Small Business and Franchise Success Stories

Starting a small business can have many rewards, but many would-be small business owners are afraid to take the risk. Sometimes it takes more than just the allure of being one’s own boss to inspire one to start a business; it takes finding a business or franchise that truly matches one’s passions. For people with years of business experience who want to take a new path, starting a business coaching franchise might be an excellent option.

Dulcee Loehn was itching to have her own business for over two years before she started a coaching franchise through Focal Point Business Performance. Loehn could not have guessed where her experiences would take her. Her academic background was in Biology, and after college she worked at a small laboratory supply company which was owned by a married couple. The husband handled outside sales; the wife handled most everything inside, but her passion was tennis, and Loehn was soon assuming most of the responsibilities in the office.

She recalls, “I learned during the years that I was with them every aspect of how to run a small business. I learned every piece of the business, from inside sales to accounts receivable, to accounts payable, to customer service, to shipping.” This was extremely useful experience and a good venue for her skills, but her passions lay elsewhere.

Loehn then spent over ten years in the corporate world, working in middle management and up, and eventually coaching other managers. For nine years, she worked at Johnson Controls, a building controls and HVAC service provider, where she tracked performance indicators for the state of Florida and Puerto Rico, but her role did not stop at analysis. Loehn explains, “I worked with the managers who had the PNL responsibility for their piece of the business. I would help them maximize their key performance indicators and reach or exceed their goals. I really was a coach, although I didn’t call it that at the time. We’d look at every aspect of their business, and how to grow their business, become more effective and efficient and decrease their costs.”

Over time, Loehn began to recognize that she loved looking at a business—in her words—as if it were “a machine, and getting that machine running at an optimum level.” This prompted her to pursue an advanced degree, but rather than seeking an MBA, which she felt would teach her little that she did not already know from life experience, she began a program at the University of South Florida for a Masters Degree in Management Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness, and completed it in 2006.

After her time at Johnson Controls, Loehn worked as a coach for a smaller HVAC company, where she continued to apply her coaching skills, but after a year and a half she still wasn’t feeling fulfilled. That is when she stumbled upon the idea of business coaching as a career, which combined the two things that she most enjoys: optimizing business and helping people.

“Those are the two things I really enjoy. I wasn’t a big fan of the politics in the corporate world. I really didn’t want to go back to that,” she says.

Of course, Loehn first needed certification and to find a coaching franchise that suited her. There were several options, but Focal Point quickly made a distinct impression on Loehn. She says, “I realized after talking to the Focal Point people that they were the type of people that made me want to be better and do better. They were highly qualified and had a high value system that matched my own, so I felt very comfortable.”

Furthermore, Focal Point’s stringent due diligence process convinced Loehn that they were as interested in finding quality business coaches as she was in finding a quality franchise. Focal Point’s due diligence begins with two to three months of frequent interviews and conversations to determine if the prospective coach is a good fit for the Focal Point franchise. During that time, Focal Point checks the individual’s business experience to determine if the individual has adequate experience to produce results for clients. After the due diligence process, the coach goes through eight days of intensive training in a range of topics, including how to be an effective coach, how to produce results for others, and how to market one’s own business and grow a coaching practice.

The man behind Focal Point is Brian Tracy, a well-recognized expert in personal and professional development. Loehn says, “He wanted to get this methodology that he’s been using with the largest companies of the world...into the hands of small- to medium-sized business owners. So in 2004 Focal Point was born and that’s why there is that due diligence in that certification process, because if you’re familiar with Brian, then you know that it has to be sound and these people need to be qualified in order to sit with a client and help them get results.”

The coaches take their own business experience and fuse it with Tracy’s methodology, which she has put into coaching modules. According to Loehn, through their own unique business experience and the training that they receive, Focal Point coaches can “partner with business owners to help them identify their goals, and—more importantly—help them to lay out the implementation plans to achieving goals. We help them increase revenue, decrease cost, and therefore increase their margins. We build strong accountable teams within clients’ companies, increase efficiency, and help them become better leaders.”

Sometimes the results of Loehn’s coaching are more than material. Clients also achieve personal triumphs. Loehn fondly relates one client’s success story:

“We had really just started and were in about week five of coaching. I showed up for the session and the client said to me, ‘You had something to do with this,’ and he pointed at me. I said, ‘Okay. What did I do?’ He began to tell me that he had not spoken to his young adult daughter in over five years. She didn’t say why they had stopped communicating, but that he had picked up the phone that past weekend and called her. That was a year and a half ago, and I’m still working with this client. He and she now have a great relationship, as if there was never a falling out at all. The walls between just crumbled, and they’re getting closer by the day, and it all started because he picked up the phone and called her. And that was a result of coaching.”

Of course, Loehn has big financial success stories, too. She gives one example:

“One of my clients owns a veterinary clinic. We have increased his revenue by at least $20,000 a year and it continues to grow. We have decreased his costs by about $20,000 a year and that continues to improve. We continue to find more opportunity there, despite what has happened in the economy. His new client appointments continue to rise and we’ve increased that by 3 percent. So the financial benefits to the clients are just huge. The average return on investment over time is about $5-10 for every dollar spent.”

Loehn shares in her clients’ successes and enjoys her own, though she admits that owning a small business is a lot of work. “I’ve never worked harder in my life—and I thought I worked hard before—but I’m working for myself. I don’t have anywhere near the stress level that I used to have.” Much of that is the result of simply taking charge of her own time and being recognized for her accomplishments. “I control how much money I make; I control how many hours I work; I control how much stress is in my life...I jump out of bed in the morning excited to get started, which I honestly admit was just not the case before. I like what I did, but I couldn’t say that I was 100 percent passionate about it, and I’m 100 percent passionate about this.”

Loehn decided to start her franchise using her retirement funds as a form of investment capital. She worked with Guidant Financial Group to complete the transaction using the Guidant 401(k). She chose Guidant for the same reason that she chose Focal Point: the company’s commitment to proper care and diligence.

“I felt, because the product is complex...I wanted to be sure that everything was done right. I’m a highly ethical person. I want to make sure that I’m doing everything right, and I felt very comfortable with Guidant.”

Careful due diligence and efficiency are all key factors in Loehn’s success, but she has two more bits of advice for small business owners and people who are considering starting a small business or franchise:

“Make sure that you’re passionate about it because you’re going to spend a lot of time doing it. I’ve often seen and heard about people getting into a business because they stumbled across something that just happened to be for sale and it was the right price, and they say, ‘Well, I want to control my own destiny, so I think I’ll do this,’ and they sort of go in through the backdoor, but that’s not the way to do it because the passion isn’t there. Secondly, be prepared to put all of your energy into it for awhile, because it takes time to build a business. As Brian Tracy says in Flight Plan, you have to go full force, just like you have to go full throttle with the engines to get a plane in the air. Once you are airborne, you can relax a little, but never all the way. There will be unexpected challenges and setbacks, and that’s where the passion comes in again because persistence comes from passion.”

So if you have a passion and a business or franchise to match, you might consider starting your own business. You may find more fulfillment through your work than ever before and have better control over your own success. Just be sure to thoroughly evaluate all of your options regarding franchises, certification methods and funding options, so that you can be sure that your business is supported by people as passionate and qualified as you.


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