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Buzz Franchise Brands: Applying Private Equity Thinking And Resources To Scaling Multiple Franchise Brands With Kevin Wilson

by | Feb 13, 2023 | Podcast

FM 26 | Buzz Franchise Brands

 

As emerging business owners, what are the things we need to learn to grow our business? In this episode, Kevin Wilson, Chairman and CEO of Buzz Franchise Brands, join us for a fascinating conversation about growing and scaling multiple franchise brands using many of the principles he learned in private equity. Kevin started his career with a prestigious consulting firm, Bain & Company, but had the entrepreneurial itch to build his own successful business and stumbled across franchising. From building Mosquito Joe into a household name via franchising to forming Buzz Franchise Brands, which owns several soon-to-be-household names, Kevin shares his journey and the insights he picks up along the way that have played a big part in helping him achieve a mountain of success in franchising. There is so much to learn on how you go about the business looking from the perspective of first-time business owners to emerging brands. Tune in to this episode now!

Listen to the podcast here

 

Buzz Franchise Brands: Applying Private Equity Thinking And Resources To Scaling Multiple Franchise Brands With Kevin Wilson

In this episode, I am joined by Kevin Wilson who is the Chairman and CEO of Buzz Franchise Brands. It is a very interesting company that has a number of franchises that they are growing and expanding under their portfolio.

Kevin, welcome. I am glad to have you.

It’s great to be with you. 

We’ve gotten to know each other more over the past year or so. I was going through your profile. You have an amazing background with everything that you’ve done professionally and how you got into franchising. Could you take us through a bit about what you were doing back with Bain & Company, and how you found yourself in franchising? 

Bain & Company was my first role out of school. I was in the Dallas office. I loved it. I did it for five years. I was traveling all over the country, working with large companies. I enjoyed it. I learned a lot. They had great people, but for me, growing up as a kid, I was always doing my own thing. All along that time, I was keeping track of different opportunities I wanted to try to pursue on my own. One percolated to the top, and that was starting a chain of retail bagel stores, which is Benny’s Bagels.

I didn’t know anything about the bagel industry. I didn’t know anything about franchising. We opened our first location. I did it with a couple of partners, which are my brother and a good friend. The first store went well. I got introduced to a lawyer who then introduced me to a guy named Joe Croce who was the Founder of Cicis Pizza. Joe was the one. If there was one person from whom I learned a lot from franchising, it was him early on. Certainly, the attorney that we hired helped a lot, but Joe knew the ins and outs.

We began to franchise Benny’s Bagels. I did that for several years. I learned a lot, too. I learned a lot about franchisees. If you may recall, that’s where I first met our mutual friend Kurt Llandwehr. Kurt was a customer. He came into the store and knew a lot about franchising. I certainly learned a lot from him about franchising as well. That was Benny’s Bagels.

You went from Bain & Company, one of the most exclusive high-performance consulting companies in the world, to starting a chain of bagel shops.

Yeah. My wife worked at Bain as well. I remember coming home and I said, “I’m going to leave Bain. I’m going to do this full-time. I need you to sign these documents.” She said, “What are these?” I said, “These are personal guarantees for the SBA loan that we took.” She said, “What does this mean?” I said, “It means pretty much that you’re personally guaranteeing this with me.” My salary went from what was a large number to me at that time to a small number, but it was fun. I learned a lot. I was fortunate to have her continue to work so that she could put some food and breakfast on the table every day.

What was it about the world of bagels that intrigued you to make that change?

It was more of what I saw. One of the things with Bain & Company is I was able to travel all over the country. One of the things I did is I always buffered time every morning to research and go to the best bagel shops. If you go to a place like New York, H&H Bagel was the place. I saw the lineups there. I then went up to the West Coast, San Francisco. It was Noah’s Bagels at that time, which ultimately became Einstein Bagels.

What I saw was this was clearly taking hold on both coasts, but there was nothing in Texas. In Dallas, there was one bagel store at that time. We grew quickly. We used a small footprint or a small investment, but within three years, we went from one location to probably 50 bagel stores in Dallas, and we had maybe 15 of them. It was crazy growth. The money that was poured into it was amazing. All of a sudden, you start seeing Bruegger’s Bagels, Einstein, and Noah’s Manhattan Bagels. It got competitive quickly.

That was the mid-’90s.

That was ‘94 to ‘98. I learned a lot. With the three partners, we also decided we wanted to go in separate ways. People wanted to do different things. I ended up getting recruited by a former Bain & Company partner who had taken on the role of CEO of South African Airways in Johannesburg. This was at the time when apartheid was through and Mandela was turning over power to Mbeki. South Africa was entering the world stage again and they wanted to privatize some state-owned assets. One of the largest state-owned assets was the flagship airline, South African Airways.

What attracted me to him was my background at Bain in the airline industry. I didn’t mention that, but during Bain & Company, a bulk of my background was in airlines. It’s not like I went from bagels to airlines without any experience. I ran the cargo operations of the airline with about 1,000 employees. That was heavily a sales and marketing function with some warehousing.

Shortly thereafter, he gave me responsibility for the maintenance of the airlines. That was a much larger job. That was 3,000 employees. I had two unions. That was a job that pretty much every night, I’d go home and I’d have a headache from dealing with a lot of the issues. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I was young at that time. I was probably 32 or so. I learned a lot and enjoyed it. Professionally, it was a big opportunity. We had some good success with the airline as well. We brought it back.

I would imagine there was a lot going on. There were a lot of dynamics with not just the privatization of everything, but all the politics and the country going through a big change. 

It was big. Those two unions I mentioned, it was a White union and a Black union. It was trying to corral the people to, “We did it this way historically. Now, we’re going to move and do it this way.” There were a lot of things the airline did very well. There were a lot of things it did well but it was also expensive, so we had to outsource some things. We went through some layoffs. There were a lot of things that we had to do to get the airline fit or healthy.

Were you commuting from Dallas to South Africa?

No. I moved to Joburg. My wife was there. We had our first son. Our son was born there. We were all in for a few years down there.

That would be a heck of a commute. That makes sense.

It’s a long flight. In fact, we had, at one point, what was one of the top three longest flights in the world from Atlanta to Cape Town. It was a seventeen-hour flight. 

You did that for a couple of years, and then what was next?

After a few years, we came back to Virginia Beach, which is where we are. That’s where Buzz is based. I did a couple of things. I got a call from a friend who wanted to begin building a private equity fund in Mexico. I began commuting. With this one, I did commute from Virginia Beach to Mexico City. We raised a fund. Typically, private equity funds have opportunities brought to them.

One of the things we did was we looked at industries that we had some familiarity with, so I looked at the airline industry. The one thing that I noticed about the airline industry was there were twelve airlines in Mexico at that time, but none of them were that great, to be honest. There was not one that would be classified like Southwest Airlines in our country or like Frontier or Spirit Airlines.

I wrote a business plan for the creation of a new airline in Mexico. I got my fund to back it. We put $25 million in. We went to a couple of wealthy Mexican business guys who put the same amount in and then a wealthy El Salvadorian businessman who is in the airline industry. He put money in. We raised $100 million, and we started the airline with six aircraft. We were the thirteenth largest airline or the smallest in the country. That was in 2006.

If you fast forward to where we are, instead of 13 airlines, it’s down to 3 in the country. Our airline is called Volaris. It’s the largest airline in Mexico. We’ve got about 120 aircraft. It’s us, Air Mexico, and Viva, but we are by far the largest. It’s publicly traded. We fly to probably twenty destinations in the US and all over Central America. We entered South America in 2022. It’s got about 6,000 to 7,000 employees. It’s a big airline. It’s done well. The management team is the same team that was involved from the beginning. They’re some of the best in the industry. It’s been a success. It’s been great. 

What was it that led to the success?

Part of it is having the right plan and the right strategy. You need that. They did not have a low-cost airline there and a low-cost strategy. The low cost in the airline industry almost always wins. It’s not the only way to win, but it’s almost. If you do it well, you can win. Several years later, we brought in a gentleman named Bill Franke, and Indigo became an investor. Bill is probably the most successful airline investor in the world for low-cost carriers. What he pioneered is what’s called an ultra-low-cost carrier. It’s taking that low cost to a new low level with a lot of different tactics. We were able to incorporate that.

The strategy part is important, and then the people. It’s a very analytical team. On the governance side, there are a couple of Bain & Company airline guys in there. There’s a management team that’s been doing this for seventeen years. The CEO is probably the longest-serving CEO in the airline industry anywhere with the exception of maybe Copa. You get the right people in place and then you make sure it’s well capitalized.

These guys flew through the pandemic. A few years ago, they were the most successful and most profitable airline in the world during the pandemic. It was amazing. Mexico never shut down. They kept going. There were no grants given to the airlines. This was survive on your own or don’t survive. There were airlines that failed, and that helped a lot, too. It rationalized the capacity of the industry. It was pretty cool.

I did that and then did some private equity for a while. I got into an opportunity back in the US with private equity for several years where I got a chance to see a lot of different things. In fact, I made some investments in franchisors. 1-800-PACK-RAT was one of our investments. Liberty Tax was one of our investments as a private equity fund. It was during that period of time when I saw that what I like doing is being part of a company where I can grow as opposed to being an investor and sitting on a board.

In 2012, I made the pivot to franchising with Benny’s Bagels. As we made a number of investments, I’ve always been in franchising, but then I went in a big way. I bought a company called Mosquito Joe, which had a couple of trucks at that time. We turned that single territory into a franchise operation. I hired a team. We rebranded it, raised enough money to do things the way we wanted to do them, and then began franchising it.

Over our five-year period, that business grew to about 350 locations across 34 states. We had competitors at that time, which were Mosquito Squad and Mosquito Authority, but we were crushing them. We asked ourselves. We stepped back and said, “Why are we having this level of success with Mosquito Joe?” Somebody said, “Have you heard of Zika? Have you heard of West Nile Virus?” We said, “I’ll give you that. The sun is in our face a little bit, but our competitors have the same thing. Why are we outgrowing our competitors 2:1, both at the unit economic level as well as on a footprint level?” What came back from that was the team we hired and then the support structure we set up.

Our franchisees were very successful. Part of it was we had set up the model so that they got a lot of support from us in a number of different areas that were important to allow them to focus on serving the customer and taking care of their employees. Those learnings from Mosquito Joe set the stage for adding our other brands, British Swim School, Home Clean Heroes, Pool Scouts, and our newest one, Grand Illuminations. It started with Mosquito Joe and that core team. 

That’s amazing. It’s never one thing that leads to success. It’s usually doing a lot of the little things well. From what I’ve heard about you guys, and I’ve been following you for a while, Mosquito Joe seems like a very advertising-driven business at first to get customers. You guys are pretty savvy in terms of how you go about customer acquisition and the different methods that are out there including EDM and direct mail stuff combined with the digital. Do you think that your focus on sophisticated customer acquisition strategies played a big role?

One comment that we always hear when people describe any of our brands is high growth. We are all about high growth at the unit level. A business isn’t going to make money for the first 12 to 18 months. There is the odd one that does. We’re on this ramp where we’re going to grow into profitability in a rapid way. The way you do that is you establish a brand name in your territory and then over time, in your region, then over time, at a national level.

Many of our businesses are hyper-local businesses where you establish those relationships in the community and make the brand aware. We do that through direct mail, heavy digital, and a lot of PR. PR can be inexpensive with the way that we do it. You put these different pillars in place and it increases the likelihood of success for the franchisee.

FM 26 | Buzz Franchise Brands

Buzz Franchise Brands: A business will not make money for the first 12 to 18 months. To do that, you establish a brand name in your territory, then over time in your region, then at a national level.

 

One of the things, when we got into franchising, is we looked and said, “What are the biggest challenges new business owners face? It’s not just franchisees, but business owners writ large. What is it?” It’s almost always how to deploy a marketing budget effectively to recruit customers in a cost-effective way. We said, “If that’s the biggest problem, then we have to be the best at it.”

Our chief marketing officer is a woman named Angela Paules. She’s fantastic. She is creative, analytical, and good at leading people. What I shared with her is, “I want to set you up for success. You tell me what it means.” Over time, what that’s grown into is almost like an in-house agency that we have where franchisees come to us and we can support them in a consistent way across the brands, but more importantly, in a cost-effective way, too.

Franchisors usually do it 1 of 2 ways. They either say, “Mr. Franchisee or Mrs. Franchisee, marketing is your issue. Find an agency and do it yourself. Deploy a few thousand bucks and customers will come in.” That almost never happens successfully. It could also be that you do something like, “We’re going to take shared responsibility to help you recruit your customers. We’re willing to do that because we know it works and we’ve got the team to do it.” That model has worked well for us. Our whole approach with marketing is keeping the foot on the accelerator and not taking it off and continuing to grow. Over time, we’ve been able to demonstrate that the lifetime value of a customer for us is multiple of the investment we made to acquire a customer. That’s been a good model for us.

Every franchise company says they have a marketing “plan,” but as I help people navigate through this to look at different businesses and figure out if there is one that’s the right fit, it’s getting in the weeds a little bit. These candidates get thrown a lot of information about these marketing plans and training plans. I’m like, “You have to look behind the curtain to understand what goes into that plan and who is involved in that plan.”

The plan might be, “Here is a list of people. Good luck. Go knock on doors,” which isn’t a good plan. You can take it to your level where you’ve kept it in-house. I would have to think that was a massive piece to your success versus outsourcing everything and relying on some of these “vendors” that are out there to outsource a critical piece of a franchisee’s success and the ultimate growth of the entire brand. 

In our view, operationally, we’re very sound. We’ve got great practices. We’ve got a great coaching model. The ability to get the phone ring for the franchisee and have the customers is a big deal. That’s something we take seriously. We view it as a shared responsibility. Early on, when some things don’t always work the way you want them to work, we double down with our own money to figure out and test different things to get to the point where it does work. One of the other hallmarks of Buzz is that we’ve always been well-capitalized.

We’ve always had a lot of money to do things we wanted to do. We’ve never relied on the next franchise fee coming in the door selling. We’ve always had a healthy balance sheet, and that balance sheet helped a lot during the pandemic as well. We had a couple of our brands get hammered and shut down like many people, but we were able to weather that storm and not lose any of our employees. That was important to us because we knew we were going to come out to the other end of this thing. We wanted our experience team in place to continue to drive that growth. If you look at our three brands, without getting into specific numbers, we have record growths across the board on all of these brands.

That’s amazing. There’s a lot of wisdom in what you said for any emerging franchise company. A lot of times, when a company makes the transition to start the franchise, there’s a new game. It’s like, “We need to figure out this franchising business,” but it’s a long game. It is not a short game to find the right franchisees, help those franchisees be successful, and then start to compound that. You need to have a bunch of money in the bank to do it in a way without getting stressed and starting to squeeze the pennies, which then sacrifices the support and whatnot. There are tons of wisdom in what you’re saying.

FM 26 | Buzz Franchise Brands

Buzz Franchise Brands: Find the right franchisees, help those franchisees be successful, and then start to compound that. You need to have a bunch of money in the bank to do it without getting stressed and squeezing the pennies, which then sacrifices the support and whatnot.

 

The brand we acquired a few years ago is British Swim School. One of the things that we noticed about the brand was it had a founder that was super passionate. She had set up a good model and a good curriculum for training, but the support structure wasn’t there for the franchisees. When we acquired, we felt like we could double the support overnight in terms of the people and how we do things heavy on the marketing.

That brand has doubled in size since we bought it a couple of years ago and is poised to double again. It’s because of some of the money that we had and the support that we could throw at it. It is a big thing. You’re right. I agree with you on your thought there. It is a long game. Companies that are in it for a short period of time usually don’t work out that well. 

There is something I’ve noticed, and I’ll throw this out there. You’re a lot smarter than I am. In terms of Mosquito Joe, British Swim School, Home Clean Heroes, Pool Scouts, and your new brand, Grand Illuminations, if I’m sitting back and looking at the characteristics that seem similar, they tend to be lower overhead and non-brick-and-mortar based businesses that are pretty advertising-driven businesses and have recurring revenue. Those are the three things that stand out to me as common characteristics of your brand. Is that part of your strategy in terms of any business that you get involved with? Are those some of the things you look for?

Yeah, for sure. You hit on them. Low investment out of the gate reduces overall risk. Especially in this rising interest rate environment, you’re not having to worry about high debt payments. It is a low investment and a high gross margin business. Think revenue less for the people doing the work. What’s left over to cover your operating expenses are high gross margin businesses. They tend to be Amazon-proof. That is a term we’ve used. Amazon is not getting into these types of businesses. They’re not going to be in your backyard spraying for bugs or teaching kids how to swim.

The other thing that’s important to us gets back a little bit to what we were talking about earlier. It is the customer acquisition part. We do invest dollars to recruit customers. We want to get long-term value out of that customer. The long-term value usually comes in 1 of 2 ways. The first is the overall retention of the customer. We like to have high engagement with our customers, so getting in front of them is a very big deal.

In the case of British Swim School, you could see that customer a couple of times a week. For Pool Scouts, it’s maybe once a week or once every two weeks, but we’re getting in front of them. That’s important. We feel like we can win when we get in front of them. We get retention from them. We use the net promoter score across all of our brands, and it’s something that’s important to us. I continue to think it’s probably one of the single best measures to determine the success of a franchise business and then for franchisees.

We generally have high net promoter scores. It is 60 and above and sometimes up to the mid-70s. One of the things we know about a high net promoter score in addition to high retention of customers is you get a high referral rate of customers. Those referrals tend to be cost-effective. They also tend to be sticky like the original customers. That’s a great way to build a solid foundation to then grow a company. Those are all characteristics that are important.

When we bought British Swim School, I got comments that said, “That’s out of your wheelhouse,” if you look at our home services company. When you look at it, more like you were doing in terms of the model, the model is very similar to the other models. It’s the end service that we’re providing, which is teaching kids how to swim. We got one added step in there, which we’ve been able to figure out. It is negotiating a rental of pool space. We’ve got some national contracts that are in place.

Compared to our competitors in that space which are typically $2 million to $3 million investments where they’re building pools that take a long time, we’re able to get in very quickly and then also be quite nimble. If a market moves away from you, you can rent pool space somewhere else. Think of fitness facilities and other things. They all come together nicely under the Buzz umbrella. It leverages our shared services platform, which is things like the marketing agency and the analytics platform. We haven’t talked about that. Everything is heavily analytically driven. Those are the tools that we give our franchisees to help them make better business decisions.

You find these businesses that can be overlooked by a lot of people if you’re looking online at internet portals. I do this every day, so people have an open mind. It’s a great example of when you start peeling back the onion and looking at these businesses objectively with these potentially attractive characteristics. In my words, I’d say you guys supercharge the business model behind the scenes with your shared services model, all the experience, and the people that you’ve put together over the years. It can produce some pretty powerful results. From a purely entrepreneurial perspective, it can be an attractive business.

I’m a big franchising supporter. It is a great business model. I’m a big believer in the support that you and your team at FranChoice do. You give a lot of guidance and you help people. We do exactly what you say. There are thousands of franchise opportunities out there, but there aren’t thousands of great franchise opportunities. You guys have the ability to see what’s working because you spend time doing things like this, getting to know the people behind the scenes. You can steer your clients into the right opportunities.

It doesn’t mean we’re the right opportunity for them. There could be something completely different. It’s about getting them into a situation where the likelihood of them being successful is higher than they could if they either did it on their own or tried to do it by themselves looking at these different opportunities. I’m a big fan of what you guys do. You’re some of the best out there. 

I appreciate that. Everything that you’ve been talking about through your experience at Bain, the turnaround you did in South Africa, and playing a pivotal role in the Mexican airline, you look at these businesses like businesses. The widget’s important as well as the demand, the place in the market, and all that kind of stuff. You form certain opinions around some of these characteristics that can make for a compelling business case or a compelling business to get involved with.

The elements are you need to be properly capitalized, number one, for any business, but then, you start thinking about these businesses in a different way from a purely entrepreneurial perspective. You’re like, “That idea of recurring revenue sounds pretty attractive.” In the perfect world, I would imagine the lifetime value of a customer for Home Clean Heroes or Pool Scouts. As long as you don’t screw that project up or that customer gets upset for some reason, there’s no reason for them to change. They’re going to stick with you. If you start thinking about the math, it compounds over the years. It’s a pretty significant number on the lifetime value.

Can you think of any businesses like Pool Scouts and Home Clean Heroes? With the pool cleaning guy, it’s like, “I got to go find another guy because he’s so unreliable.” The bar is so low in that business. All you need to do is take care of the customer. We have a view, which is as a franchise, you take care of your employees and teach them how to take care of the customer. You can’t take care of every customer. Initially, you can, but take care of your employees.

Take care of your employees and teach them how to take care of the customer because you can't take care of every customer. Share on X

It’s the same with Home Clean Heroes. You’ve got to do something bad that those customers want to go somewhere else. That’s the last thing that they want to do. I can speak from my own experience. I don’t want to be looking around, searching, or talking to people like, “Who should I get? I want to stick with somebody that’s good.” Once you find them, you’ve got them for life as long as you keep doing good service.

I see the Pool Scouts’ truck once a week when I take my daughter to the bus stop. It pops. You’re like, “What’s that truck in that driveway?” It’s Pool Scouts versus when you see the other faded pickup trucks.

They’re rusted and have oil dripping.

 They’re driving around to the other houses. It pops. It looks good.

It has a professional truck as a vehicular sign when they’re driving. Make it clean. Have it kitted out. Make sure that the technicians have a uniform on. Do a little extra at the location. Maybe blow off the deck or rearrange the chairs for them so they come out and their pool looks great. It takes you an extra couple of minutes in addition to cleaning the pool, but it adds a lot. Maybe bring the garbage cans in for them if the guys come by. Doing little things like that and teaching your employees to do those things goes a long way.

No doubt. You mentioned analytics. What do you do around the analytics? It seems like that was a big thing that you focused on.

Everything we do with all of our franchise systems is we’re not a software company. We don’t make software so we put that out there. We use what we can find as the best off-the-shelf software for the franchisee. What ends up developing is an ecosystem of Cloud-based software. It’s a CRM handling all the relations with your customers. It’s your website. It’s the VoIP telephone system. It’s the direct mail that we do. It’s the demographics in the area. All of these things are in different cloud software.

We bring it all into one area called an Amazon Web Server. It all comes into one database. We then use a business intelligence tool. It’s a business visualization tool called Tableau. It is owned by Salesforce now. It is very common with large companies and Fortune 500s. It is probably less common with franchisors because of its nature of it.

We all have analytic backgrounds. We use Tableau. What it allows us to do is reach into all these different pieces and build the dashboard and the analytic capabilities. If a franchisee comes to us and says, “My gross margin is X. I thought it was supposed to be X plus ten. What’s wrong?” We’re able to go very quickly and say, “Here’s the issue that you’ve got.”

In the case of Home Clean Heroes as an example, we’re like, “You’re undercharging for homes that are 3,000 flight feet and above. You got to fix that.” It could be, “The routing on this route on this particular day is off. You’ve got too much windshield time for your tech. You got to tighten the routing up.” That means you got to rearrange which homes are done on which days, which means you got to rearrange upfront. When you’re recruiting the customer, you got to tell them you’re in that neighborhood on that day and when you’re going to be done. You do it in a nice way. It’s not one thing. That’s what we do.

We then provide these dashboards to the franchisee where they can see it themselves. They can compare themselves to other people that started during the same time. They can compare themselves to people that are in their geographical area. If the data is out there, we have it. We know how to use it and manipulate it so you can get the right answer and see what has to get done. It’s pretty powerful. People love it. You are also singing off from the same playbook. A typical CRM might have 500 unique reports and not one report is great. With what we’re able to do, we’re able to take the data and create the report that’s exactly right for their business and the way we do business. It’s pretty powerful. 

It takes most of the emotion out of that conversation with a franchise owner. If they’re not hitting the benchmarks or maybe they’re not where they want to be, which could be an emotional conversation to begin with, you can take the emotion out of it and say, “Let’s look at the numbers,” like a doctor. You’re like, “Let’s pull up the chart and take a look.” We’ll all take a look at it, compare it to the benchmarks that we have, and start the conversation there versus with emotion.

FM 26 | Buzz Franchise Brands

Buzz Franchise Brands: It takes most of the emotion out of that conversation with a franchise owner if they’re not hitting the benchmarks or maybe they’re not where they want to be, which could be an emotional conversation to begin.

 

Your net promoter score comes in. We see somebody coming in and they’re at around 30 over the last two months, but prior to that, they were at 60. What’s going on? We’re able to dig in and say, “Did you get a new instructor at this pool on this day? We’re seeing what’s going on here. Did you train in this way?” We could be like, “The water temperature seems to be 78 and it should be 82 for the kids.”

You’re able to dial into what the issues are and get them fixed quickly so that you can then move on to grow your business. It’s powerful. It’s a big investment we made. We got a dedicated analytics team. We hired an outside firm to teach us how to do all the programming for Tableau. There are a lot of accumulated experiences there over time, but it is working well.

It’s a great example of knowing what you want to be good at internally and where your competencies are going to be and then finding good partners, good software, and good solutions for the stuff that you don’t want to have to figure out on your own. Those little decisions, especially for a young emerging franchise or even a new business owner, are the things that can help you not get distracted with a bunch of time, effort, and money that might not move the needle as much as focusing on other stuff.

There’s no question about it. It changes every year. We’re constantly innovating change. We’re constantly saying, “Is this still the best CRM for our franchisees? Should we move in a different direction? What are some of the innovations that are taking place in technology that will make it even better?” For the most part, our businesses are basic businesses. There’s not a lot of innovation in terms of the service that’s being provided, but there is a lot of innovation in helping deliver the service. If you can teach a kid how to swim and how to float on their back, that’s going to stay the same over time. It’s how you recruit the customers and how you schedule them. There are a lot more efficiencies you can get out of the overall system.

That is well said. There are a lot of nuggets that you’ve dropped.

The only one we haven’t talked about a little bit is Grand Illuminations. That’s one we started. We incubated that. We had fourteen locations in our first season. We focused for the most part on seasonal lights, Christmas lights, and other festival-type lights during that period of time. Our fourteen franchisees are all experienced franchisees known to us. We wanted to launch with people that were proven business people to us so that we could learn a lot. It’s a great business. It has very sticky customers. For me, personally, the day after Thanksgiving is always the day you put up the Christmas lights. It was always the one day of the year that I wasn’t looking forward to. I no longer have to worry about that.

That’s perfect. You happen to be probably creating a national brand at the same time.

That brand is going to have a lot of legs. There aren’t many true national players in that space. It can lead to some other things as well. I’m optimistic about that business. We’re continuing to look for others over time. If we look at a lot, we don’t do a lot. The other thing we did is we’ve got a fairly good network within the world of private equity. One group bought a large franchisor and they asked us to participate with them, help them look at it, and sit on the board. We made a co-investment alongside them. We’ll do some things like that. In terms of our core business, we’re looking at other opportunities. Maybe by the end of 2023, we’ll have another one, but if not, we’ll wait until 2024. We’re not in a hurry.

I respect what you guys are doing and the way you’re going about it.

I appreciate that.

Franchising is a great business model for younger people or elderly, who are at the end of their career but want to continue doing something. For corporate refugees, there are a lot of opportunities out there. Share on X

It’s cool to watch. You’re going about it in the right way with everything you talked about. Those were a lot of wisdom nuggets for how to look at businesses from prospective first-time business owners to emerging brands and even mature brands. Maybe there are a few things that they can learn about in terms of how to go about things. I appreciate you coming on here and jibber-jabbering with me. It’s been good.

Thanks. I enjoyed it. I love what you guys do. I love franchising. It is a great business model for younger people, older people that are at the end of their careers that want to continue to do something, and corporate refugees. There are a lot of opportunities out there. I enjoyed spending time with you.

I’ll let you get back to it.

That sounds good. Take care.

 

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About Kevin Wilson

FM 26 | Buzz Franchise BrandsWith over 25 years of experience in business that has included time as a consultant, entrepreneur, executive of a large company and venture capital investor, I found my passion lies in leading a strong team of people to create a great company. Today this passion is being realized every day as the CEO of Buzz Franchise Brands, a multi-brand franchising company with the well recognized brands, Pool Scouts, Home Clean Heroes, The British Swim School and previously included Mosquito Joe. After just six years, Mosquito Joe grew to 290+ open locations with a further 60 under development. In 2016, Pool Scouts was launched with the intention of professionalizing the pool cleaning and maintenance industry and now has several locations open across the country. Home Clean Heroes offers a new and fresh look for residential home cleaning. This company began franchising in 2019. Our most recent company, The British Swim School, the leader in swim lessons for children, was acquired in April of 2019, and has over 100 locations across 22 states.

The First Step is a Conversation.

If you have that burning desire to build your own successful business so you can live a life you can only have working for yourself, let’s talk.

The First Step is a Conversation

The first step is a pretty simple one: We have a conversation.

After we speak, we’ll be able to figure out if there is a good fit to work together.