Dear Parent of a Prospective College Pro Franchisee,
I’m writing this letter to share my experience as the parent of two current College Pro (CP) franchisees. (Sam will be going in to his fourth summer and Ben is beginning his second year). My objectives in writing this letter are to give you my first hand perspective on our experience and to share with you some of the concerns I had with CP. I had never heard of CP or their parent company, The Franchise Company until five years ago. When initially introduced to CP all I could think of was a time when a friend of ours tried to convince us to join Amway; needless to say I was quite skeptical. Today my perspective is dramatically different, and if it’s the right fit you should be thrilled for your son or daughter if they are fortunate enough to be offered a position as a Franchise Manager (FM).
Ironically my son Sam’s first summer with CP was not very pleasant. As a consequence I assumed he would be “one and done.” Sam was a freshman in college and needed a good summer job to earn spending money so he could concentrate on his grades in his sophomore year. He decided to work as a painter for CP. Unfortunately (or fortunately as you will see in a moment), his FM turned out to be unreliable and didn’t understand the responsibility and commitment it takes to build and run a small business where customers and employees depend on you. He didn’t understand that he was responsible for his own success as well as the success of his employees. Most important he didn’t appear to be putting the customer first and didn’t realize that customer satisfaction was paramount to his own success. He seemed unable to problem solve, and unwilling to be flexible and adapt in order to get things accomplished. If his truck broke down or he slept in too late to get the painters their supplies, he told them to just take the day off. He didn’t understand that he was required to make an “all-in” commitment in order to succeed. His lack of maturity and responsibility turned out to be extremely frustrating, but it also turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Up to this point Sam had only worked a few part time jobs that were “required” by me so that he could have the privilege of driving “his” car while in high school. After going through his first year of college on an extremely limited budget he suddenly realized he needed to make some money by working a summer job. We were slowly trying to wean him off of our payroll and help him understand the virtually free ride wasn’t going to be there forever. Sam became frustrated with his FM because he needed this job and was depending on this job to make money. Sam needed to keep things going so he and his crew wouldn’t have to find different jobs. As the crew manager (job site manager) Sam somehow managed to keep his crew going, keep customers happy and finish jobs. It was an extremely frustrating experience and even though I’m not sure Sam and I understood it at the time, he was learning something interesting along the way. He learned (be it consciously or subconsciously) that if you have pride in your work and are concerned about making the customer happy, not only can you make a few dollars but it could also be a little fun along the way. As a parent I can unequivocally tell you that there were many difficult days for Sam that summer, but I was happy that he stepped up to keep things going; he learned to take a little responsibility, solve problems, and be creative and flexible. The most important result was that his self-esteem and self-confidence grew that summer; he learned how to get the job done as compared to being a quitter. A good learning experience and growth as an individual; not too bad for a tough summer.
Before Sam went back for his sophomore year I was shocked to learn that CP wanted to interview him for a job the following summer. I was not particularly happy about this. Please note: It was at this point I learned that the Regional Manager that oversees the FMs had periodically been in touch with Sam and some of the other painters throughout the summer. Apparently CP recognized something in Sam that they decided might be worth pursuing. Of course I was still the skeptic and continued to assume this must be some sort of “pyramid” deal where CP held out a carrot and as kids failed the company made money. I told him the decision was up to him as I determined the worst that could happen was the interview process would be good experience for the future (plus I knew it wasn’t really up to me any way!) Several weeks later Sam told me they had offered him a FM position and he wanted to talk to me about it. My immediate thoughts included:
- How much is this going to cost him (me) to get started?
- Does he have to buy a bunch of stuff? How will he pay for it?
- What did they “promise” him?
- What about the part time job he had waiting tables at school? How will he keep that job, come home on the weekends to book paint jobs for the summer and still have time to study!?
- How many hours per week will he have to work? Does he realize he’ll probably need to work over Spring break? School needs to be his first priority.
- How does he get paid? What is the pay based on?
- What happens if he doesn’t do well? Will he get paid at all??
- I never heard of this company? Who runs them? Are they “legit”?
- What kind of training will he get? What are his resources if he runs in to problems?
Then the finale. Sam brought home the contract for me to review and as I expected it looked like CP had nothing to lose and Sam could actually end the summer in the red!
Sam was prepared for my responses, he had thought it through and he gave me the best rationale for taking the job, “If I do what I’m supposed to do and meet my goals, why would I fail?”
At this point I figured that if this was truly his attitude and he was willing to give it a try, the worst that could happen is he would learn a ton. There’s an expression in business, “Give them a fish and they will eat for a day, teach them how to fish and they will eat for a lifetime.” I guess it must have been my business background talking but I decided if he was willing to accept the responsibility and make an “all-in” commitment then I would support him any way I could.
In retrospect, five years later it’s easy for me to understand how most parents don’t realize the exceptional learning opportunity CP can provide for the right young adult. Part of it is perception. This is not an hourly job; this is an opportunity to experience being a business owner and a young entrepreneur. Looking back I now see that this hasn’t been a job, CP actually provided an internship in to the real world and a stepping stone to growth. Regardless of what occupation my boys end up in, CP provided a process to learn to accept responsibility and grow in many ways. It’s certainly not for everyone, and it’s important that your son or daughter understand and accept that it is up to them, and only them, to make it work. There’s good training and support and a great company culture that empowers the right young to learn and develop, but make no mistake, there’s no hand holding. (It’s also extremely helpful if you have supportive parents!)
What more does a parent want than to have their son or daughter take responsibility, learn to set goals and be accountable? All of the skills my boys have acquired are completely transferable to any avocation as well as most life experiences. The ability to communicate, organize, juggle numerous balls, lead people, overcome obstacles, and problem solve; the ability to be flexible when things don’t go as planned; to look for and find solutions; to learn how to make decisions; multi-tasking, organization, hiring, training, marketing, selling, managing and leading people, and most of all persistence, determination, and a good attitude. I couldn’t be any more thankful.
Five years ago I had no idea how much my boys would learn and mature by running a CP franchise. I certainly never envisioned that running a painting business would turn out to be such a good experience for my boys and well over 30 other young men and woman who have worked with them these past few years.
As a parent, if someone had sent me this letter five years ago I would have first encouraged my son or daughter to understand the responsibility, and then I would encourage them and provide whatever support I could to help them. They need to understand that their success or failure is completely in their own hands and they will need to step-up to succeed. But if they are willing to try, the worst that will happen is they will learn some valuable skills and lessons that will last a lifetime.
I hope this note has been helpful in your understanding of the opportunity CP provides. You are welcome to contact me if you have additional questions.