Retired Lieutenant Colonel, family man, MBA and successful franchise owner Luis Fontanez had just finished his last in home consultation of the day when
he returned my recent phone call. “Very busy these days, which is just fine by me”, he said about the business he opened last fall in Columbus, GA.
We talked for about a half hour and as we wrapped up our conversation, I could hear the ignition switch turn off in the background. He had pulled his
new company van into his driveway and would shortly greet his wife of 19 years and two children. I paused and was reminded of exactly why I love helping families realize their dreams of self-employment.
Luis was home.
Luis and I met in December of 2014 after he attended a 2-day Boots to Business seminar. I quickly realized he was no stranger to entrepreneurship and his family had deep roots in self reliance as well as self employment. Working in small businesses as a young man growing up in Puerto Rico, he learned the value of not only the dollar but of hard work and commitment. I was immediately impressed with Luis; he is a charismatic leader. In our initial conversations leading up to our face to face consultation, he was a dutiful student of FranNet’s education process and a sponge for information about the franchise industry. He was laser focused on his mission of business ownership and I was very excited to be assisting Luis, and his wife Griselle, on their franchise exploration journey.
According to Entrepreneur.com, Veterans are about 45% more likely to become entrepreneurs than those with no active duty military experience. So out of all the options he had to choose from based on his lifetime of experiences traveling the globe as a military officer, what process did Luis follow and how did he decide on a Budget Blinds franchise? Our Q&A reveals a bit about his story and his motives.
Julie: First, how are you enjoying being in business for yourself?
Luis: I really love it and my family loves that I walk through the door at the end of every day. Having a home based business means I have the flexibility to make my own schedule and spend more time with my family. I’m not saying I don’t work hard, I do. It’s just on my time. I just hired my first employee and purchased my second company vehicle fully equipped to handle installations. We’re doing very well in both the commercial and residential space.
Julie: You mentioned learning at a young age about the value of hard work and personal responsibility. How did your upbringing shape your views on entrepreneurship?
Luis: I always knew I wanted to be in business for myself someday. As a young man, I worked every job I could find, knowing I was learning valuable skills I could use later. I discovered I was exceptionally good at sales, but I also excelled in operations. I come from a long line of hard workers. If you want something, you work hard for it.
Julie: You served as an officer in the United States Army for more than 23 years with a structure and clear directives. How did the military prepare you for entrepreneurship?
Luis: After completing my undergraduate degree in business, I launched my military career, eventually becoming a Black Hawk pilot and aviation instructor. I realized I really enjoyed teaching and training other pilots. The Army not only prepared me well, but helped me identify my strengths. I was assigned to lead foreign aviation initiatives across Latin America and the leadership experience I gained, along with the work ethic it took to get me there, prepared me for owning my own business. When difficult decisions have to be made, I am confident I can make them.
Julie: You could have done just about anything after retiring from the military, why start your own business?
Luis: I always knew I would own my own business one day. I just could not see myself working for anyone else in my second career. This time, my hard work needed to be for the benefit of me and my family, not for a corporation. After assessing my options and considering a move out of state to work as a bilingual flight instructor, I decided I wanted to stay in Georgia and build roots in Columbus. Growing my own business in the community I love with my family close by was my first priority.
Julie: There are many pathways to owning your own business, why a franchise?
Luis: My time is my most valuable asset, so if something takes my time, it costs me money. I wanted to run a business that would see positive cash flow quickly, so a home based franchise business made the most sense. I wanted a proven system, training, support and a solid brand, which gave me an incredible head start. If I started my own business from the ground level, I would have spent my time and money sourcing all the expertise and the ancillary services like accounting, marketing, web design, legal etc.
Julie: Together we explored multiple options in different franchised industries, what made you choose Budget Blinds?
Luis: It’s funny because my first reaction to this business was “not for me”. I just never saw myself as a home décor type, but I just got more interested in the company as I did my research. I began interviewing the franchisees of these various companies and this was very telling for me. While I had no expectations that every franchisee would be happy and successful, I found that among Budget Blinds franchisees, 90% told me they were happy and would do it all again-even the ones who were not performing as well as others. The deal was finally sealed for me when I traveled to the home office for discovery day. I met the entire leadership team face to face and I said to myself, “I want to be happy like them.”
Julie: You’re off to an incredible start, so what’s your secret sauce?
Luis: I learned early on that you have to be willing to work hard and sometimes you have to work when no one else is working. For example, I was under the impression that starting a business near the end of the year could mean a slower start given the holidays. I decided to begin an aggressive online marketing campaign, learning the SEO and digital marketing skills along the way. When my competition closed over the holidays, I advertised that I was open. This paid off and I had an incredible December. You have to be willing to set your fears aside, dive right in, be assertive, work hard and when you see an opening, work even harder.
Luis’ hard work and diligence is already paying off. He’s living the American dream as well as his personal life long dream of business ownership. Through a process of due diligence and hard work, he found a business model and landed right where he wanted to be–happily home. Frankly, I expected nothing less from this incredibly gifted Army aviator.
If you would like to explore your options and see where the adventure takes you, contact me today.
Denise utilizes her 30 years in financial services now as an independent businesswoman and FranNet of Atlanta consultant. Since 2012 she has enjoyed
connecting people, guiding those in career transition and expertly assisting those that would like to explore business ownership through franchising.
Recognized often for her advocacy, she was named a Top FranNet Consultant in 2014.
A graduate of Northwestern University, Julie volunteers with Atlanta Jobseekers, RUMC Career Ministry, is a Chapter Leader for the Business Executives Networking Group (BENG) and is a certified SCORE mentor.
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