In the early summer of 2007, retired Air Force Tech Sergeant Robert Flores was making his way across the country with a U-Haul from Texas to Indiana to open his first Little Caesars franchise. That may sound extreme -- but it's not -- nor, is this his first brush with running his own business.
"I always liked being involved in things outside of the Air Force," says Flores, who spent 20 years in the service. "I've been in real estate and even had a nail and tanning salon. I've just always loved being in business for myself."
Indeed, after retiring from the service at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Tex., Flores and his wife moved to Waco in central Texas. They quickly developed a passion for the pizza from their nearby Little Caesars, and began to wonder. "So one day, we just decided to call the franchise number listed on the box," he says. He liked what he heard, including the Little Caesars Veterans Program which offers eligible veterans up to $68,000 in financial resource benefits to begin franchising.
Flores discovered the Texas market for Little Caesars was already taken, but Hamilton County near Indianapolis, Ind., was open - and he had a sister who lived there. It all came together for Flores. He expects the first store to be open by the fourth quarter of this year, and his family -- including his sister will be a big part of it. Under its policy, Little Caesars requires franchisees to wait at least six months before opening another unit. Flores says he'd like to do just that sometime in the second half of 2008.
Like many veterans, Flores believes his time in the service has taught him much that can be applied to running a franchise. "At my supervisory level in the Air Force, I got to work with and oversee a lot of young guys coming in. It's just the same way in franchising." Although he believes that finding and retaining good employees will be challenging, he says his skill set will enable him to train, nurture, and model leadership effectively to his young employees.
He also looks forward to giving back to the community - something Little Caesars is known for doing with its programs like the Love Kitchen. The Love Kitchen trucks can be seen driving throughout communities and distributing food to the homeless. Beyond that, Flores is excited to be able to provide jobs for people in his new community.
"Franchising is turnkey," says Flores. "You just follow the proven format and you'll be successful."
Biggest mistake: Not getting into real estate and franchising earlier in my life.
Smartest mistake: Opening up my nail and tanning salon. It was a real learning experience. It taught me how to deal with the public, employees, and state and local government.
Management style: I really like people, being around them and working with them. I'm not a hardcore military guy. I understand that you have to be flexible and change with the times. If you want maximum results, you need to be willing to adjust your style of operating.
How close will you be to daily operations: I plan to be in my store regularly. My approach is, I need to be willing to do whatever needs to get done. I can't be above any job or task. It's leading by example.
Person you admire the most and why? One of my grade school teachers, Mr. Davis. He really took the time to talk with me and help point me in the right direction in life. There's no question in my mind that he's part of why I'm successful.
How do you measure growth? It's a combination of things really. Of course, the bottom line is important - sales and revenue, but so is having successful, long-term employees, and satisfied customers. It's all really a lot of factors combined that help you succeed and grow.