Small Business and Franchise Success Stories

Find small business financing, and jumping on the opportunity to buy a franchise, is a lot easier when a bank is on your side – especially when an entrepreneur brings something to the table, too.

Richard Koch is living proof.

After working for Bricker International Utilities for eighteen years, the managing partner wanted to take the next step in small business ownership. As a partner in a Chili’s restaurant in Wichita Falls, he had significant restaurant operations experience – but limited profit participation. “As a managing partner with Chili’s it’s a little different than owning a franchise,” Richard says, “because you in effect work under Chili’s. You don’t have to set up a corporation; you take a portion of the bottom line. I enjoyed it, but I wanted to start my own company, buy my own franchises, and work my way up from there.”

Realizing the entrepreneur’s dream of franchise ownership started when Richard spoke with a friend. “My wife was volunteering in the school cafeteria,” he explains, “and a friend said, ‘Hey, if you know anyone that wants to buy our Quiznos franchises, we’re probably going to be selling them.’ She told me... and in the middle of the night I tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey, why don’t we just buy those two franchises’... and that’s what we did.”

For financing, Richard turned to a local bank that had extended financing to the previous owner. But he also came prepared. With help from Guidant Financial Group, he invested his retirement fund for a significant portion of the money needed to purchase the franchise. “So I walked in,” Richard says, “and the first thing they said was they made the loan to the previous owner, so they were very familiar with the business. And they loved the idea of me investing my retirement funds – they knew I’d have a large stake in the business.

“They said, ‘We loved doing these kinds of deals. We’ll do them any day of the week.’”

After a quick meeting, Richard provided a copy of his business plan, shook hands, and left. “They called me an hour later and said, ‘Congratulations – you’ve got your loan.’

Keep in mind most banks will not approve small business loans that quickly. As Richard explained, the bank looks for solid deals – and for entrepreneurs who bring a portion of the funds required to the table. “In effect they said, ‘If you’re putting down 35 to 40% of your own money, we’ll be glad to put up the remaining 60%.”

Richard also chose to stay local when he purchased his franchises. He looked at other opportunities, but realized that most would require a move to another city. Buying the Quiznos franchises was a natural fit for his family, since both restaurants are located in Wichita Falls where he lives.

And so far franchise ownership has met all his expectations, both financially and personally. “My goal was to stay in town, give myself a decent salary, and be active in the community. I want the kids to have a good time, stay in private school... that’s what I wanted and that’s what I’ve gotten.”

But franchise ownership has not been without challenges. “The hardest thing,” Richard explains, “was when I walked in the first day and and saw a bunch of employees eating. I asked and they said, ‘Oh, we don’t pay for our food, man.’ And I said, ‘Well, you don’t work here.’ I went from eleven employees to one employee in one afternoon. But I looked at it as a positive thing – it was time for a change and for a new culture.”

In Richard’s opinion, the key to managing employees, especially part-time employees, is patience. But that patience will then be extended to the customers. “I love working with employees and with customers,” Richard says, “and I just thrive on the restaurant experience. I love spending time with customers. I just love it.”

He also loves the additional time he can spend with his family after purchasing the two franchises. “It was tough because I was working from seven in the morning until ten or eleven o’clock at night. My kids and my family are more important than a huge pay check. So my wife was excited about the opportunity, and my wife was my biggest supporter when I said I wanted to do my own thing.”

So what does Richard feel is the best part about owning his own small business? “The flexibility you have with what kind of hours you want to work,” he says. “I’m very fortunate. I have good managers at each of my locations; it took a lot of hours to get them trained the way I wanted them trained, but once they’re trained, good quality people allow me to have the flexibility to come and go: Coach my kids’ soccer team, basketball team... do things in the community like serve on the Board of a senior citizens center... owning a small business gives me the flexibility to do things I wasn’t able to do previously.”

“Investing in yourself is one of the safest investments you can make,” Richard says, “as long as you are confident in your abilities. Using my retirement funds to help finance the business helps me diversify my investments. I now have my own business and I still have some money in retirement accounts... I can watch my business grow and my investments grow. Diversification is the key.”

What is Richard’s advice for entrepreneurs who want to buy a small business or buy an existing franchise? “Do your research on the company you’re looking at buying into. It has to be a good fit. I had been in the restaurant business for eighteen years and I knew quite a bit about Quiznos: I knew what their good points were, I knew some of the faults... there are plenty of ways to research companies. Do your homework, make sure it’s a good fit, and be prepared to work hard and stick with it. I’ve always been an entrepreneur – I sold dog and cat supplies door to door when I was in sixth grade. I’m confident in my abilities; be confident in yours.”


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