What is it like to own a franchise with recurring revenue? What does it take to get there? Sharing how he has done it, Mosquito Hunters Founder and President Andy Fuller joins Nick Lopez to discuss the founding story of Mosquito Hunters and how he and his team built it into an industry-leading brand. Andy started the business bootstrapped and grew it to eight locations across seven franchise partners before joining forces with Happinest Brands. Today, Mosquito Hunters has a national footprint spanning 130 locations and 90 franchise partners. Andy joins the show to dive into what makes the Mosquito Hunters model so appealing. From its recurring revenue to its simple yet sophisticated business model, Mosquito Hunters provides an industry-leading franchise opportunity for those eager to get into business for themselves but not by themselves. Specifically, as a part of the Happinest Brands portfolio, Mosquito Hunters is backed by some serious support, resources, and industry expertise. Andy goes on to share how specific support for his franchise partners sets their franchise system apart from your ordinary franchise opportunity that ultimately attracts the highest quality franchise partners.
Our guest goes without exception. Most certainly, he is a very talented entrepreneur. In fact, he is the founder of one of my personal favorite brands. Without saying, he has become a great friend and one of my favorite founders of another franchise company. He is the Founder of Mosquito Hunters. Andy Fuller, welcome to the show.
Thanks a lot, Nick. I appreciate the introduction. Thanks for having me here.
Thanks for being on. Thanks for helping our audience and the business world in general level up through your story and your journey. I’m looking forward to jumping in and learning about that. Without further ado, a lot of people care about franchising and don’t necessarily have an understanding of what franchising is. They think about McDonald’s or some restaurant. Franchising is much more than that.
For example, LIME Painting and Mosquito Hunters. These are home service companies that you wouldn’t necessarily think from first glance that it’s a franchise business. Franchising comes in many different forms and businesses. It’s a unique way to bring service and value to the market. To do it in a way where you’re in business with other business owners is something that you know all too well. I was curious, how did franchising find you?
I was always vaguely familiar with franchising. As you said, the first thing that comes to mind for everybody when you think of the franchise is McDonald’s. I knew they existed. Like many people, I didn’t realize for a long time the difference between a franchise and a chain. I assumed any business that had one location was a franchise.
Being in the industry, you know that there’s a big difference between a corporate chain and a franchise. How franchising found me was to I’d go back to my time in Corporate America. I’m very frustrated with all the things that we know. Corporate America can be frustrating about the ways that I didn’t have control over my destiny and my job at this. What I originally thought was a very lucrative opportunity.
It was my career path. I came to find instead, it was something that was disappointing. I knew I didn’t want to continue down that path. I had this realization after a few years in Corporate America that life is too short, and I need to be doing things that give me a sense of purpose. I need to be focusing on work that’s meaningful to me and enriching.
I knew that what I wanted to do was my own business. I’m wired in a certain way, and I love to build things. I knew that I wanted to build something much bigger than myself. By then, I understood more of what franchising was a bit. I knew that franchising meant that if I could somehow start a franchise organization, then I would be working with small business owners all across the country.
That’s one thing that I figured out in Corporate America. 1) I don’t want to work in Corporate America. 2) I love small business and working with small business owners. For at least my entire adult life, I’ve always been so fascinated. Anytime I talk to anybody who owns any business or any small business like the company that hangs drywall or a company that manufactures some odd widget that’s used for some small component of a vehicle. I’ve talked with so many different business owners over the years, and every single story is interesting.
Not too long ago, I was on a flight sitting next to a guy who owned a company that made the flavors for flavored vodka. When I talk to these business owners, it makes me feel that anything is possible. You can have a purpose in doing any type of business and have any widget. They can be special in their own way. It speaks to me some of the best parts of life other than family. It speaks to what’s so great about living in our country, where there’s so much opportunity.
I love it. It means everything to me. Outside of family, small business and business ownership are my calling. It’s my tribe. To go back to your original question, franchising meant that I could work with more small business owners. What I did was I started Mosquito Hunters in 2014 as a means of getting out of Corporate America. I did it as a side hustle to start, and I knew that I wanted to start a franchise organization. I wanted to be a franchisor but didn’t know what that meant.
I had to get an education on the fly as I was also starting the Mosquito Hunters business and also keeping my day job in Corporate America so I could pay the bills. I did a lot of late-night Google searching. There wasn’t any formal education that I could find at that time on how I could formally work my way into the industry. What I did find was there was a magazine out there called Franchise Times, which is still in existence. They’re still huge in the franchising world. I found their website. I subscribed to their magazine. The first issue shows up at the beginning of 2014.
I read it cover to cover. That was the beginning of my education in franchising. I saw in that magazine that there was an article from Dina Dwyer-Owens of Neighborly, now the Dwyer Group. Something caught my attention in that article, and I thought, “I need to talk to this woman.” I don’t know why, but I want to share my story with her. I want to let her know what I have in mind for Mosquito Hunters and see what happens. I got on the phone with Neighborly, then the Dwyer Group. I went through some hoops. I eventually got to Dina’s personal assistant, who’s doing a good job as a gatekeeper. She had many questions for me and made sure I wasn’t going to waste anybody’s time.
I explained I have this company and we’re getting started. We’re here in Chicago. I see that there are 1 or 2 other players in this space in mosquito control on a national level. I know that this is a problem. Anecdotally, in my life, mosquitoes have always been a problem. I can’t remember how many conversations I’ve had in my life with people who’ve been feeling the wrath and scourge of mosquitoes, how it can ruin a good time, etc.
There’s a need. The market wants this. I’m already getting a powerful reaction from our market here locally in Chicago. There’s opportunity. There should be multiple players. There will be multiple players nationally in this space. Why not Mosquito Hunters? Why can’t we be one of them? That was what was driving me. I ended up getting on the phone with Dina. We had a great call.
It was later in the spring of 2014. We talked about family, business, and her journey. It was a great call. Clearly, she’s an amazing woman. Anybody who’s come across Dina and had a conversation with her certainly knows that. The conversation wrapped up when she said, “What are your goals? What are you looking to do?”
I wasn’t prepared for that question, but I had a number in mind for that year of what revenue I was looking to do for the Chicago business because that was all that existed at that time. I didn’t formally have a franchise business started that was still a couple of years away. I said, “Here’s the number that I’d like to hit for Chicago.” It was an aggressive number.
I didn’t think hard about it when I gave her that answer. It was the actual number. I wasn’t conservative. I didn’t couch it at all. She said, “When you hit that number at the end of the year, give me a call and let me see what I can do to help.” In other words, in hindsight, she’s saying, “Don’t waste my time. I’ll help you, but I want to make sure that you’re serious.”
I kept that number in mind. It was already my goal, but it was an aggressive goal. I kid you not, I came a few hundred dollars over that goal that year. It was October 2014. I reached out to Dina again and said, “Remember me? Remember that goal? I hit that goal. It was pretty cool.” She said, “Congratulations. That’s fantastic. I have somebody who I would like to introduce you to. He retired as the CEO of Driven Brands, which includes Maaco, Merlin, Meineke, and a number of other automotive service brands. He retired as the Chair of the IFA and maybe there’s a way that you guys can work together.”
That guy was Ken Walker. I had a call with Ken Walker the next week and Ken Walker shortly thereafter became my mentor. He taught me so much about franchising in such a short period of time. He taught me about an FDD, why that’s important, what should be in your FDD, and the importance of the IFA. I joined the IFA almost immediately after meeting Ken. I started going to conferences and meeting all sorts of people.
He connected me with a franchise attorney to build out an FDD. He shared a lot of learnings about the franchise or franchisee relationship and what’s so special about that relationship. It’s not a business partnership, an employee-employer relationship, or a customer-vendor relationship. If you don’t set the appropriate expectations with a franchisee upfront, there can be some assumptions otherwise.
Why it’s so important to set those relationships up the right way upfront proactively, on and on. Years’ worth of information and knowledge was shared with me through Ken. That was my crash course in franchising. I couldn’t formally get an education, but I broke my way in through the bathroom window. That’s how I got started in the franchising space.
It doesn’t surprise me that you were reaching out to probably considered one of the most influential people in franchising, Dina Dwyer. It doesn’t surprise me that you were talking about things outside of the franchising family. I know Dina is very much a values-driven leader. I have most certainly been inspired and moved to lead in that way as well. She’s been so influential in franchising, and what a neat individual to be talking about this idea with. For her to give you that recommendation there with Ken Walker, who likewise is an incredible individual when it comes to understanding franchising and having a very successful track record in franchising.
You didn’t necessarily say, “I’m going to franchise, jump in, and start winging it.” You understood the power of doing it the right way, reaching out, being resourceful, and establishing yourself as somebody that would do franchising the right way. That’s not always the case. You hear a lot about franchise companies that get into the franchise space and they don’t have staying power. A lot of that is attributed to that wing-it mentality and they’re probably not in it for the right reasons.
You had talked about setting the right expectations. Clearly, a lot of this is rooted around staying power and bringing value to business partners over the long haul. Not a lot of founders or brands are started with that in mind. Frankly, they don’t have that staying power. There are some pretty crazy stats around. Forty percent of businesses in general want to scale through franchising. Forty percent don’t even award a single territory. It’s incredible. A big part of that is not doing it the right way and not being in it for the right reasons.
Andy, I’ve always admired you for doing business the right way and being a tremendous leader but surrounding yourself with tremendous support, which we’re going to get into here shortly. I appreciate the context around how franchising found you. I am curious, out of all of the different endeavors that you could jump into, you’re struggling with this idea of being in Corporate America as so many people do. You have this dream of business ownership, entrepreneurship, and the American Dream. Many folks have that dream but they don’t take action on it.
The beautiful thing about franchising is it gives you the ability to jump right into franchising without necessarily taking on the risk and the financial investments that go into starting a brand, scaling it, getting into the market, and competing with established brands. You join a company that has the playbook, the support, and the training. It’s everything that a franchise offers so you get that American Dream. Clearly, you’re in Corporate America looking over the fence at the American Dream in entrepreneurship and you took action. You could have chosen many different avenues but you settled on the mosquito space. Why?
It’s because it checked the boxes better than any other model could that I was looking at. I know you and I have talked about this before, but for your audience, I did college painting. That was how I paid for my school. I went to Western Michigan. You went to Michigan State. We’re not too far from each other. I knew that business. That was my only real firsthand taste of entrepreneurship then I graduated college and got a job in Corporate America. That’s what you’re “supposed to do.” Use that degree or whatever. I got into it and realized I hated it. I wanted to get back to small business ownership. The thing is I wanted something that had recurring revenue. For me, it was the thing.
There are trade-offs with everything. There’s never a perfect answer. I wanted something that was home services but also recurring revenue. First of all, it had to be home services. I knew that because it’s very low overhead and reasonable startup costs to get into home services. It gives you a fat gross profit in about any home service that’s out there, which means you have a better opportunity for a healthy net profit.
Also, a big gross profit means you can take some risks, take big swings, and experiment. That’s the business I like running. I like having that extra runway to play with. Recurring revenue was the thing that stuck out to me as something that I wanted in this next business. Something where I could build relationships with customers but then continue to service those customers throughout the year and then year after year after that.
A big gross profit means you can take some risks, big swings, and experiment.
I wanted something that was in an emerging space too. In something where it wasn’t an overly mature industry, I could learn enough to be dangerous within a reasonably short period of time, or I wouldn’t be at the mercy of my employees. For example, I looked at like, “What about the HVAC business?” I thought about that for about two seconds.
I realized I don’t know anything about HVAC, and if I want to become an expert in that area or at least know enough to be dangerous, it’s going to take me at least probably years of education. I’m going to have to go to a trade school or be an apprentice with some other local company. I didn’t have that patience. I wanted something that I could dive into within a matter of months.
The barrier to entry is quite a bit lower for mosquito control. That’s something where I could learn enough to be dangerous and not entirely be at the mercy of my employees, where I would have to take their word for it. If this person and that person didn’t want to show up to work, I would be completely out of luck. When you’re dealing in a business like mosquito control, it’s unskilled labor. That’s the term. That’s what it’s classified as. We have talented people who are in the field for us but what that means is they’re people who have no formal training in mosquito control most of the time before doing this.
We train them. Our franchisees train their employees on how to do the work. In a lot of cases, they need to get licensed by the state, but in most instances, there are some exceptions in certain states. I’m not going to speak on a blanket statement across all states and all locations, but in most instances, the technicians don’t come with pest control experience before.
That was why that was important to me. Something where it was an emerging space. I wanted something that provided value to the community. Something where I enjoyed it and didn’t have to hypnotize myself to talk about it. Mosquito control checked all these boxes better than anything else could. From there, I took the necessary testing to get licensed and started to build the model from there.
There are so many things I could dive into that stood out there. Clearly, it’s an amazing opportunity that didn’t require a lot of barriers to entry and had that recurring revenue, which I absolutely love. You’re providing a lot of value to people’s happiness. They don’t have those pesky mosquitoes interfering with that quality time around the campfire as they’re trying to enjoy it with family, and so on and so forth. You met with Dina and she referred you to Ken Walker, and eventually, you ended up partnering with a holding company in Happinest. Could you take us down that journey? How did that take place? How did you get introduced to Happinest and become a brand under that HoldCo?
That was in 2016. I got a call from Ken. Ken and I had a strong rapport by that time. Over the past couple of years, he had been my mentor, and we were in lockstep along the way. He reached out to me in September of 2016, and it was the month before I was getting married to my wife. He said, “By the way, have you ever heard of Lawn Doctor before?” I said, “Yeah. I’ve heard of Lawn Doctor.”
I have a friend with whom I had a drink at some event or another. He said, “It’d be a good idea for you guys to talk to each other. Not any specific agenda, but you guys should know each other. You guys actually remind me of each other a lot.” I said, “All right, sure.” I got on a call with Scott about a week or so before my wedding. I happened to be at a franchise consultant convention at that time. Anyway, I talked to him. We got to know each other. I didn’t know where it was going to go. I thought Ken said it’d be a good idea, so let’s talk. I know Lawn Doctor. This guy is the CEO of Lawn Doctor. I’ll put this guy in my cell phone, and I’ll have another friend in the franchise industry. That’ll be cool.
After that first conversation, I came to realize quickly that Scott and I had a lot in common. We saw the world the same way. We saw relationships the same way. We’re both pretty ambitious guys. Different journeys, different paths. He’s from New Jersey. I’m from Michigan originally, and then I live in Chicago for many years now. We had a lot of things in common. He was ambitious.
As I said, his story is an amazing story. Hopefully, you’ll have him on your show at some point. His story with his father and growing up in Lawn Doctor is incredible. His father, Russell Frith, is inducted into the IFA Hall of Fame, which inducts one person per year. He’s up there with Ray Kroc, Dave Thomas, Conrad Hilton, JW Marriott, and Colonel Sanders, the real guy, not the cartoon character, but the actual man, Harland Sanders.
These are the people who are in the IFA Hall of Fame, and Russell Frith, Scott’s father, is in that company. Scott had a front-row seat and was very hands-on throughout most of his life in the franchising space. There is so much knowledge. He’s been the leader now of Lawn Doctor for, I believe, over ten years. He’s taking that brand into the future. He was very entrepreneurial but had yet to start an entity.
Over time, I got to understand what he would do. He’s leveraging all of the power of a brand like Lawn Doctor. All of the systems that are in place and all of those shared services could be leveraged for more brands. He talked about this idea of forming a collective of brands working together that could lift each other up and have a high tide raise all ships.
Honestly, at first, he and I would both tell you we didn’t know if there was a fit for Mosquito Hunters or not. It wasn’t something that was on my radar. It wasn’t my intention to ever build a company that would be a part of anything larger. I thought it would be independent throughout its whole trajectory. Not because I had anything against it, I didn’t know anything about it any other way.
I am your classic entrepreneur. You bootstrap things. You put in the grit, you learn as you go, and you evolve. That was the same approach I took to franchising. To your point earlier, that’s the approach most founders take when they get into franchising. They built a successful local business, and they say, “This is great. Why don’t I do this same thing on a national level?”
Those who stick with it realize that it’s not the same sport. It’s a totally different sport and game. You need to learn how to play that game because it’s not the same thing as starting up an independent business locally. Anyway, Scott had this vision of creating this collective of brands that were working together. One larger team and how these brands could help each other. After he was done describing it, I said, “It sounds like you want the Avengers, but for franchising.” He said, “That’s right. It’s like the Avengers.” That’s always been what I’ve compared it to all the way through.
To this day, it feels like the Avengers. You’ve got your Avengers movies that have all the Avengers in them. You’ve got your Black Panther movie and Captain America Movie, and whatever. You’ve got these different series, but then they’re all combined together. You make cameos here and there, and sometimes Iron Man shows up in an Antman movie or whatever. Everything is independent when it needs to be, but then it’s collective when it needs to be. That’s what Happinest has become.
Scott shared this vision with me. He ended up becoming a mentor for me and made a tremendous impact on Mosquito Hunters in the way he was so generous with his time with me. He’d call me on his way into the office or on his way home from the office and say, “What about that one problem you’re working on? What happened with that? I had a problem with that before, and here’s how I got around it. Here’s somebody I know. I’ll introduce you. They might be able to help you with this issue.
It’s on and on. Nick, you know better than anybody all the new hurdles that you can face day to day and hour to hour when you’re a franchisor. If you haven’t done any of that before, it’s eye-opening. It’s a rude awakening sometimes. It meant so much to me to have that insight from somebody who’s not only as smart as Scott but as kind, generous, and thoughtful as the guy is, honestly. He’s a great guy. He continues to have so much value in our relationship.
After working together and having him be my mentor for so long, we both started to see that maybe there was a way we could work together, and we should work together. We have a lot in common, but we also have complementary skillsets. Maybe Mosquito Hunters can be a part of this larger thing or this Avengers thing. Mosquito Hunters can be an Avenger.
After going through a lot more of the learning process, we ended up forming Happinest. Mosquito Hunters became part of Happinest in May of 2018. At that point, it was Mosquito Hunters and Lawn Doctor. Since then, ecomaids has come on board, and then the vision is for more home service brands for more Avengers to join the team in the coming years.
When you joined, how many locations did you have, and how many do you have now?
I had 8 locations and 7 franchisees when Mosquito Hunters became part of Happinest. I sold those assets to a company that I own now with Scott and others. Now, we have 130 locations and 90 franchisees. That’s a huge testament to the franchise development team and the overall Happinest structure, and the way that all the different departments collaborate so well together. Eric Martin, who you know, is our Senior VP of Franchise Development. He built the entire Happinest fran dev team from him to a much larger team at this point. All of this has been built on the vision that Eric has laid out for the franchise development team.
It’s not easy, as you know, to find franchisees. It’s not like selling a car where it’s like, “Here are the keys. Thanks for the money. Have a nice life. See you later.” Every franchise relationship is like a marriage. You have to know each other intimately, and you have to trust each other. You have to listen to each other, and everybody needs to carry their own weight. Both parties need to put in the work every single day for it to work. I step back and think about it.
Ninety different franchisees that are all aligned with the brand are all different. They all have their own stories and backgrounds. Many things are different. Yet, there are a few key things that are in common. They fit this mold of what we need in the right business owner. It’s remarkable. I don’t take it for granted. I know how hard it’s been to get to this point. It’s been relying on a lot of hard work but also a lot of intelligent work. A lot of people collaborated and made adjustments on the fly to get to the point where we are now.
No kidding. Seven owners to 90 owners from 2018 to 2022 is pretty incredible. Something that you shared that stands out to me is Scott’s intentionality around the way that he does business, which is relationally driven. I know Scott pretty well and have had that impression as well. How generous he is with his experience, expertise, and willingness to pay that forward to people in franchising. Of all industries, I would put franchising up there in terms of the collaboration and the family culture that makes that franchising. Scott is at the forefront of that, most certainly.
That was the thing you hear people say to this day. I agree since I joined the franchising industry. Everyone is so generous compared to any other industry I’ve ever seen. I would put Scott at the tip of the spear for his generosity and willingness to share his time. It’s certainly valuable information from him and others who’ve gone down this road before. You would think people would somehow be putting up walls or saying, “I don’t want to tell you about that. I’m too busy.” It’s not what it’s like. It’s pretty special.
It truly is special. The fact that Dina went out of her way and then Ken Walker followed suit, that ultimately led to you developing a relationship with Scott. That evolved into you joining forces with Lawn Doctor and being the first brand. They’re in that vision for creating a holding company of home service brands with like-minded values and ways of doing business. You mentioned it. It didn’t come easy. There’s a lot of work and effort in large part on the franchise owner’s part in each relationship, like a marriage. In one example, Eric is building out the franchise development department. I’m sure Happinest has many other departments and leadership teams.
If you would’ve stayed as an independent franchise brand, you would’ve been building those departments in your team independently. As a part of the benefit of being with Happinest, you’re leaning on the resources of happiness. At the time, you had 7 owners and clearly got up to 90. There has probably been a tremendous value, Eric being one example. What does that leadership team look like? How you have integrated and grown your leadership team and then likewise leaned on the Happinest team throughout the past years?
There are so many things. We have a brilliant CFO, Jack Miskin. Our accounting team helps us move very efficiently. That’s not to be overlooked. We’ve built a call center. We call it the Dojo. Our in-house call center launched in 2019. That was no small task at all, but that was a huge advantage of becoming a part of Happinest, knowing that we were going to build this together, especially in a business like mosquito control. It’s seasonal. The calls come in in big waves, and you either answer the phone or you don’t. If you don’t answer the phone, then you’re not going to make that sale. It’s important to have a sales team that you can delegate to.
That’s huge. In the past, I’d relied on some third-party call centers. When you don’t have ownership of the call center, they aren’t aligned. I can understand why from their perspective, but it’s hard to get mutually beneficial value from a call center unless the franchisor owns it, in my experience. That was something that was huge. To this day, the Dojo continues to iterate and provide more and more value.
Our marketing team is world-class. I would put our marketing team toe to toe with any other franchise concept in franchising. If I may be so bold, we’re miles ahead of most franchisors with what we can offer. The way that we can work with some of the top-rated agencies in the entire country and a lot of agencies that aren’t even in the franchising space. All it means is our franchisees are that much more efficient with their dollars, and more of their dollars go towards getting more customers and not paying commissions to agencies that are generalists.
It provides tremendous value to our franchisees. It helps them scale that much faster. The knowledge that we have and the technical director, a guy like Chris Sherrington, who’s on our team, and Jake Vinluan is the technical specialist we have. Those guys provide tremendous value to franchisees as a system starts from scratch when it comes to knowledge on mosquito control, licensing, and things like that.
Licensing, of course, is always the franchisee’s responsibility, but we want to have information at the franchisee’s fingertips. We can do something like that. All of these things provide value to an owner, but when you put them all together in the aggregate, it helps us attract the highest caliber franchisee, which is in everyone’s best interest. A-players want to work with A-players. Great franchisees want to work with great franchisees.
Selfishly, as a franchisor, when we have the highest caliber franchisees, we’re going to be able to scale that much faster. We’re not in the business of making money on franchise fees. We make money on royalty. Our interests are in seeing our franchisees build healthy, scalable businesses that they can rely on for years and years to come because that means we’re seeing a royalty revenue as they generate that revenue year over year.
The franchisees are the X factor. If we can have all of these tools, have them work, and provide such a meaningful impact for these owners, we’ll continue to attract the highest caliber franchisees. That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where you get this accretive value of different teams and brands collaborating and sharing best practices. There’s no way we could ever have anything close to that independently.
I like being a part of a team. Originally, I started Mosquito Hunters, and they went down the franchising path. I remember I said to my wife, “I want to be a part of something bigger than myself. I want to build something that’s bigger than anything that I could ever do.” That’s the Happinest experience. I’m a part of building something much larger than me. I can take pride in all of the things that we do because we’re helping each other along the way.
It’s not an easy journey as a leadership team of a franchise organization, especially when you go from one specialty or one expertise, whether it’s delivering service for mosquitoes or for painting. All of a sudden, you’re in the business of supporting business owners and franchising. It comes with a unique set of challenges and a new set of challenges.
I can see that advantage there and the resources where you don’t necessarily have to pull back on some of the projects or departments that you want because of limited resources or growth. As a part of being within a HoldCo or Happinest, for example, you’re able to dive right in, build that call center, and build out the in-house marketing. Not necessarily partner with a generalist but have it totally invested in the brand at hand.
I can see why you guys have attracted ace owners, which has boosted the growth. It’s not about awarding territories. It’s about that staying power. I talk about this so much with our owners, the staying power, and what things makeup that staying power. That’s what’s important. As you mentioned, a marriage. It’s not a 1 or 3-year business. It’s a 10-year minimum ideal partnership there. That requires staying power. All these resources attribute to that. Clearly, ace owners are only going to make that much easier. Speaking of some of the aces in terms of franchise owners, what do you notice as some themes of successful franchise owners? What do some of those aces look like?
That’s a million-dollar question because when you see it done right, it should be this all the time. There’s nothing better than working with those ace owners. The best part of this job is working with these owners who are so hungry, ambitious, grinding, putting in the hard work, and making magic. When you lift your head up after a couple of years, you see what you can build and what has been built. It’s very rewarding to see that. It’s never one thing. It’s always multiple things.
The first is they’re action-oriented, for sure. It’s very easy to have analysis paralysis. We ask our franchisees, starting even at discovery day, “What is your greatest weakness?” Half the time, we’ll hear a candidate say, “Analysis paralysis is my greatest weakness.” That’s okay. A lot of us can fall victim to analysis paralysis.
If you’re not familiar with it, for any of your audience, when you get caught up reading the spreadsheets and going over the data because it gives you this false sense of comfort. You can have that be your weakness but be aware that that’s your weakness and overcome that weakness. Take action. As a business, nothing happens until anything moves or something has to move. That starts with the business owner. You have to be action-oriented. Everybody has a comfort zone, so the best owners are willing to go outside of that comfort zone.
I don’t know anybody who’s willing to do everything, and they’re comfortable with everything that you need to do as a business owner. There are a lot of proverbial hats that you need to wear, all sorts of different departments that you need to be familiar with, and tasks that you need to handle. Eventually, as you grow, you can delegate those responsibilities. When you’re starting a startup business, somebody’s got to wear those hats. Normally, that’s the owner. The best owners are the ones that are willing to wear whatever hat they need to at any given moment and go outside of their comfort zone. That’s another one.
The best owners are the ones that are willing to wear whatever hat they need to at any given moment and go outside of their comfort zone.
I mentioned it earlier. Trust is such an important thing. I don’t think you should trust a franchise brand when you’re going through the discovery process. It’s like dating. Trust should be there. That should be the goal in mind. You’re going to ultimately trust your spouse. You have to trust your spouse for a marriage to work. Have a healthy dose of skepticism in the discovery process and the dating process.
Ask questions. Talk and validate. Talk with other franchisees. Learn what this company is about. Learn what the leadership team is about. Also, scrutinize. Everybody should do that. That’s stated. Once you become a franchisee and you’re in that system, you have to put your head down and go to work. You have to trust that both parties have the best interests in mind because it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
The franchisees jump in and say, “I’ve made the decision. I’m an owner. Let’s go. Let’s do it. I’m going to follow the model.” Those are the ones who end up being happiest with the results. I’d say at the other end of it, the franchisees who aren’t as happy with the results who are at the bottom end are the ones who are more likely to second guess things and say, “Why should I do this? Why is this part of the model? Why is it important that I distribute this many door hangers? Why do we do that? Why should I be investing in my marketing?”
The truth is we can’t keep reselling anyone on why this brand is what it is. We certainly communicate all the way through, but once you’re in, you have to be in. That’s something the best franchisees understand. They see the results because of it. When times are tough, you get to know what anyone is like. Everybody is a great person on a great sunny day, but when you’re running the challenges, that’s where someone’s character is revealed.
The strongest franchisees are the ones who do a good job of taking a look at the mirror and saying, “What can I do? What’s within my control?” The franchisees who struggle are the ones who have a harder time looking in the mirror, proverbially speaking. They’re the ones who are more likely to point fingers and say, “This is that person’s fault and this is this person’s fault. This is the economy’s fault. Whatever it is, it’s not my fault.”
That’s a comfortable place to be but it’s a false comfort because it’s your business and the results fall back on you as the business owner. Those franchisees who accept that and who focus on the things that are exclusively within their control end up being more successful without exceptions. That’s one that’s critical. Good communicators are important. When in doubt, overcommunicating is one of our core values. We’d rather err on the side of overcommunicating rather than under-communicating.
I think about that all the time. I think about relationships. All of life is relationships. Certainly, all of the business is relationships. That’s what business is. It’s a bunch of relationships. People who manage those relationships the right way are the ones who find success, in my opinion. What are relationships? It’s a series of communications. That’s all it is.
The franchisees who communicate well with their team are the ones who are happier with the results. The ones who play things close to the best who, for whatever reason, don’t feel compelled to communicate end up not being as happy in the end. It’s important to want to be coached to be a franchisee. Not to say that we have all the answers, we don’t. Not to say that the answers are finite, they’re not. Things change and markets change. They will evolve. What makes business so fascinating is that the targets do move, and the goalposts will move. We have gone up and down this hill many times, so we bring that experience to our coaching.
It’s important that a franchisee responds to coaching from the franchisor. We will never coach something for fun. We’ll never coach something for filler or to give anybody busy work. We coach because we want the best results. Of course, we want to be a great steward for our franchisees. We want them to be happy with the results. We are very appreciative and respectful of the fact that they’ve invested life savings into this business.
Selfishly, we want to make money. We want to make royalty revenue. If a franchisee is not going to follow the model or they’re not willing to be coached, they’re not going to make as much money. It’s not that they’re hurting themselves. They’re not honoring the spirit of the relationship. They’re hurting the team overall. That’s not ideal. That’s why it’s important that we have franchisees that are willing to be coached.
A business owner who only wants to hear the word yes is like a child that only wants to eat candy. It feels good at the moment to eat candy. I have a son. I know you’ve got kids all under ten. Kids love candy. Candy is delicious. I love candy. If that’s the only thing in my diet, I’m going to get sick. Anybody is going to get sick. Same thing with the word yes. If a franchisee only hears the word yes from their franchisor, then they’re going to get sick eventually. You got to hear the word no sometimes. You got to hear about ways you can improve and make things better.
If a franchisee only hears the word yes from their franchisor, then they’re going to get sick eventually. You have to hear the word no sometimes.
Similarly, be independent but not fiercely independent as a franchisee. You’re a business owner. You’re an adult. You don’t need to be babysat. You don’t need to have your handheld. Not fiercely independent, meaning you’re not afraid to ask for help and rely on your fellow franchisees for assistance. You don’t want to put yourself on an island. You want to collaborate and communicate with your fellow franchisees and with your franchisor.
We’re big believers in what we call ground game marketing. That’s executing local strategies for marketing, things like door hangers, lawn signs, etc. It’s important that all of our owners are willing to have that work executed, whether they do it firsthand or if they build a team. Those are the things that are so critical to see your business reach a point of sustainability. Beyond that, it’s the franchisees who are willing to think long-term and look not at next year’s numbers but look at five years down the road.
What are you actually building towards? The hardest year in business for any startup is the second year in my experience. I’m using a lot of dating and marriage analogies, but it’s appropriate. The first year is the honeymoon phase, where you’re so enthusiastic about this business because it’s brand new, it’s shiny, and you’re willing to do a lot of the work. You’ve already made this big investment upfront and you’re not thinking about other dollars that need to go out of pocket yet.
When you get into your second year is where it comes time to potentially make reinvestments back into the business. You continue to do the hard work with recruiting, building teams, managing customer expectations, retaining customers, and executing your ground game marketing over and over again. It’s a grind. For someone who’s not conditioned to business ownership, it can be a little shocking to see how long the journey can be.
The benefit of business owner ownership is that you have this asset that you own. You’re not going to see the full benefit of what you own in your first year or your second year. In many cases, not your third year. The real value or the thing that you can have, something that none of your friends can have who never choose to start a business, comes down the road as you build this valuable business with, in our case, recurring customers.
Those franchisees who are excelling and getting to the next level they’re not looking 1 or 2 steps ahead. They’re looking 5 or 6 steps ahead. In other words, they’re not looking at next year. They’re looking at 2026, 2027, or 2028. Where am I heading? That gives them that much more motivation to put in the work in the short term.
Those are the things that are most important to me when I look at a relationship with a franchisee if they can embody those qualities. I can never guarantee that anyone is going to be successful. I can never guarantee even that they’re going to be happy with the results. I can say with confidence that a franchisee is significantly increasing the likelihood that they’re going to be very happy with their results and their investment if they can do all those things.
Clearly, those are skills that are acquired over time. A lot of them are upfront. I’ll summarize. Take action, grit, analysis by paralysis, trust, let’s go, look in the mirror, overcommunicate, be coachable, and have that long-term view. I’ll even add one in there, humility. Humility intertwines with a lot of those along the lines of coachability and understanding that, as a franchisor, the playbook is there for a reason. They’re never being coached to be coached to fill space or, as you said, to do busy work. It’s in the franchisor’s best interest to get results. As business owners, we want independence. That’s what we sign up for as a franchise owner. That’s an interesting dynamic.
You’re acquiring this independence yet still relying on others to learn this playbook and to be able to execute it. That requires a tremendous amount of humility. You mentioned look yourself in the mirror, which requires humility. Along the lines of what you said, it’s easy, and it’s a comfortable place to say, “It’s the economy. It’s this employee. It’s this marketing program.” There are so many different areas. The vendor is an easy one. “The vendor got me my marketing stuff laid. It took so long.” Those are small things that in the big picture, it come down to execution and, as you said, taking action, grit, and let’s go.
At the end of the day, the results come from what you can control. That’s the beautiful part of the business. I always say one of the great laws in existence is cause and effect. In terms of business, it’s behavior equals outcome unless you’re doing the wrong behavior. That’s easy to be able to evaluate based on KPIs. You can zero in on where I am not getting the results and then where I am falling short on the process.
With that adjusted behavior, the outcome will be there. Those things you can control. You can control the behavior, the types of behavior, and when you’re doing the behavior. Those all are controllable but absolutely require a tremendous amount of humility. The more I am in business, the more I appreciate business owners, leadership teams, and folks in business that are humble because, as you said, business is about relationships. The core of any relationship is humility.
I’ve never thought about it that way. It’s a great way to say it. Humility.
It’s not always easy, but it’s an ace quality. That’s for sure. Andy, you’ve been an ace on the show. We are looking to help people level up. This conversation has most certainly helped folks to level up. Thanks for giving us your precious time. Thanks for being on the show.
Thanks for having me.
If anybody is interested in getting in touch with you, how can they do that?
They could send me an email at AndyFuller@MosquitoHunters.com.
Check him out on LinkedIn. Check out the Mosquito Hunters website. More importantly, please subscribe to the show. It’s how we can continue to grow and help people level up by learning from influencers, thought leaders in business, franchising, and high-performance personal development. We covered so many things. I most certainly have been inspired by Andy’s journey, his leadership style, and these nine tips for ace franchise owners. Drop some comments. Let us know your thoughts, contribute to the conversation, and as always, level up.
Sadly, orphaned by a gang of mosquitoes on a Brazilian vacation in his youth, Andy made it his life’s mission to eradicate mosquitoes far and wide to spare other children a similar fate. With his Ra’s al Ghul style training, and propensity to stop mosquitoes, you may be thinking Andy is some sort of Batman-esque character. And you would be wrong. This “mosquito” man of the people doesn’t hide in the shadows or behind flashy billion-dollar toys. He stands proudly in the sunshine with a backpack sprayer in one hand, and justice clutched in the other. Legend has it, he once put a mosquito in cardiac arrest just by raising an eyebrow.