Small Business and Franchise Success Stories

Finding capital to buy a small business or franchise is often the most challenging part of the process. Even when one can find a franchise related to one’s field of expertise and in one’s area, the starting costs are often far too much for would-be franchisees to pay out of pocket, and banks are more hesitant than ever to provide funding for new businesses. That’s why Allyn Nock and his wife Michelle decided to invest in their franchise using their existing retirement funds through Guidant Financial Group - a decision they are very happy with.

Both Allyn and Michelle have medical backgrounds. Allyn was an Army Corps nurse and Michelle has a Master’s in Nursing Education and worked 9 years in a Medicare home care agency. Allyn long wanted to own a business and both of them wanted to continue helping others using their skills, so when they discovered Bright Star, a home health care provider that serves all ages but primarily the elderly. Clients can received top-notch care from qualified nurses and care providers within their own homes, which is an appealing alternative to nursing homes. Its appeal has been manifestly proven by the speed at which their business has grown. It’s no wonder that Allyn was quite enthusiastic when we spoke with him.

“We broke even a long time ago and we’re just a little over a year old. We’ve grown exponentially through the recession... We have a very strong foundation and we have a lot of growth, a lot of good quality growth.”

Allyn originally wanted to own an assisted living facility, but couldn’t find capital and appropriate real estate. He also didn’t originally plan on working with his wife, who was an executive nurse with 25 years of experience. When they both read a book on financing, introduced the idea of the two them doing business together. During the process of looking for financing options for a franchise or small business, Allyn twice encountered Bright Star and was impressed by the company’s reputation and the services that it provides. It was clear to him that buying a franchise from Bright Star was one of his best options. He had several financing options available, but he chose to pay the franchise fees using retirement funds through Guidant Financial Group, thus getting the money he needed faster than he could have through other means and without penalties and taxes from a direct 401(k) cash-out.

“I had a couple houses that I could have sold, some other investments...Luckily we used Guidant."

Allyn and Michelle were able to start their Bright Star franchise without delay and without debt by investing their retirement funds in the business. The returns have been enormous, and the business continues to grow. One might wonder how Allyn has managed to maintain this growth. He says that the answer is quite simple.

“All we had to was just follow the Bright Star model that they have in place. They have it all very fine-tuned: the exact dollar, exact sale. ‘You will be helping this many people. You will be changing this many lives.’ And it’s all true. That’s kind of fluffy, but it isn’t just that. We do about seven more days of training for owners and branch managers than any other franchise like this. There are 160 locations now nationwide and we are number 32 in the nation in July 2008. I know about 60 other owners throughout the country, and I talk to them all the time about how they grow their businesses, what works for them.”

In addition to outside support, Allyn has a strong team of 115 employees. Learning how to manage what he knows best and leave other matters to people trained for them has helped him be more productive and lead the company into continued success. After all, the job has a complex emotional aspect which takes time and attention, and Allyn is most valuable working in the community and building bonds that will bring referrals and keep the business growing, especially when many clients are nearing the end of their lives.

“This kind of franchise is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of sincere compassion and relationship building to create trust and develop a reputation. We have lost 27 people so far in a little over a year. When you own a business like this, you get to know these people personally, so if somebody is considering a franchise like this just because they are thinking, ‘Woohoo! Let’s make some money’ then it isn’t going to work.”

It’s clear from the growth of their franchise that Allyn and Michelle are doing a lot of things right, but the rewards don’t stop there. The praise and positive feedback that they receive from families and clients is what keeps Allyn most motivated and excited about his work.

“Whether it’s someone who has had an injury like a hip fracture or a family dealing with someone with severe dementia, clients are giving us feedback of how much they appreciate our help. We receive all kinds of accolades and letters and nice things. The other big compliment is that we’re getting a lot of staff who want to commit to us to be 100 percent ours, commit 40 hours a week to us. In this business care workers usually work for two or three or four agencies, because it’s rare for them to find one with a reputation and culture to grow solidly in the community, one that can provide full-time hours and benefit. In other words, there’s a lot to get me up in the morning: the belief that I can truly say that my clients and my staff think we’re the premier health care agency in Southern Arizona.”

Allyn admits that it was an unusual decision for two career nurses with stable jobs to break off and work for themselves, but they knew that Bright Star was a perfect match and all they needed was the money to get it started. It was certainly a risk, and using his 401(k) to fund his new business may have made him uneasy at times.

“But what an investment it’s been,” he says, happily.

Others who are looking to buy a small business or franchise could take a few lessons from Allyn. For those who have valuable skills, finding an existing business or franchise to buy that matches those skills may not be difficult and could improve one’s success. Still, initial funding is always the next barrier, and even if multiple funding options exist, delay and debt are often incurred. This is why Allyn chose to go through Guidant Financial Group to use his retirement funds and why others might consider the same plan. It might be one of the best investments that they ever make.


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