99 BIG Franchisees: Bill Criego

Biggest family-run operation

Room for everybody

In 1992, after 25 years in the high-tech industry, Bill Criego opted to start his own company as a franchisee for Batteries Plus in the Minneapolis area. By 1995, he'd drafted wife Laurie, a sales manager in a consulting services firm, to join him in the business. By 2003, son Michael, a former airline pilot, decided to come aboard and help run the operations for the stores, which now number ten. (They'll open the 11th in a couple of months and plan others in the future.)

Criego jokes that he hasn't yet gotten Michael's wife to come aboard--"She's a doctor so she wants to put that 13 years of to work." And his and Laurie's daughter has an excuse to sit it out since she just gave birth to twin boys.

The Criego family affair is one that works: they have 50 employees who have become "battery experts," and gross revenues of $5.7 million. Batteries Plus is a great business, Bill says, because it has "a large market, limited competition, and doesn't take a lot of people to run the operations."

The influx of family members has worked well, Bill says. Each member has his or her own function and each has an office in a separate location, which enables them "to do our own thing without the others 'helping,'" he says. Laurie, who has an degree and an MBA, runs the backroom operation as well as outside sales and the commercial side of the business.

Michael, who was an airline trainer before he became a captain, is very detail-oriented, which makes him a natural for store operations, according to his dad.

And Bill? "I run the overall operation. I do everything," he says.

In their free time, the guys hunt together. Bill and his wife are buffs, and the whole family enjoys boating.

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