Match Game

Second careers can start with the right franchise connection.

At 55, Rick and Bonnie Doepke weren’t planning on second careers.

Happily retired – he from Procter & Gamble, she from Cincinnati Playhouse – they were involved in neighborhood association activities that were winding down at the same time the market quaked in 2008 severely challenging their retirement assumptions and prompting them to consider options, says Rick, now 57.

In 2008, Guyer and Kim McCracken, in their mid-fifties, were looking down the road at the next 10 years for an opportunity to work together and still provide for children in college and high school.

Today, both couples are happily involved in new careers – together – the Doepkes as owner-operators of Aussie Pet Mobile, an on-the-road pet grooming business and the McCrackens who run Senior Helpers to provide non-medical services to help seniors stay at home.

Dick Munson of FranNet, a local franchising company in Cincinnati-Dayton-Cleveland, was their guru and guide to new enterprise choices.

“My typical client is a 50-something downsized or right-sized, mid-to-upper management executive who has been working 20-plus years. It’s usually someone who has worked for a big company and is at the point where he or she wants to take control of their own destiny and wants the freedom, flexibility, control and independence,” says Munson, who says 90 percent of his clients fit that profile.

He fits it as well, buying into the business, also a franchise, 14 years ago after finding himself out of work after 33 years in the corporate world.

“I specialize in helping individuals find the best franchise to meet their skills and needs. It can be anything from a beauty shop to tax preparation.”

The client gets his guidance “without spending a nickel.” The franchise seller takes care of that.

To get the process jump-started, an online assessment tool is used to determine personality, skills and finances. “Then we sit down with the client and spouse and fine tune a business model, eventually presenting them with several alternatives.”

After that it’ s up to the client to do the due diligence on the businesses before a decision is made, a process that can take 60 to 90 days or as much as a year. “We don’t sell or push. We show them what we think is best for them and how to research it to figure out of it’s a good fit,” he says.

Most people come in with skills but no idea what to do with them. “Only one time in 14 years have I had someone walk in asking for a specific kind of company, and fortunately I was able to help.”

Though there’s no cost to the client for Munson’s services, investments range from about $50,000 to multi-millions, depending on the business, with the average at about $100,000. The client comes up with 30-40 percent of the total and the rest is financed “through a variety of different tools. We provide help with legal, attorney, accounting and financing,” Munson says.

The Doepkes, who went into the process knowing they wanted to work together, considered several businesses, including a 24-hour fitness club but, due in part to his P&G experience with Iams, ended up with Aussie Pet Mobile (started in Australia in 1996.) They put one van on the road in October with a certified, trained groomer and are already thinking about adding a second. They can even run the business while traveling if they want.

“It’s a fun, positive industry. We can work together, and pet spending is pretty much recession proof,” Rick says. “It’s more work than we expected but it’s a labor of love and we work when we want to,” putting in about 30 hours a week so far.

The McCrackens’ priorities were to work together, help people, be a part of the community and “make a little money,” Guyer says. They ended up, after looking into learning centers and other service industries, with Senior Helpers providing services for seniors who want to stay at home.

“We felt good about the company after meeting owners and other franchisees,” Guyer says. “It was important for us to be able to be actively involved with the other businesses.” He’s now part of the franchise advisory council.

Kim handles the human resources and advertising, and Guyer does the marketing and finances.

“Help came to us through the franchise in two ways — the franchiser provided the training, but there’s also a network of other owners I can call about issues and dealing with things. It’s nice to know you don’t have to re-invent everything.”

Not every franchise company will take every prospective buyer, Munson says. “Companies that are selective are usually more successful than those taking anyone who can write a check.”

Be prepared to work harder than ever that first year, Munson advises, but the payoff will come.

“A gentleman I helped into a franchise 18 months ago in the personnel industry just got the Rookie of the Year award last week and won a sales contest for the best increase in the business.

“He’s on his way to the Caribbean this week.”

Franchise hunting tips

~ Do your research and know exactly what you are getting into before
you buy.

~ Make sure the franchise has a proven successful system that you can validate that by talking to other franchisees to make sure the system works.

~ Be willing to follow the franchise company’s proven system or don’t buy into it.

~ Be prepared to work extremely hard for probably less money than you’ve ever made during the first year. The second through fourth year, the income can be whatever you want to make.

Source: FranNet, (513) 322-1955,