There are some brands that franchisees would kill to get their hands on: Starbucks, Chipotle, Shake Shack and, most coveted of all, In-N-Out Burger, the California-based chain that has a cult following so loyal it should be investigated by the ATF. While none of these brands will likely be franchising soon, Scott Walker has done the next best thing: The cofounder and CEO of Screenmobile, which sells and repairs door and window screens, has been pitching his low-cost business to managers from In-N-Out Burger. Several former burger sellers are now franchisees in his 90-unit system. The reasoning: Walker believes that anyone who has proved themselves in that fast-paced, well-run restaurant probably has the drive and energy to make a mobile franchise work.
Walker isn’t straight-up poaching In-N-Out employees. The pipeline has been word of mouth. “After one joined, others quickly followed,” Walker says. “A few of his friends would see how successful he was becoming, but more important, that he felt fulfilled in his career, enjoyed running his business and was simply having fun.”
We talked to two of those recruits: Jason Frazier, former In-N-Out manager, and Brandon Wlasichuk, who worked in maintenance at the restaurant for nine years. Both joined Screenmobile as franchisees within the past two years in Bakersfield and Visalia, Calif.
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How did In-N-Out prepare you for owning your business?
Frazier: I got the courage one day to finally ask my boss what it would take for me to become a store manager. His answer was to make quality a big deal and be a role model to lower-level associates. Once I became a manager and began training others, I started seeing a lot of the business side of it and really why In-N-Out is so successful.
Essentially, it’s because they have a great product that’s prepared consistently throughout the stores. And they treat their associates right and train them well. In return, they get happy customers. In-N-Out taught me how to work hard, keep track of inventory, reduce product waste, the importance of customer service and to strive to be my best every single day.
What weren’t you prepared for?
Wlasichuk: Pretty much the whole screening world was new to me when I started, so building doors and window screens took a good chunk of time. Screenmobile University is an extensive two-week training course that teaches all new franchisees everything they need to know about running a business, as well as how to install, manufacture and repair screens. This was extremely helpful.
Frazier: When I first got involved with owning and operating a business, the main skill I needed to improve was communication. Sometimes I’d have to remind myself to slow down in conversation and really listen. Other times I’d have to make sure there was absolutely no confusion in a message before I sent it to the shift team. This is a skill I continue to work on improving every day.
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