99 BIG Franchisees: Tom Hofer

  • CEO, Spring Green
  • Company-owned: 5 locations covering 20 franchise territories
  • System revenue 2005: $24 million
  • Company- owned revenue 2005: $8 million
  • 2006 goal: Increase revenue 10 percent

Tom Hofer has always been tuned into his own drive and sense of where he belonged.

"I did real well in a environment after college, but I always knew it wasn't me," Hofer says. "I definitely knew I wanted to own my own business, but wasn't sure what to do. So when the opportunity came up for me to buy a territory with Spring Green, it felt right."

Those instincts have paid off for Hofer, 59, who now oversees a national franchise operation covering 22 states with 63 franchisees and 16 direct company employees. He says that a combination of market trends, economic viability, personal ambition and a good idea all converged at the right time to ensure his success.

Hofer grew up on a farm in Illinois. His father did well and Hofer always thought he would follow and become a farmer himself. He majored in agriculture at the University of Illinois. But a stint as a Navy pilot in Vietnam exposed him to a world of possibilities and new ways of seeing the world.

"I was never quite the same," he says. "And the economic reality of farming didn't make sense anymore."

Still, he felt close to the earth. A close friend had recently started Spring Green and was just beginning to franchise when he invited Hofer to join him. Hofer bought three territories from him in 1977 and has been riding high ever since. He was named CEO in 1987.

"Business was fantastic," Hofer says of his early experience as a franchisee. "It grew beyond all my expectations. So when the time came, I exchanged my franchises for company stock."

Married with two grown children and two grandchildren, Hofer is excited to have his son join him in the business. "Before he came to the corporate office though, he worked on lawns for a summer during college," Hofer says.

He runs a relaxed team in the Chicago home office and he and his son tend towards the "fanatical" when it comes to college Hofer continues to love his work and has definite ideas about his retirement. He remains true to his sense of self and his passions.

"Sure I have retirement plans," he says. "I'm not going to retire."

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