or When You're Hot, You're Hot

You might say Jim Patrick "failed" in his plan when he moved from Michigan to Florida in 1995 to semi-retire. His plan? Build a small shop to operate with his wife and son, selling soup, salad, and subs in Port Charlotte. Some customers liked his store so much they asked Patrick to build them one of their own. A few years later he had built five stores, all with his own hands.

Today as founder, president, and CEO of Obee's Soup, Salad & Subs, Jim Patrick is a most enthusiastic franchisor. As of May, he had 43 stores open in 23 states, 76 more in the pipeline, 41 area developers signed, and agreements to build more than 1,500 stores in the next 8 years. He was preparing to meet with his first international client (Mexico), and has registered the company in 13 European countries and Canada, as well as Mexico.

"I've never been here before," says Patrick. "I consider myself to be a builder, a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of guy." The largest number of people he'd ever managed was two. Today he has a corporate headquarters with 27 full-time employees.

Wisely, he knows what he doesn't know. He started slowly, perhaps even reluctantly, and hired the expertise he needed to keep him on course. He soon was on his way and hasn't stopped since.

In April 2000, with his handful of stores and a home office, he incorporated the franchise company. He leased his first small office in December 2000 to embark on the road to franchising. Exactly one year later, he started to sell franchises.

Patrick designed his first brochure, an eight-pager, with the help of a local printer. "I tried to keep costs down. That was a fairly good expense in the early days. It now seems minimal," he says.

To get the word out on a limited budget, Patrick chose the Internet. He began by spending $350/month with Franchise Solutions. "We began producing leads, we followed up on them, and mailed the brochures," he recalls. Soon the monthly tab was $700. He now spends about $10,000 a month on the Internet alone and is marketing in as many industry periodicals as he can afford.

Internet marketing can be overwhelming, as Patrick has discovered. He is receiving queries from all over the world. "When you enter the Internet world, it can cause you some difficulties. It requires a lot more resources," he says.

Using one's own resources intensifies both prudence and attention, and Patrick tracked all the advertising and results from the start. "I know where every lead came from last month," he said. "We monitor where we are spending our advertising money and if it is generating business. We know where our money is being spent successfully and what it's doing for us from each department. We're being very careful financially, looking at the future as well as the present. We're learning as we go."

Beyond the inspiration and contributions of his wife and son, Patrick says he has received a tremendous amount of help from the IFA. "We rely on a lot of expert help from our friends in the franchise business. I've been in a number of small businesses, and never had more help, more outreach programs, or more help structuring our business," he says.

"We're in waters we've never been in before," he says. And as the company continues to expand at breakneck speed, how does the water feel to Jim Patrick? "I've never had more fun in my entire life," he says with no hesitation.

Published: October 15th, 2003

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