Own a Franchise with Few to No Employees

March 18th, 2011

Always wanted to own your own business, but held off because you were weary of the headaches that can accompany hiring, paying and managing staff? You might find the perfect fit in these five franchise business models, all well-suited for franchise owners who are seeking to go into business solo.

1. America’s Swimming Pool Company

The country’s largest provider of swimming pool service and maintenance, America’s Swimming Pool Co. (ASP) has 58 franchise locations spanning seven states. Founded on a commitment to superior swimming pool service and solutions, ASP serves both residential and commercial properties.

An ASP franchisee is not required to have any past experience in swimming pool service and the franchise owner can be the sole service provider. CEO Stewart Vernon said the qualities that make an ASP franchisee successful are having a business mind and service mentality.

Potentially one of the greatest testaments to the ASP franchise model is that none has ever failed. Vernon attributes this to ASP’s commitment to franchisees to “act as their corporate backbone and provide the stability necessary to achieve success in the world of self- employment.” Additionally, ASP provides dedicated training through “Pool School,” which provides everything the franchisee needs to run the business. The total investment for a single ASP franchise ranges between $50,000 to $60,000, which includes the franchise fee and all necessary capital.

ASP fully discloses revenue numbers and the top and bottom producing locations. Vernon stated that the company is poised for its strongest growth yet in 2011, with plans to continually reinvest in its franchisees.

2. Stroller Strides

Recognized as one of Entrepreneur’s “Fastest Growing Franchises in 2009,” Stroller Strides is a postnatal group exercise program that allows moms to work out with their babies.

Founded by Lisa Druxman, a fitness industry pro since 1990, the idea was inspired after the birth of her own son. Lacking a viable fitness option that would accommodate having an infant, she created her own workouts using the resistance of the stroller with her son in it. Stroller Strides now offers franchise opportunities in 45 states.

Druxman noted that while Stroller Strides is a great option for anyone passionate about fitness, it’s particularly great for entrepreneurial-minded moms who want to run a successful solo operation.

“There are so many moms out there who want to work, contribute and to have something stimulating and rewarding in their life, but who also want to have it fit with their family,”  Druxman said.

Stroller Strides franchisees are home-based, and most work just a few hours each day.

In addition to a flexible schedule, the franchise program also allows for creative locations. Classes can be held anytime, and anywhere, a mom can walk with a stroller, whether that is outdoors, in a park, the gym or a mall.

Depending on the size of the territory, a Stroller Strides franchise investment ranges from $3,700 to $6,050. From there, the size and scope of the franchise varies. Some franchisees care to teach just a few classes each week, while others offer several weekly classes at multiple locations throughout the franchise territory.

“We totally support both desires so long as the classes are great for the clients,” Druxman said.

3. Lawn Doctor

If the thought of a lawn service conjures images of a dump truck and mom-and-pop operation, you haven’t encountered Lawn Doctor. The 45-year-old company has carved an industry niche through a focus on innovation, both for customer lawn needs and franchisee operations.  In addition, franchise owners can work a flexible schedule, and provide services as a solo operation.

With 450 franchise locations, Lawn Doctor is the nation’s leading lawn service and care company.  Scott Frith, Lawn Doctor’s VP of marketing and franchise development, advised that potential franchisees who are outdoor-loving, goal-oriented business people with some prior sales experience consider it as a franchise opportunity. In a lagging economy, consumer demand remains strong for the service, with 2010 sales up 17 percent over the year prior. Further, Frith noted that “franchise owners maintain a system wide gross profit margin of 68 percent.”

Because the industry is founded on repeat service, franchisees are well-poised to “mushroom” business for continued growth. Frith said that Lawn Doctor has “the highest retention rate of any company in our industry at approximately 80 percent, which indicates a high level of satisfaction in our services and creates a platform for selling additional value added services.” Lawn Doctor’s goal is for franchisees to break even by year two of operation.

Owning a Lawn Doctor franchise requires a total investment of $80,000. The company also offers in-house financing to aid potential franchisees.

4. Safeguard

For more than 50 years, Safeguard has supplied businesses with needs ranging from checks, forms and filing systems to full-color printing, promotional products, apparel and online services. A subsidiary of Deluxe Corp., a $1.4 billion company, Safeguard currently has nearly 250 franchisees.

Scott Sutton, vice president of franchise development for Safeguard, said that the most successful franchisees are those that thrive on building and maintaining strong, solutions-based business relationships.” The nature of the business imposes no geographical limitations to the brand and each market in the country is a target market, Sutton said. Safeguard recommends that potential franchisees have about $75,000 of available capital to get started. 

One particularly appealing feature Safeguard offers franchisees is the ability to work solo from home, while leveraging constant support. Through “Base Connection,” franchisees are connected with skilled customer service reps who are housed in Safeguard’s corporate offices. Franchisees can route their customer service numbers to Base Connection, ensuring that a person is always at the ready to address customer needs.  Further, it allows franchisees to spend time building the business instead of handling administrative issues, and ensures that Safeguard’s 73 percent annual customer retention rate stays intact, Sutton said.

Safeguard franchisees are also free to maintain the kind of business they choose. Sutton noted that the company provides significant levels of support to each type of franchisee — those that want to grow and those that want to remain smaller.

5. Mom Corps

If you’re seeking flexibility in a franchise, Mom Corps is founded on that very philosophy.  The company bills itself as a national staffing firm that connects progressive employers with experienced talent looking for flexible work. Mom Corps currently has 14 franchise markets, and is quickly expanding into other metro areas.

The company is focused on matching established employers with experienced, highly skilled candidates who seek flexible work alternatives for optimal work-life balance.

CEO Allison O’Kelly started Mom Corps out of her own personal experience juggling the demands of corporate life and family. Realizing the need for an alternative work scenario, she started her own practice serving small businesses in a consulting and financial planning capacity. Seeing the demand for her services, O’Kelly was eventually driven to fundamentally change the way companies fill their intermittent staffing needs and founded Mom Corps, she said.

The startup cost for a Mom Corps franchise is $25,000. As a staffing business, franchises have low operating costs and overhead.

“The biggest investment is made upfront to get up and running,” O’Kelly said. She also said the most successful franchisees have sales experience as well as a background in professional services and should thrive on working independently (but with the support of a great team and franchise network behind them). The brand has been nationally recognized in media outlets like The New York Times, CNN and “Today.”

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