Marti McDermmot is a business professor at Kaplan University and hosts a weekly podcast focusing on Franchising and Entrepreneurship. You can find our full interview on his website here: www.FranchiseInterviews.com
Hi everyone and welcome to a very special edition of Franchise Interviews, where for over nine years we have been interviewing the fran-trepreneur.
We have a great show today. We are meeting with Christy Wilson Delk. After 17 years in corporate sales and distribution, Christy Wilson Delk decided to risk it all. In 1996, she sold her house and cashed out her 401K plan for the down payment on the $1.7 million dollar SBA loan needed to buy and build a Kids R Kids Academy franchise in Orlando, Florida. She expanded twice and exited successfully in 2012.
Now, a professor at Rollins College, business speaker, and writer, Christy has turned her focus to helping others realize greater professional rewards through growing a successful business.
Franchise Interviews: You were a franchisee for a long time-Christy. I would say certainly longer than average because I have been studying franchising for a long time. It was 15 years, wasn’t it? Did you know in the beginning that when you started this whole thing that 15 years later before you sold the business that you would be doing it for so long?
Christy Wilson Delk: Well, you know it’s interesting because most franchisees and probably a whole bunch of your listeners don’t have any perspective about the average life span of a franchisee and I include myself in that group. I had no clue. You’re just out there trying to do the best you can for as long as you can. I hope I’m not speaking out of turn, but my understanding is that it’s around the seven or eight-year mark. Is that about right? You’re the expert!
Franchise Interviews: I would say so, yes. From my experience, I studied it for my dissertation; it seems about right, and I would say definitely within that area. The seven or eight-year make would be reasonable, yes. When I saw you at fifteen years, I said wow that’s pretty much almost double what I typical franchisee has their business for. I thought that was amazing.
Christy Wilson Delk: Well, so when I learned that (statistic) myself about two years ago, I was surprised – but then I realized it made sense when I thought about it. Frantrepreneurs, like many entrepreneurs, get restless or bored and things happen and we go in a different direction. I went back and reflected on how did that happen.
I realized that was always part of the plan, for me it had to do with—and you talk about this in your classes I’m sure—positioning your business to meet your life cycle needs, aka planning.
My needs and planning went like this: my son is three years old, he’s going to go to college when he’s eighteen, and that’s in fifteen years. Then I thought, ‘okay fifteen years, that sounds about right’. So, the answer is, I subconsciously knew that it would probably be about that amount of time.
Kind of weird ut true, when I went to get that employee of the year plaque after I opened I picked out one that had fifteen spaces on it and there it hung, my reminder every year that there is an exit plan or at least a time-frame. The staff even joked about it, “What are you going to do Ms. Christy when you run out of spaces? Are you going to retire?” All I said was, “We’ll see!”
It helped me keep my eye on making sure the business looked really good financially and otherwise when the time was growing nearer. It was a visual reminder and kind of my little secret. That said, there were a couple of pretty rough times that I thought about getting out. I’ll share some of that in my book.