Out of This World: Franchisee and Area Rep Explores New Frontiers at Planet Smoothie

Jason Mann learned early that a career in advertising sales could get you just so far in life. And that wasn't far enough for him. So in 1999, at the age of 30, Mann stepped out of his sales role and joined forces with his father to enter the franchising business.

After seeing a Planet Smoothie in operation at a local convenience store, his father suggested to him that this was the best way to start in franchising. First good sign: people were lined up to buy smoothies. Second good sign: one employee was able to handle all the work. Third good sign: the trash can was full of empty straw wrappers, indicating that demand was steady and strong.

"In the sales industry, the better you do the more they cut your commissions and territory," says Mann. "I had no command over my future. But I'd always been very entrepreneurial and I wanted to do something on my own. I was green. I didn't know anything about restaurant operations. But Planet Smoothie is a simple business--not easy, but simple."

They started with one location. "It was the classic story. My wife and I worked behind the counter 14 hours a day with 3 days off during the year: Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter."

Just months after the couple got their start, they were building out their second location in the Orlando market and negotiating for two more. They got them--and more. Their operation eventually grew to six locations before he decided to sell off many of them and concentrate on working the region as an area representative. Today he's helping `counsel franchisees with 28 locations in Florida while managing his own operations with wife and business partner, Connie Jane.

"As an area rep I'm a hybrid between a franchisor and a franchisee," says Mann. "The franchisor has support groups for marketing, operations, store development, consultants, and so on. I handle each one of those groups for my franchisees."

Mann, who is refreshingly focused on doing whatever must be done, has handled everything from working the streets as a costumed banana to building out multiple locations. "Whatever my franchisees need is what my week entails," says Mann, who has also helped create a new, healthier product for the brand. And in one of the toughest state economies in the U.S., he's stayed excited about growing his business.

"I'll spend 80 percent of my time on area representative work and 20 percent on personal operations. Day-to-day may include counseling franchisees, working with new prospects, improving in-store operations, assisting the corporate office with ongoing projects, or something as simple as screwing in a light bulb. Sometimes I call myself a glorified maintenance man."

No matter what title he gives himself at any given time, the one he likes best is "being my own boss." It's why he got into franchising, the reason he's successful at it, and a big part of why he plans to stick with it for years to come.

Questions

Name: Jason Mann
Title: President
Company: Mann's Diversified Industries and FSSG
No. of units: 2 locations; area rep for 28 others

Published: April 14th, 2011

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