Doug Heffner and his wife, Peggy, know a good, clean opportunity when they see one. This is why they decided to purchase the Molly Maids franchise in Fort Myers in February 2014. Certified business analyst (CBA) Rudi Vrugtman of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Florida Gulf Coast University was instrumental in helping the couple navigate the myriad of franchise opportunities available to them, according to Heffner.
In 2012, events convened that made Heffner realize that it was time to leave corporate life and purchase a business. His previous career as a national account representative for various industries from print to janitorial supplies had required extensive travel, but his hip replacement in summer of 2012 limited his ability to do so. Simultaneously, the couple decided they could not withstand another Minnesota winter.
Having been “snow angels” in Fort Myers and eventually buying a home here, Heffner started evaluating local franchise opportunities. He looked at concepts from fitness clubs to signage businesses, and was particularly intrigued with a fitness concept that targeted clients 50 years and older. Fate intervened when Heffner read an article in The News Press in January 2013 announcing Vrugtman as a new CBA at the SBDC. The two met, and the rest is history.
Initially, Vrugtman assisted Heffner with writing a business plan for the senior fitness concept. However, Heffner soon realized that there were “flashing red lights” indicating that this might not be the best franchise opportunity for him, and after discussions with Vrugtman, revised the business plan in September 2013 to target Molly Maids, which was for sale in Fort Myers.
The two decided on Molly Maids for three reasons: 1) Low fixed costs vs. high variable costs, 2) repeat business, and 3) the solid industry name. Heffner had also spent one year working for Service Brands International (SBI), Molly Maids’ parent company, so was familiar with how the franchise was run.
Unfortunately, the previous owner of Molly Maids had an asking price that was inconsistent with the revenues being generated, says Heffner. “He wanted to sell his business based on his 2008 [revenue] numbers. I wasn’t going to pay for what they used to do,” he says. Well aware that his strengths were in sales and marketing, he worked with Vrugtman to determine an offer price that reflected the franchise’s true value. After negotiations, Heffner finally signed the contract on Feb. 5, 2014 and walked into his new office on Feb. 7, 2014.
Heffner credits Vrugtman with helping him to decide which franchise to purchase; doing a financial analysis and creating financial projections for Molly Maids; and for what he calls their “November 2013 bank tour” to obtain financing. It was on this “tour” that Vrugtman introduced him to various local banks, which he describes as a frustrating process only because of the collateral required. Ultimately, he secured a Small Business Administration loan in January 2014 with the help of Molly Maids’ parent company, SBI; it was a loan that required no collateral.
“Rudi became a good advisor to me. I could pick up the phone and bounce ideas off of him,” says Heffner, adding that this support was particularly valuable at a time when he didn’t know many people in the business community. “I consider him more than a business resource now; I consider Rudi a friend now,” adding that the two have gotten together socially with their wives.
The revenue for the Molly Maids Fort Myers franchise is up 15 percent year-to-date, reports Heffner. He says he feels confident that he will reach his “modest goal” of a 30 percent increase over last year, and that his “stretch goal” of a 60 percent increase is also within reach. “I’m glad I chose Molly Maids. I’m glad I’m in business for myself. I like getting up in the morning and looking at the one person in the world who can fire me,” he says with a smile.
“I highly recommend anyone thinking of starting a business to get connected with the SBDC. It is underutilized by the business community in this town,” says Heffner.
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