In 2002, Desmond Stanback of Bear, Delaware, was frustrated with the corporate environment. As an information technology executive at J.P. Morgan Chase, he had survived a merger that led to many of his colleagues being laid off or jobs were being increasingly outsourced to India.
“I was going through a second merger where they were outsourcing their entire IT department to IBM,” Stanback says. “One minute you’re at J.P. Morgan, the next day you wake up and you’re at IBM Global. Everyone was freaking out.”
Stanbeck decided to follow his dream to become an entrepreneur, so he opened Friendly Computer, a computer-repair franchise, because he didn’t want to continue on the path of corporate instability. He left his $80,000 per year career, invested a $15,000 bank loan, along with $10,000 from his severance and savings, and almost immediately started making up to $33,000 per month.
Things were great until Geek Squad, a computer-repair company affiliated with national retailer Best Buy, moved in on his Delaware and Pennsylvania region. Stanback started losing $12,000 to $13,000 a month once the competitor opened up. “No matter how much I put into advertising, I was just spending money to stay in business,” Stanback says. “I realized if I stay the course something could go wrong here.”
Later, his former employer offered him a job at $100,000 a year, but he didn’t want to go back to work for someone else. So in 2006, he and his wife took $70,000 from their 401(k) plans and used bank loans to invest $104,000 in FiltaFry, a food-service oil filtration and fryer-cleaning business. For the first year, Stanback traveled to restaurants, filtered their oil, cleaned their fryers, and replaced filtered oil.
Despite having FiltaFry clients at several baseball stadiums, community colleges, and Bank of America locations, Friendly Computer is still his cash cow. StanBack has become adept at balancing the two franchises and he says he doesn’t miss the corporate world one bit.
Matching your personality and lifestyle
Miriam Brewer, director of education and diversity at the IFA Educational Foundation, recommends that before determining whether you can afford a franchise, first perform a self-evaluation. Not every entrepreneur should be a franchisor, she says. “Ask yourself, ‘How well do I follow instructions? Am I willing to adhere to the franchisor’s operating plan?’” Brewer advises.
As a franchise owner you need to learn that franchising is all about the brand. If you think your grandmother’s chicken tastes better than KFC’s, you still can’t change KFC’s recipe, Brewer adds. “The beauty of franchising is it is a proven system. Rogue franchisees diminish the brand. If you like to experiment, then franchising isn’t right for you because you can’t change the system.”
While Friendly Computer may have been a perfect match for Stanback, his decision to buy into FiltaFry was not as obvious. “FiltaFry is completely opposite from what I am. I have been a white-collar worker all of my life. Nobody thought I would be able to pull