What do you envision when you think of a million-dollar franchise? Perhaps it’s a glitzy office in an imposing building, with a staff of people all working together to make the company a success. You probably don’t imagine a single person working out of a home office, making calls from the kitchen table, or taking the dog for walks in between conference calls. But in homes across the United States, countless franchisees are striving to build million-dollar businesses – all from the comforts of their own homes. We recently connected with three millionaire franchisees to see just how they pulled it off and how you can too.
Mara Hargarther is no stranger to big money. In fact, at one time, she had a very successful career in the financial industry. However, when she started a family and had three children 19 months apart, two of which are special-needs twins, Hargarther decided she needed to be home to take care of her family. She had noticed a growing number of home-based workers in her Florida neighborhood — from sales managers to consultants to entrepreneurs — and in January 2008, she decided to join them by opening a CruiseOne franchise. Less than three years later, Hargarther is once again making big bucks: She had sales of $1.35 million in 2009 and plans to exceed $2 million in 2010.
How has Hargarther pulled off such a feat? She has become a master at multi-tasking and has learned how to prioritize her tasks based on the objectives she needs to achieve. She’s also highly self-motivated and has never needed a corporate structure to be productive. “I worked seven days a week for a long time to get established,” she says. “I would begin when my children left for school and would work nonstop until they returned. Then when my husband got home, it was back to work to finish where I left off.”
Being part of a nationally recognized franchise has given Hargarther the extra boost to hit the million-dollar mark. “My clients are my clients because of who I am and the service and expertise that I bring to them, but the recognition of CruiseOne brings credibility and solidity at a time when most people are afraid to give their credit card to someone,” she says. “I have gotten a good amount of business from the leads that my franchise sends to me through their lead program. The brand recognition is very important when growing any business.”
Jessica Belman started her CertaPro Painters franchise in Seattle in 2006. She works from a room that she has designated as an office in her home but is frequently on the road, traveling to her customers’ homes. She had about $900,000 in sales last year and is expecting to hit $1 million this year.
Belman believes much of her success as a franchisee boils down to the franchise that she chose to invest in. “I looked for a franchisor with a proven track record of enabling successful franchisees,” she explains. “It had to have a strong and effective marketing program, a deep understanding of its business and how franchisees become successful, a commitment to improving the business by trying new things in an ever-changing marketplace, and existing franchisees who feel good about the franchisor.”
In addition, Belman’s focus on customer service and ensuring that her customers are happy and their expectations met — and exceeded — has also allowed her to reach ever-greater success in her own business. However, she admits that she struggles at times to find the right balance between her business and her life. “You have to try to separate your home life from your work life, but it’s a real challenge,” says Belman, who works a full day but also works an hour in the evening to respond to emails and phone calls. “I try to be very responsive to my customers, and limiting my schedule to 9-to-5 is not conducive to that.”
When Rick Minten went in search of a franchise opportunity in 1997, he was specifically looking for one that was home-based in order to avoid the overhead of an office. Now, more than 10 years later, he’s thriving as a Proforma franchisee and delivers promotional products, printing services, business documents and ecommerce solutions to his clients right from home. Minten joined Proforma’s Million Dollar Club in 2002, five years after opening Proforma Bay Business Resources in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He’s currently projecting $1.5 million in sales for 2010.
But it isn’t just the overhead that Minten is saving by running his franchise from his home. He says operating his franchise from home has also helped boost because the accessibility of his office makes it easy to put in extra hours when necessary. “I can work when I want,” he says, “and I tend to work a lot because ‘going into the office’ is as simple as heading into the basement.”
Minten has also increased sales by learning how to identify and zero in on the customers that are a good fit for his business. “Regardless of where you work, it is best to find customers [with whom] you can develop a sustainable relationship that will last,” he says. “Over time these customers will place big, profitable orders.”
- Find a mentor and get out there and network! “Due to the flexibility that most home-based businesses have, networking gives them good reason to get out of the office and be productive,” says Mara Hargarther. “If I am not busy, I make outgoing calls or go to a networking event. This way each day is different, and I like that.”