you to enjoy your life, you’re in the right place. We will help you look at the numbers and understand whether the franchise you’re considering is a winner or a bad buy.
Is being your own boss the right move for you?
To Being Your Own Boss – the right way!