cross-coun to franchise sue by xkp52206


									            getting started

                                                                                  to franchise sue.
                                                                                                                  By Paris Mihailidis


                                                                    hether it was enjoying a meal with my family in Greece, or
                                                                    running my own restaurant in Canada, 1 have always had a
                                                                    passion for food. No matter where my travels or career took
                                                                    me, that passion was a constant in my life, one that has
                                                      culminated in a successful run as a franchisee for Opa! Souvlaki of Greece.
                                                        As the owner of the first Opa! restaurant in Ontario, I was in a unique
                                                      position and have played a large part in introducing a popular Western
                                                      Canadian chain to a new market. Playing that role had its challenges, but
                                                      I never doubted the brand's ability to be successful out east. With my wife,

20 I Franchise Entrepreneur I January/February 2010
                                                                       patrolling Greece's borders with Bulgaria and Turkey. As one might
                                                                       expect, being in the military taught me a lot about discipline,
                                                                       something thai comes in handy in almost any work situation,
                                                                       particularly entrepreneurship. I also forged some very strong
                                                                       friendships with people from all over the world, bonding over our
                                                                       shared experiences and the occasional backgammon game. '
                                                                           During this time, I began to miss my birthplace and decided
                                                                       I wanted Lo learn more about Canadian living. With my time served,
                                                                       I headed back to Alberta in 1993, this time to Calgary. I was
                                                                       immediately drawn to the food-service industry (in a Greek
                                                                       restaurant, of course). I started out small, working as a dishwasher
                                                                       or waiter at various establishments. I was still refining my English
                                                                       skills, and was happy to work my way up the ranks.
                                                                          After several years, having worked in almost every facet of business,
                                                                       I knew what it took to run a successful restaurant. Armed with that
                                                                       knowledge, experience and a business partner, I decided to open a
                        I learned a lot from my time in the Greek      full-sendee Italian restaurant in Calgary called II Colosseo. My partner
                        military, including several skills that help   had a lot of experience with that type of cuisine and I had worked in
                        me today as an entrepreneur.                   some Italian establishments during my time in Banff. It was a nice
                                                                       little place, with seating for 70, two cooks and four wail staff.
                                                                          For many people, running a restaurant can be quite the challenge;
                                                                       for me, it was a natural fit. I ran the business successfully for a few
                                                                       years, until my partner and I had a falling
                                                                       out and decided it was best to part ways.
                                                                       At that point, I wasn't sure what I was
                                                                       going to do—should I stay in Canada or
                                                                       return to Greece? My mind was made up
                                                                       when I met my beautiful wife, Joanne
                                                                       Michanos, in 1993. Joanne's family had
                                                                       moved from Toronto to Olds, Alta., in
                                                                       1989. She also had a background in the
                                                                       food-service industry—her father owned
                                                                       his own Greek restaurant in Olds, where
                                                                       she worked as a teenager.

Joanne, and our children by my side, supporting and helping
                                                                                                             After several years in Greece, I returned
me every step of the way, I was able to make my franchise
                                                                                                             to the beautiful scenery of Alberta.
dreams come true—even though we all had to move across the
country to make it happen.

To Greece and back
I was born in Canada, but my family moved back to Greece
shortly after my first birthday. 1 headed back to the Great White
North at age 19, settling in Banff, Alta., where my brother was
living at the time. After about 18 months, in order to maintain
my Greek citizen rights, I had to return there to fulfil my
military service obligations, which is mandatory for all male
Greek citizens. From late 1990 to early 1991, I served as a
member of the infantry, participating in various exercises and

                                                                                                  January/February 2010 I Franchise Entrepreneur I 21
                                                Joanne and I met in 1993 and were married
                                                three years later. Without her support,
                                                I couldn't have realized my franchise dreams

               In 1996, Joanne and 1 were married in Calgary. We decided
             to start a family right away; we found a home in Olds so
             Joanne could be close to her family and I could work in her
             father's restaurant.
                                                                                               Back to my roots
             Time for a change                                                                 I was quite familiar with Opa! before I ever considered having
             As much as I loved the food business and working in the                           a career there. My long-time friend, Niko Tiginagas, started
              restaurant, the grind eventually got to me and I decided Lo                      the chain in 1997. T met Niko in 1993, through some mutual
             make a career change. My brother-in-law, a pipe fitter by                         friends. Calgary has a small, warm Greek community and, for
             trade, suggested industrial construction; in fact, he got rne my                  the most part, everybody knew everybody else. Plus, a few of
             first job. Joanne and I had started a family by then, and the                     our other friends were already franchisees in the Calgary
             money from the lucrative construction jobs was a great way                        area. Before we moved to Olds, one of my close friends, Dori,
             to support them. While Joanne stayed home, I went out on                          bought the first Opa! franchise in Market Mall. I often visited
             jobs, working as a journeyman scaffolder. It was very good                        him on the weekends; he always spoke highly of the business
             money and a relatively easy field to break into. I didn't need                    and seemed very happy with his life as a franchisee.
             years of education or theory under my belt—all I had to do                           By the time an Opa! franchise came across my radar, the
             was be a good, skilled worker and I could ensure a good living                    brand had expanded greatly, with locations all over Alberta
             for my family.                                                                    and British Columbia and plans to branch out to Eastern
                The money was great, but there was also a huge downside                        Canada. The first target—a location in the Greater Toronto
             to the job—travelling. Most of my jobs were in petroleum gas                      Area (GTA), specifically a new mall in Vaughan, Ont., called
             and energy construction; in those fields, you have to go where                    Vaughan Mills. It was a great spot for a new brand trying to
             the work takes you. Sometimes, that meant hopping on a bus                        make an impact. It was the first new shopping mall in Toronto
             for eight or nine hours to Fort McMurray, Alta. There were                        in decades and the hype surrounding the opening was pretty
             weeklong stretches where I wouldn't see my family at all.                         intense. It was designed to be as much a tourist attraction as
             I started to wonder what was more important—the money I                           a regular shopping mall, combining standard stores with
             was pulling in or actually being there to watch my kids grow                      outlet locations.
             up. It was a no-brainer; 1 didn't want to lose any more time                         At the time, we didn't have any plans to move east. I was
             with my wife and children.                                                        looking for something in Calgary or Edmonton, so we could
                There I was, in need of a lifestyle change and ready for a                     stay close to my wife's immediate family. In life, though, you
             new challenge. That's when Opa! Souvlaki officially came into                     can't always pick your opportunities. It was just like
             my life.                                                                          construction; sometimes you have to go where the jobs are.

22 I Franchise Entrepreneur I January/February 2010
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      Industrial construction provided me with a great
      living, but the schedule took a toll on my family.
      Franchising offered a welcome career change.                                                             Apple Auto Glass offers:
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       We began seriously considering a move                                                                     and replacement franchisee
    to Ontario. It was a big decision, to be sure.                                                               network.
    Packing up all three of the kids and moving                                                                • Coast to Coast network of
    across the country was a scary prospect.                                                                     over 120 stores.
    I was used to moving around a lot, whether
                                                                                                               • National and Regional marketing
    it was back and forth to Greece in my
    childhood or travelling for my construction                                                                  support and training.
    ]ob, but I knew it would be tougher on my                                                                  • Preferred vendor status with
    family. Joanne would be leaving behind her                                                                   most insurance/fleet companies.
    parents, brother and sister and it was
    tough to leave that close-knit family and                                                                    If you want to own your own
    move to a new place. She had to place her                                                                    business or take your existing
    trust in me. We were also concerned about                                                                    auto glass business to the next
    how the move would affect the kids,                    Making the move                                       level, contact us to explore the
    particularly our eldest son; the younger               As confident as I was, there were still plenty        possibilities and reach your
    ones were too young to fully understand                of challenges to overcome in the year leading         potential.
    how big a change we were making.                       up to the move. One of the biggest hurdles
       That said, 1 was confident in the brand             we faced was timing everything according to
    and knew it could succeed in Ontario. After            the new mall's construction schedule. This
    discussing it at length, I decided to form a           was a huge project, so we should have
    partnership with my in-laws to buy the                 expected delays. It was only a matter of a
    business, which Joanne and I would operate             few months (the mall, which was originally
    together. While there was some risk                    scheduled to open in the spring, wasn't
    involved—there always is when you start                ready until November), but that was enough
    a new venture—it was also quite exciting.              to throw off some of our well-laid plans.
    I fully expected us to succeed, which made               In total, I was making preparations for
    the transition a lot easier.                           about 10 months—looking for a new home

                                                                                                            January/February 2010 I Franchise Entrepreneur I 23
                                                                           My Opa! location is one of the most successful outlets in the food court
                                                                           My staff, Joanne and 1 won over customers with great service and food.

                                                                                   In those early weeks, there were 80,000 people a day going
                                                                                through the mall. That's 80,000 potential customers, many of
                                                                                whom had no idea who we were or what we offered. We
                                                                                fielded a lot of questions in those early days, but we knew if
                                                                                we could get people to try the food, and then win them over
                                                                                with great customer sendee, we could build a loyal customer
                                                                                base in no time.

                                                                                From restaurateur to franchisee
                                                                                Coming from an independent business background, you
              for the family, making arrangements with my franchisor and        might think it would be difficult for me to conform to a
              gearing up for running my own business again. Before              franchisors system. In fact, I found it quite easy. It helped
              moving everyone out, I spent a month in Toronto by myself.        that I had an established relationship with the franchisor.
              Finally, in October 2004, myself, Joanne and the kids came        Plus, he trusted me to carry his brand into a new territory.
              out to our new home and opened for business a month later.        That faith in me and my abilities as an entrepreneur gave
              It might have taken us a little longer to open the doors, so to   me a big confidence boost.
              speak, but once they were open things took off quickly.              Aiso, like any good franchisee, I learned as much as I could
                 One of the biggest advantages of being in a brand new mall     about the system before signing on. Having worked in food
              was the extra promotion we received. As a new brand, that         service nearly all my life, T could sec it was a good setup.
              kind of exposure was extremely valuable. It wasn't as though      I worked in several Calgary-based Opa! locations before the
              we were walking into an established shopping centre, where        move, getting up to speed on day-to-day operations. Not only
              people might pass us by. This was a destination for shoppers      did this make me more familiar with the system, it also gave
              in the city. People were coming just to check out the mall        me the chance to truly realize how good the food was. I know
              itself. And, while they were there, we had the chance to catch    Greek food, after all, and I knew we could stand up to any
              their attention.                                                  competitor in the market when it came to quality.
                 Traffic was high from day one. The sheer volume of people         Ultimately, it made all the sense in the world to work
              that walked through the food court was amazing—in fact, on        within the system. T saw the success other franchisees had
              that first day, it was overwhelming, A new staff, new             and I knew I could duplicate it if I followed the same rules.
              franchisees and a new mall, all smack dab in the middle of        Besides, as long as you're making money, what's the
              the busy holiday shopping season. Needless to say, there was      difference? True, somebody else is making a lot of the big
              a bit of scrambling. We knew it was going to busy, but            decisions, but you're still in charge of your store and earning
              nothing really prepared us for the initial rush.                  a good living. That's the bottom line.

24 I Franchise Entrepreneur I January/February 2010
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                                              Joanne and I have worked very hard to establish this new
                                              business and are looking forward to even more success
                                                   maybe even another location) in the future.

   That's not to say my past independent            this on my own. As great as our employees
experience didn't help. As the first Opa! in        are, a good franchisee should be onsite as
Ontario, we had a totally new set of                much as possible to make sure things are
employees. We had a head office trainer in          running smoothly. Between Joanne and I,
for a week, which helped quite a bit, but           we can do that; when I'm not there, she is.
once he left, we were pretty much on our            Of course, it was a little stressful working
own. The franchisor was in another time             with my spouse, but we've come to an
zone, there wasn't another location where           agreement—at work, I am the captain of the
our employees could go for training and             ship, but she's the boss at home!
there were no other franchisees nearby to              We're also careful to maintain a good
call upon for support.                              balance between our work life and home
  That's where my time as an independent            life. In the early years, that was much more
                                                                                                                What's included in the Cost of Franchise?
restaurateur came in very handy. T knew             difficult. I would go for months without a                  • License to use Frames N Panes technology
what i t was like to fend for myself, to            day off, because that's what it took to make                • Exclusive territory
improvise on certain things (while still            sure the business would succeed. Now, five                  • Round-trip airfare to attend franchise training at our
staying within the limits of the franchise          years later, we've got a solid routine, which                 head office located in Victoria, BC
                                                                                                                • 1 Full set of all the tools and equipment, everything
system, of course). Despite the challenges,         makes it easier to manage our time. We try                    you need to start work the day you return home. -
the location has really thrived. Of the three       our best to keep Sunday free as a family day.               • Ongoing franchise support
'new' brands that opened in the food court          After all, what's the point of working this                 • Leads from the Frames N Panes website
that first day, we're the last business standing.   hard if you can't enjoy some well-deserved                  • Access to all our marketing material..i deluding: trade
                                                                                                               • show booths, TV commercials, radio ads, magazine
There's been steady growth every year,              time off with your loved ones?                                ads, news paper articles.
anywhere from 10 to 20 per cent, on average.           All in all, we're very happy with the life               • Owning a Frames N Panes franchise allows you to be
After a few years, I was even able to buy out       franchising has given us. We're even looking to               your own boss in one of trie newest emergingjnarkets.
                                                                                                                • Your kit comes with enough supplies to generate
my in-laws.                                         add a new location in the near future. There
                                                                                                                  S10.000-S15.000 in revenue
                                                    were ups and downs, but it has been well
A family affair                                     worth it. I can definitely say following Opa! to
                                                                                                                • Proven business model • Increase your core business
My wife and I work together every weekday,          Ontario was a great move for all of us. F£3                 • High Profit Margins   • Cash Daily
Monday to Friday, and we make a great
team. We both work the morning and
afternoon shift; then, she heads out to pick
up the kids from school and spend the                                  'aris Mihailidis is a franchisee for
afternoon with them, while I supervise the
dinner rush. It's so much easier working
                                                                      Opa! Souvlaki, based in Vajghan, Ont.
                                                                      He can be reached via e-mail
                                                                                                                    1 -888-325-9995
together than it would be trying to handle                            at                   FRAMESNPANES.COM
                                                                                                              January/February 2010 I Franchise Entrepreneur I 25

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