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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brothers in business and in life, Jesse Keyser 39, and Charles Keyser, 34, demonstrate that it is possible to operate a diverse portfolio of franchise businesses in multiple locations: The two, who are based in the Midwest, own one Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning territory (their newest franchise concept), five Little Caesars locations and 12 Sports Clips (men's haircuts) locations. They also own the title rights to 14 more Sports Clips and are interested in acquiring more Little Caesars stores.
Obviously, growth is on the agenda. When the Keyser brothers first looked to expand their portfolio, they stayed away from their existing brick-and-mortar businesses in favor of something home-based. What they came up with was the Oxi concept, for which they now own the rights to the entire St. Louis area, even as they look to expand from there.
Name(s): Jesse Keyser and Charles Keyser
(Jesse speaking) When you buy a franchise, you are buying a proven system the franchise company has created and perfected over time. You benefit from their support system, solid business plan, branding, training and marketing. You do not have to figure things out on your own; and you do not need to be an expert in the industry to succeed. The franchisor will train you on everything you need to know. If you can follow a proven system, then you can be a fantastic franchise business owner.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I [Jesse] worked for a technology startup from the start of the dot-com bubble in 1997 until about 2005. I was also a Valpack franchisee from 2008 until 2011. Charles was a college student studying hotel and restaurant management at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
Related: A Carpet Care Company's Unconventional Path to Franchising
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning presented a perfect opportunity to diversify our franchise portfolio with a home-based, environmentally-conscious brand. I continue to tell people that if we could have changed the order of the brands we invested in, we would have gone with Oxi Fresh first. Doing so would have allowed us faster growth for our company in the early years when cash and capital were tight.
The cost to grow the Oxi Fresh concept is less resource intensive than [that of] our retail concepts. Without a doubt, we would have a higher net worth today, if we had utilized the growth efficiency available with the Oxi Fresh concept as our first brand.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Our investment range [for Oxi Fresh] was under $35,000, since we purchased an existing territory. The $35,000 was used largely for new equipment.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Careful due diligence is an absolute must before becoming a franchisee. After all, you will be in business together if you decide to become part of the system. We’ve made it a point to ask both the franchisor and the franchisees a lot of questions.
If you’re looking to become a franchise owner, there are several ways for you to increase your chances of success. One way is to arrange some time to talk with the folks at Corporate, and perhaps the operations people and, if possible, the president of the company. Some well-thought-out questions can have a huge impact on your decision to become a franchisee. A franchise system’s existing franchisees are just as valuable a source of information. These are the people who are living the life of a franchisee every day, and they can tell you the reality of what that life will be like for you if you decide to join up, yourself.
Related: A Franchisee Who's Literally Building His Dream Business From the Ground Up
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
With Oxi Fresh, it was the human resourcs side. We have years of experience handling employees, but not where they are so independent in their work environment. We quickly adapted and evolved our management and leadership tactics to coincide with our other concepts.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Becoming a franchisee is not a hobby or something you do part time; make it your job! Save enough cash to live on for one year without paying yourself. It will take longer to open your first business, but it will take the pressure off yourself and allow you to make less emotional decisions about your business.
What is next for you and your business?
The eventual plan calls for more locations of all our existing concepts, as well as acquiring an additional concept. We plan to further develop Oxi Fresh in St. Louis and move into other markets. We also own the rights to 14 additional Sports Clips and are interested in further store acquisitions with Little Caesars.
Related: Why I Sold My Independent Landscaping Business and Opened a Franchise