Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you’re a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email email@example.com.
Mike Druce got into franchising due to a half-joking comment to his business partner. After coming across Academy of Learning College online, Druce emailed his partner, “Ever want to be a Dean?” More than six years later, the pair has five locations open and no plans to slow down. Here’s why Druce believes that if you aren’t growing, you’re dying.
Name: Mike Druce
Franchise owned (location)
Academy of Learning College, initially in Victoria and WestShore, expanded to include Nanaimo, Kamloops and Kelowna, British Columbia.
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How long have you owned a franchise?
It was less of a conscious choice and more the right opportunity. My business partner and I were both looking to do something together when we found the first two schools on the market (Victoria and WestShore). I think we were both drawn to the idea that we would have a support system to help us navigate through any initial problems we might have.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I’d worked in a variety of sectors, including ecommerce, hospitality, bookkeeping and payroll. I also owned and operated a couple of businesses. I have found that all of these have helped me with my day to day requirements of running the franchises. My business partner was just completing his accounting designation, which no doubt helped us as we’ve expanded.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
Great story! As mentioned, my business partner and I were looking for an existing business to purchase, and I was reviewing businesses for sale online when I came across the colleges. I emailed the link to him with the title, “Ever want to be a Dean?” I was half joking! He looked over the financials, saw the opportunity, and suggested we contact the seller. We bought the colleges less than two months later.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
We spent between $350,000 and $400,000 for the first two colleges. This was almost entirely to the previous owner, however there were transition costs involved as well, probably in the $10,000 to $20,000 range.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
As it was an existing business we’ve spent most of our time reviewing the financials as opposed to kicking tires. We spoke with the franchisor to get an understanding of them and how they operate. In retrospect we probably should have done more review with other owners. However, we were excited and young and jumped right in! Looking back, if we had done all of our due diligence we may not have pulled the trigger on the deal. Sometimes you need to make that leap of faith and go with your gut.
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What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
In the education sector we answer to several governing or oversight organizations, along with the franchisor. Trying to keep our administrative requirements in order is almost a full time job unto itself.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
First, find an industry that you’re passionate about. That’s certainly number one. Then you have to decide if you’re willing to give up some creative and growth opportunities for the comfort of having a team behind you to support you and answer questions. If the answer is yes, ask to speak with current and ideally past owners, read the notes from the franchisee association minutes (if applicable) and anything else that might give you insight on what it’s like to be part of that particular family. Remember, you’re now part of a bigger team, and therefore you’re limited (not necessarily in a bad way) by the strengths and weaknesses of the franchisor and the other franchisees.
What’s next for you and your business?
We believe strongly that if you’re not evolving and growing you’re dying, so that’s what we’re trying to do!
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