Q&A with Chris Ashcraft, Express Employment Professionals Multi-Unit Franchisee
Name: Chris Ashcraft
Title: Franchise owner
Brand: Express Employment Professionals
Years in franchising: 15
Why did you choose to franchise with a service brand?
Before becoming a franchise owner with Express, I worked in paper sales and owned an independent wine distribution company that sold wine to grocery stores and restaurants. In that business, I did pretty much everything you could think of incorrectly.
Given my previous experience in business ownership, yet still having an entrepreneurial spirit and love for being my own boss, franchising seemed to be the natural fit and next step. When my wife Angela and I started to look at different franchise concepts, we knew we wanted our next venture to have a proven track record of success and to be something that everyone needed. With nearly 40 years of helping put individuals into the workforce and assisting businesses in obtaining strong talent, Express stood out as a concept in the service space that is the authority in the inspirational work they do.
Additionally, I knew I would do best with something in sales – since that’s what my previous experience was in – and that I didn’t want to have cost of goods since the costs in my wine business were so high. That immediately negated anything to do with food and restaurants, so when we looked at our checklist of “musts,” it was clear that service-based was the way to go.
How did you choose the sector and brand you did?
At the time of our research, Angela and I were living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and wanted to move back to Mobile, Alabama. We were working with a franchise broker and he kept bringing up Express Employment Professionals. I looked into it and considered it, but didn’t know if it would be the perfect fit. I had a background in sales, but not much in staffing. Then the broker made the mistake of telling me that Express might not want me. So being who I am, the decision was made right then and there that not only would I become an Express franchise owner, but I would open multiple offices. Turns out, Express was the perfect fit for my family and me. The company’s core beliefs and code of ethics aligned with our own, and we loved that the brand was built on strong, moral values. Helping people find good jobs and helping clients find good people is rewarding, and motivates us to be the reliable resource in the community.
What different skill sets are required for service brand franchising?
You have to be really good at building and maintaining relationships with the people you’re serving in your community. More often than not, the quality of service you provide is your key differentiator. At Express, having sales skills, grit, and tenacity are all really important. Their business model is like a wheel, and if the wheel stops turning it can lead to bad consequences. Part of that is knowing what you thrive and excel at, and knowing when to delegate and pass off responsibility. In the early days of my business, I was heavily involved in the sales process, but as the business grew, it got to a point where I knew I needed to bring someone else on to lead that aspect. Sure enough, that was when the company really took off.
What are the advantages to choosing a service brand?
I think the biggest advantage is being needed. Whether you’re cleaning homes or pools, installing HVAC, or offering landscaping or plumbing services, these are things that most people need. For us, especially over the past 16 or so months, the need for staffing experts like Express has grown tremendously. We play an integral role in helping job seekers find employment and helping local businesses find good people. As we all know, there’s a massive labor shortage that has emerged from the pandemic, and our expertise is needed in helping to get Americans off the sidelines and back into the workforce.
How does having a service brand benefit/complement your other brand(s)?
Having an owner-operator business model, Express franchisees have to be in their business every day, so owning other brands generally isn’t typical. However, there is ample opportunity to grow your network by adding more client companies and reaching more job seekers, expanding your territory, and adding more offices to your portfolio. Scaling an Express business looks a little different than it would for other franchises, but their revenue model and bottom-line earnings make it simple so that you don’t have to add additional brands to earn a very healthy living.
What would you recommend to anyone considering a service brand?
Generally service brands afford you a better work/life balance. When I was working in the paper industry, I was on call 24/7 and it was extremely demanding. Since becoming an Express franchise owner, I haven’t missed a single one of my kids’ sporting events or school plays. Our operating hours are within normal office/business hours, Monday through Friday, so I have nights and weekends and I’m able to spend more time with my family. It’s had a tremendous positive impact on my life and my overall happiness.
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