Franchise Success Is Creating a National Quality Brand for the Long Haul

    Felix profile      ARC-WL-BugLogo_RGB-Lab-300

Felix Mirando, founder and CEO of ARCpoint Labs, is rapidly building a quality national brand with a lot of passion while guiding his franchisees towards success. “We are here for the long haul. We want to grow, but we don’t want to implode,” he shares. “For us this means that we must ensure that we have the best possible support for our franchisees. If there is such a thing as over-training and over-supporting franchisees, we want to be known by this type of excess,” he adds.

Felix comes from a long line of entrepreneurs who think big. His grandfather came from Italy and started to manufacture handmade knives from his garage in Rhode Island. From these humble beginnings, he built a large company with international presence. Today Imperial knives are revered collector items sought out for their uniqueness and high quality. It is obvious that vision and a passion for excellence run in the family.

Felix is no newcomer to franchising. At age 25 he bought a Heavenly Ham (today Honey Baked Ham) franchise and his innovation changed the company forever. Do you remember when they started serving lunch boxes? I certainly do; all of a sudden, their delicious ham and turkey weren’t just for special occasions. Yes, you guessed it; Felix was the franchisee with this brilliant idea. Yet, as a true entrepreneur his success as a franchisee was not enough of a challenge for him. Thus in 1998 he started a side business distributing testing kits, which at that point were state-of-the art solutions for businesses required to test employees for drugs and alcohol. Felix soon transformed his budding distributorship into a brick-and-mortar testing facility.  And, since 2006, he has been growing the business into a national brand through locally owned and operated franchised labs and, like his grandfather did with his company, he has made quality and service the foundations of ARCpoint Labs.

We have a successful and sustainable business model in a rapidly growing field; we make the required investment and continuously work to ensure our system allows for its successful replication. But for me, growing a national brand known for its quality requires something else. It all starts with relationships,” Felix shares. “In addition to searching for franchise owners who are financially qualified, we make sure that their mission is in line with ours. We must have a fit that starts at our core values. We have more than a solid business proposition; we embrace community service and excellence. We are all about making a difference,” he adds.

The road to success and growth is not always easy for new franchisors; whether or not they have prior experience in franchising, there are always challenges. Sufficient capitalization is perhaps one of the greatest hurdles faced by them, and ARCpoint Labs has not been exempt from its pains. “I often think that I should have raised 5 or 6 times more money than I did to launch the franchise. We were in a chicken-and-the-egg dilemma. We wanted to grow, but we also needed to handle the growth and be able to support the franchisees we already had. The first couple of years after we franchised were a balancing act. Having more capital to start with would have made it much easier; but, on the other hand, not having access to a ton of cash forces you to run a tight ship and there is a lot to gain from the discipline such conditions create,” Felix shares. “Not having all the cash you want forces you to be absolutely sure that you are making the right decisions because you can’t afford making costly mistakes. It also helps you be creative and creates a ‘lean and mean’ culture in your organization where there is no room for waste. All of this is good, but at times, it can be rather painful,” he adds.

When a company makes relationships a priority, learning how to forge and manage them can be trying. “Another challenge we face is around dynamics with franchisees. They are all different. We make sure they are the right fit to our company, but at the end of the day, they all have different personalities and different reasons for owning a business. We have to learn to navigate through these differences and find ways to communicate effectively with all of them. Sometimes this is easier said than done,” Felix shares.

When I asked Felix what he would do differently if he had to do it all over again, his response was not surprising. “I have to go back to capital. I would have raised more from the start. Even when we benefited in many ways from not having as much money as we wanted in the beginning, I still would have preferred to have had more,” Felix shares. “Having access to more capital simply would have allowed us to bring in key people quicker; and, as proven by our results, we would have grown faster,” he adds.

Felix has the following great insights for people considering franchising their businesses:

  • “Don’t paint blue skies when talking with franchise prospects. Growing a business is hard work even when being part of a franchise that provides systems and support. Be honest about the effort franchise owners will have to make to build their business.
  • Raise enough capital to allow you to support your franchise owners and to achieve your development goals.
  • Hire the best people you can find to help you grow your company and don’t micromanage them.
  • Don’t get trapped in the business of selling franchises; be in the business of building a strong franchise company instead. This means training and supporting your franchisees, developing innovative solutions that create more business for your franchisees as well as anticipating and responding to the needs of the market.”

If you have the vision of creating a national brand, Felix Mirando’s philosophy is a great example to follow:  A national quality brand is built at the local level by the contributions of each franchisee. Commit to being there for the long haul. Support your franchisees with all your might and bring the most qualified people to your team to help you do so. And finally, ensure everyone in the organization shares your vision and your values.