Small Business and Franchise Success Stories

Entrepreneurship was nothing new to Dennis Fuller—he’d owned service and restaurant businesses in the past, and acted as a franchise consultant for years—but he still felt he needed to take an aggressive approach to saving for retirement.

“The stock market [in recent years] has been very volatile and unsettling. The real estate market has been in decline and I viewed it as a good time to buy,” said Fuller.

He used Guidant’s iDirect service to buy three investment properties with his self-directed IRA and is currently negotiating a fourth purchase.

So, how did he learn of Guidant Financial?

Fuller continues, “I heard about your organization through the many channels of the franchise industry. Upon doing extensive research as to who to utilize for this type of transaction, Guidant won hands down.”

As for the process, Fuller comments that it was easier than he anticipated. “[The Guidant Financial] staff handled everything from forming the corporation to transferring the funds and all the steps in between. [It] also took less time than I originally planned.”

For investors who may have apprehension about this method, he advises them not to worry. “Guidant actually made the process quite easy with their step-by-step guidelines. There was always someone there to respond to my questions in a professional manner. For me, it was exciting to see my goals becoming closer and closer as we finalized the process.”

Of course, there is strategy to being a smart property investor.

“Purchasing the right properties is the first challenge,” says Fuller. “We only buy three bedroom, two bath houses with a garage. This seems to be the most desirable to tenants and the most marketable when we plan to sell our properties. We renovate them like we were going to live in them ourselves. When this is done, they rent quickly and appeal to the right tenants. The next step is to find the right tenants. Most landlords rush into renting to anyone, and then wind up with challenges. We do extensive background checks and have had no problems whatsoever—and we’ve been doing this for four years now.”

His strategy is literally paying off. His investments have exceeded his initial expectations.

“After expenses, taxes and insurance, I am yielding a 9.5% annual return; not factoring in the appreciation value of the real estate,” remarked Fuller. “In this market, I view this as a very strong return. I call it my ‘mailbox money’ strategy. Every month the rent checks come in like a passive investment. When you rent to the right people and you have a very well thought out rental agreement, this can be a very pleasant and prosperous experience.”

Fuller says he’ll also continue his franchise consulting business and make time for his favorite hobby: fishing. “I live in Clearwater, Florida and this area has some of the best fishing in the world.”

So, what’s next for this thriving investor?

“More rental properties! I am aggressively planning for my retirement and with the current real estate market as it is, the timing is right to add to our housing portfolio.”

Sounds like a plan.


Growing up in a family that owned a small town car dealership, Mark Larson learned what it takes to succeed in small business. So, when he was outsourced in 2010, he began looking for opportunities.

“I was both looking for a job and looking for a business I could buy or start.” 

Larson says he had loved wine since he was stationed in southwest Germany in the late ‘70s with the U.S. Air Force, so opening a wine tasting room was a natural fit. 

He began researching ways to use his retirement funds to start the business and found Guidant on the Internet. After speaking with two tax attorneys and another financial firm, he knew Guidant was the right choice for him. 

“Working with Guidant Financial was very simple. I was concerned about how difficult it would be, but those fears were unfounded. I was walked through each step [of the process] and the attorney I was paired with was great.” 

When asked what he would tell aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to do the same thing, he advised, “Do your homework. Each person has their own tolerance to factor in. Starting this business debt-free reduced my start-up risk and that made the difference for me.” 

Larson holds a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and also has experience in construction. As a veteran, Larson recognizes that many of the skills he’s now applying to start his business, he gained while in the military. 

“I was exposed to people and areas I would have never seen otherwise," says Larson. "The job experience was great too—I worked in engineering and got a solid background in facilities design and construction management. The sense of mission you get in the military cannot be overlooked.” 

In his spare time, Larson enjoys fishing, cooking, hiking and canoeing. Larson will open the doors to his new wine tasting room later this month. 

Watch our blog for updates on the opening of his new business.

Mark Larson is the second recipient of our veteran scholarship award. Click here for additional details on VetFran.