Hi Don, can you tell me more about yourself and your company IFPG?
I am the Founder Member of the International Franchise Professionals Group (IFPG); we help people fulfill their business ownership dream. The IFPG is a membership-based organization with more than 1,000 Franchisors, Franchise Consultants, and Vendors. Together, our members guide aspiring business owners through the process of identifying and investing in a franchise business. IFPG has been ranked by Entrepreneur Magazine #1 Franchise Broker Network a few years in a row. Before IFPG, I founded Business Mart, a B2B online marketplace for individuals interested in buying and selling businesses. Three years after its launch Business Mart was acquired by a publicly-traded company.
Can you help us understand how you help people become franchise owners?
My company (IFPG) offers a training program for entrepreneurs to become Certified Franchise Consultants. Just like real estate agents, these Franchise Consultants act as intermediaries between their client (the potential franchisee) and the Franchisor. Our Franchise Consultants counsel people who are considering franchise ownership. The consultant guides them through selecting, evaluating, and buying a franchise business. Many times they help people avoid making a poor life-changing decision. Many people who want to own a franchise want freedom from the 9-5 world and often look at food franchises first. A food franchise demands lots of time from the franchisee. There are hundreds of other non-food-related franchises that have an outstanding work/life balance.
Should someone who is working a 9 – 5 job take the leap and run their own business?
I encourage anyone who has the motivation to run their own business, to leave the 9-5 world. But, I do suggest to start researching and building the foundation for your business while still working. One of my first serious businesses was a high-end retail e-commerce website. I created the entire website while I was still working. (Hopefully, my former employer isn’t reading this!) It allowed me to quit my job and already have my future lined up.
You have run and built many successful businesses; what’s your top tip to creating a successful business?
Prioritize your goals. For example, I have a list of tasks for each week. The list is prioritized depending on the amount of revenue each item might bring in. So if I get an idea that I feel could increase my income by 10% and I have another idea that will increase revenue by about 2%, the higher revenue increaser will hit the top of the list. Of course, you need to do your projections to make these estimates. I will always create a Google Doc to figure out my projections for all new ideas before launching them
How have you been able to compete at such a high level in your space? Do you have any tips for other entrepreneurs dominating the niche they are in?
Always keep your big picture in mind and focus on your main objective. For example, if you plan to become the top blogger in your industry, don’t do paid reviews on nonrelevant topics to make a quick buck. I see so many people who create successful online business models, but then they are lured into something else that will ruin their website’s quality to make a quick dollar. Slow and steady wins the race.
With so much uncertainty in the world, should people still be thinking about starting their own business?
Absolutely. The days of having a safe and secure job, getting raises each year, and then retiring are over. As I mentioned earlier, people who are currently employed and considering starting their own business should start building their business while getting paid by their current employer. This will decrease their percentage of risk.
What would you say is the biggest single reason for your success?
Prioritization and always focusing on the big picture are probably my strong points. Since the day I started my first business, I have always had the same goals in mind. I always focus heavily on 2-3 core services and don’t get distracted by other bells and whistles. I rarely jump into new opportunities without doing lots of research, and I always make projections and evaluate the potential of a new idea. I never start a business just because “It sounds like a good idea.” I am a true believer in the lean startup approach, which is a book by Eric Ries.
If you could go back in a time machine to when you were just getting started, what advice would you give yourself regarding making money online?
I started my first internet business my freshman year in college. It was a New York City Nightlife website. The website allowed individuals who did not have a personal relationship with a promoter to access exclusive “guest lists” online. I focused a lot of my time worrying about revenue and not about keeping a loyal user base. If I focused my time on building an online community, I might not have sold that website. Who knows, I could still be running it today. I have learned that you should worry first about gaining loyal users, and then everything else falls into place. If you have an online business with a very dedicated audience and lots of traffic, it will be worth more money if you decide to sell it. Anyone can create an excellent service online, but having loyal users and a large amount of traffic is critical.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I worked with a Creative Director many years ago while working at an agency in New York City. I was designing a logo and stressing out over the way it looked. I wasn’t happy with it and spent so much time tweaking it. He said to me, “Don’t stress over it; the logo will evolve over time.” I have taken this advice and applied it to my business. Every business evolves over time. I now always build out projects in phases. This allows me to take my time and continue working on the projects that generate the most revenue, and the others will then get tossed in the garbage or put on hold.
Are there any books you suggest other entrepreneurs add to their “must-read” list?
Yes! As I mentioned earlier The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and also Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. I tell all young entrepreneurs these two books they must read.
What is a favorite quote that has inspired you?
My favorite quote is “preparation meets opportunity.” This quote was from the Roman philosopher Seneca. I genuinely believe this is the meaning of success. Luck rarely plays a part in a successful entrepreneur’s journey; it is hard work and a lot of preparation and planning. If you are always prepared (and think five years) ahead when an opportunity presents itself, you will be prepared and ready. I named my boat “Preparation Meets Opportunity” as a constant reminder for my children and me to always remember.