He Likes To Teach: U.S. Army Vet Prefers a Hands-On Approach

He Likes To Teach: U.S. Army Vet Prefers a Hands-On Approach

Jim Lager doesn't talk about himself a lot, but will allow that he's "pretty good at taking lousy businesses and turning them into something." Also, he says, "I'm not a 'maintain' kind of guy--I hire people to maintain. But helping people succeed is something I want to be remembered for."

Lager, a U.S. Army veteran and natural entrepreneur, knew he wanted to start his own business and work in a hands-on environment after his military stint in Germany. Back home, he earned an MBA from the University of Minnesota through the GI Bill, then signed on as Snap-On Tools franchisee in Plano, Tex.

As he grew his Snap-On business, Lager noticed the similarities between Snap-On and Pirtek USA, a hydraulic and pneumatic hose repair brand. "I was looking for a business-to-business opportunity in Texas and was struck by the similarities in set-up, sales, and mobile service vans between the two franchises," he says. He was also impressed by the individual support Pirtek offers franchisees.

Lager took over a corporate Pirtek location at Dallas's Love Field. The 4,800-s.f. center surrounded by manufacturing and industrial customers was a solid choice in the growing area market. He now has three Pirtek along with his three Snap-On units.

"Jim continues to grow with Pirtek and has been a true asset to our franchise organization," says Gwyn O'Kane, vice president of franchise development at Pirtek. "He works with the corporate team on projects to improve the system and has spent weeks onsite at other Pirtek centers across the country to help fellow owners with their businesses. He understands his success is also dependent on other owners, and with his general franchising experience has become a great mentor to the Pirtek system.


While Lager will continue to grow his business, he's also looking ahead with another plan in mind. "In 10 years, I want to be at $10 million-plus in sales, but my ultimate goal is to have people in place to run my companies while I teach business and sales to others," he says. "I like to teach, but teaching doesn't pay well, so I do it because it feels good."

Name: Jim Lager
Title: Owner/President, JBL Hose Service, Dallas
No. of units: 3 Pirtek USA, 3 Snap-On Tools
Age: 49
Family: Wife Sheryl and two children, son Chris, and daughter Keri
Years in franchising: 22
Years in current position: 4


Formative influences/events:
Usually my failures have led to my best successes. I try to learn and improve all the time from my mistakes.

Key accomplishments:
I am good at taking lousy businesses and turning them into something, and I have had a few experiences where I have helped failing franchises turn around, grow, and become some of the best franchises in the area.

Work week:
It varies, but I never stop thinking and dreaming.

What are you reading?
Unfortunately, I'm so busy right now that I'm not reading anything.

Best advice you ever got:
You don't have to be the best at what you do, you just have to work the hardest.

What's your passion in business?
Developing something that others couldn't achieve.


Business philosophy:
Never say no, or least try really hard not to.

Management method or style:
Laid back and open-door.

Greatest challenge:
I have just recently learned how to tackle my greatest challenge, and that is to live for today and to take enough time to smell the roses. It's hard to do that and be self-employed at the same time.

How do others describe you?
Easy to approach and easy to talk to.

Bottom Line

Annual revenue:
$5 million.

2014 goals:
I'm considering growing outside Texas, perhaps in California or Florida.

Growth meter: How do you measure your growth?
Revenue and profit.

Vision meter: Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
I want to be at over $10 million in sales, but my ultimate goal is to have people in place to run my companies while I teach business and sales to others.

What are you doing to take care of your employees?
My goal is to give my employees a career, not just a job.

What kind of exit strategy do you have in place?
I have key people that I want to eventually take over my business and will likely implement a plan over time with them.

2014 MVP Veteran Entrepreneurship Award

For Outstanding Performance, Leadership, And Innovation By A Veteran

Why do you think you were recognized with this award?
The speed at which I increased sales and my willingness to teach and help other franchisees.

How have you raised the bar in your own company?
It's all about customer service. We ask our customers to set the height of the bar and then we maintain that for them.

What innovations have you created and used to build your company?
I created a customer service or relationship-based sales program where we use workshops to teach the program rather than doing it in sales meetings. In other words, our employees are hands-on involved in their own training.

What core values do you think helped you win this award?
I treat my employees and my customers the way I want to be treated. I have an open-door policy to both. If I don't hear about a problem, I can't fix it. I tell both my employees and customers that.

How important is community involvement to you and your company?
Mainly, I enjoy going to other franchisees and getting my hands dirty and showing them how to build customer relationships. Our customers don't need us--we need them.

What leadership qualities are important to you and your team?
We surround ourselves with people that complement us, not "yes men."

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