Keeping Things in Order
Jan 09, 2015 03:09PM
● By Jason Huddle
By: Kim Cassell
KIMBERLY BARTNIK, A HENDERSONVILLE, NC, NATIVE, IS A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER IN CABARRUS COUNTY. BUT HOW AND WHY DOES ONE TRANSITION FROM EMPLOYEE STATUS TO RUNNING THE WHOLE SHOW? IT OFTEN TAKES YEARS OF ASSEMBLING THE KNOWLEDGE AND THE “WANT” TO PREPARE FOR THE (AD)VENTURE.
From Hendersonville, Bartnik’s family moved to Gainesville, FL, where Bartnik lost her “colorful Southern accent and learned how to embrace many different nationalities.” As an adult, she found herself working in the financial sector for such institutions as Bank of America, Vanguard and TIAA-CREF. Those formative years in project management, leadership, process improvement, business development, quality, training, relationship management and as a call center director helped her prepare for business ownership and she’s grateful for that.
In November 2013, after 23 years in the banking field, Bartnik took the chance. “The day-to-day work was rewarding; I’ve always enjoyed coaching my staff,” she says, “however, my commute was 30 to 45 minutes each day. Spending time in traffic was not the way I’d like to spend my life. I also wanted to build something for my family – live, love, laugh and leave a legacy. I was doing everything except leaving a legacy.”
Bartnik did what is considered the right thing in starting her quest to buy a franchise: her homework. According to franchisehelp.com, “One of the very first things you need to do as a prospective franchise buyer is to form a list of your top priorities. The list doesn’t have to be complete or final, but it should capture your top must-haves that will guide your initial franchise search.”
The list would include the type of business one might be interested in; where in the U.S you want to locate your business; the size and growth potential of the parent company; the amount of training and subsequent support from the parent company; and how much you can financially contribute toward your franchise.
Guides.wsj.com adds, “You will need to consider the hours you are willing to work, the kinds of work you enjoy and whether you prefer working directly with customers or remaining behind the scenes. Key factors also include how much income you need to generate, and how much cash and borrowed funds you can commit to the deal.
“As a general rule, you will want to avoid industries and fields that are either too crowded or too thinly populated. Crowding creates competition, while the absence of franchisees in a particular niche suggests that it either doesn’t lend itself to franchising or that the market hasn’t yet developed adequately. Lenders prefer to fund franchises in proven markets, so keep that in mind as well.”
“Once you’ve assembled your initial ‘franchise hit list’ to explore further, it’s time to ask some questions,” franchisehelp.com says. “Attending one or more franchise shows or franchise expos is a great way to accomplish this task. Most franchise shows will feature anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred franchises gathered in a convention hall, with hundreds or even thousands of individuals just like you going from booth to booth to learn more about companies that pique their interest: think of these events as speed dating for the potential franchise owner! You won’t learn everything there is to know about an interesting franchise at a franchise show, but you will learn enough to cross opportunities off of your list that don’t truly meet your criteria.”
“I researched lots of different business opportunities that would leverage my skills; however, I was not enthused about doing more of the same,” Bartnik says. “Five months later, I opened my doors with The Maids. I was most impressed by the high quality of The Maids training, the brand, the safety measures required (bonded/insured/provided transportation) and the highly efficient business model.”
Delving into a company’s Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) and Uniform Franchise Offering Circular (UFOC) can make or break a decision. With them, one can “compare expected start-up costs, ongoing expenses and potential revenues of the franchises you’re considering,” franchisehelp.com says. “Estimating potential sales, cash flow and profit for a franchise is a key element in choosing a profit-making franchise.”
Bartnik definitely took a risk in starting up her business; she rolled over her retirement fund. “My start-up expenses were well over $140,000,” she says. “However, there are many other franchise opportunities that would require less. My package for equipment and training was $75,000. I then spent tens of thousands for my lease, my office space, my furniture, my cars.”
Bartnik’s Maids’ territory includes Huntersville, Concord, the University area, Northlake, Harrisburg, Salisbury and China Grove. With that much to cover, Bartnik relies on her staff. “Women who clean are special people. They are caring, considerate, structured go-getters. At least the ones I hire are! With a little bit of coaching, I hope to one day help one of my team members make a similar leap of faith into their own version of ‘leaving a legacy.’”
And that’s a definite possibility. Today, about 25 percent of franchise ownership is by women and it’s growing. “With thousands of franchise systems operating in dozens of industries, there is no shortage of choices for people interested in buying a franchise,” according to guides.wsj. com.
“Having been in the business world for 23 years, I’m used to being a woman in a group of men,” Bartnik adds. “What I find now is that, most of the time, I’m the sole business owner among a group of husband/wife teams. That hasn’t been difficult, just an adjustment.
“As an experienced and mature businesswoman, I’ve learned how to navigate most situations in order to leverage my skills and my fellow colleagues’ skills. I really don’t even think about being a woman anymore, just what can I do to improve my business, my quality, my turnover and my waste. I’m learning that it really just takes being focused and attentive to my team and customers.”
Even with her business success, Bartnik says her No. 1 job is that of mom. “Four children – three bios and one bonus – all daughters,” she says. “My husband has a motorcycle, a ‘68 Camaro and a man cave to help him cope.”
And while she’s unsure whether her daughters will someday want to take over her business, Bartnik hopes to serve as an example to them of what can by achieved by a woman. With that in mind, her 10-year goals are to expand her territory and office locations.
“At some point, I’d like to be more of a guide for the business than the day-to-day jack-of-all-trades,” she says. “However, I love to jump in and clean with my teams. It gives me the gift of empathy, helps me know the techniques even better to train my team and it helps me get to know my customers better.”
...Some even better than others. That’s because The Maids takes part in a nationwide program called Cleaning For A Reason, which provides cleaning services for cancer patients. “Each month we commit to clean four times for free – two patients, two cleans each,” Bartnik explains. “After each woman has completed her treatment – on average, four months – we receive another patient.”
She was also the 2014 board chairperson for Teen Health Connection, in Charlotte – a non- profit organization that was started in 1992 to address the medical and mental healthcare needs of adolescents aged 11 to 22. “It’s the wave of the future and Teen Health is doing it right!” Bartnik says.
She adds, “Being a community partner is extremely important to me. I would not have been able to be as successful as I have been without having had great experiences and great mentors. Every one of my role models has believed in doing the right thing and giving back to the community. When I see a woman who hasn’t had the strength to eat, much less clean, I’m overwhelmed by compassion and wanting to help. The women that we clean for are so appreciative. Having a clean house for them is a godsend and the fact that they didn’t have to do it or couldn’t do it makes it even more special for them.
“I have lots of faith and I believe in hard work. With both of those components in place, I’m moving forward and not looking back.”