Name: John Anderson
Job Title: President – Owner Operator
Where: Tulsa, OK – United States
Employer: BounceU – Children's Playground Franchise
Years of Experience: 25 years
Relevant Experience: 15 years as a mortgage broker
Education: BS Business Administration
Annual Salary: See PayScale’s Research Center for median Owner Operator Salaries.
Looking for a new career where you could be the president of your own company? Ever thought of running your own franchise? For John Anderson, leaving the mortgage industry and owning a children's playground franchise was a wonderful change of pace. In this Salary Story, John shares the trials and tribulations of owning a children's playground franchise in Oklahoma.
Job Description of a Franchise Owner Operator
John: I own, operate and manage a BounceU, which is a children’s playground franchise. My job as the President is to make sure we are profitable. What goes into that? Marketing is my biggest creative challenge. I spend a lot of time trying to find low cost ways to introduce our business to new people. We always need more business. When business is slow we tweak our offers and our pricing to get people in. When business is good we are still marketing to generate demand to raise prices. My managers run the day to day operations, playtime and birthday parties, vendor relations, customer satisfaction, etc. I do the maintenance, the accounting, marketing, etc. I talk to customers to solve the more difficult complaints, but that is not often. I do spend a lot of time doing maintenance. I have learned how to do minor repairs to inflatables and other equipment we have. I spend more time than I should on floors and walls because we can’t really afford professionals, but I really want them to look nice.
PayScale: How did you become an owner operator of a children’s exercise franchise
John: I like working with children, and I thought the financial prospects were good for this children’s playground franchise. I researched a bunch of franchise opportunities and worked with a consultant. At the end of the day I decided this was a good opportunity and it sounded like fun. It is a little more work than I imagined and the costs are a little higher, but it’s still working out well. My motivation to start BounceU was really to get away from the only other career I knew and go out and do something different. I found BounceU through a consultant and as I found out more about company I decided it was the concept I wanted to follow. The research involves a lot of up-front work including visiting corporate offices and doing a “discovery day” where you really see what is involved in being a BounceU owner. They also get a chance to review potential owners up close and personal before offering a children’s franchise opportunity. After doing the discovery day with my wife and working through all the details, we decided to go for it.
PayScale: What do you love about running a children’s playground franchise?
John: I got a call from a parent who had recently hosted a birthday party. Her party hosts did such a great job that she called to give them an even bigger tip two days later! We have worked with many charities taking advantage of our fabulous facility for them. We raised over $1000 and 1000 pounds of food for the local food bank last summer. Recently, a customer was looking to raise money to move to Africa to adopt a child. I offered her an evening to use the facility for playtime and she could keep the proceeds. She made $600 and created a lot of awareness about what they are doing. The best part of the job is seeing the kids excited and beaming about playing. Of course the birthday child’s excitement is always the best. I also enjoy talking to the parents and other business owners who come in. The challenge of figuring out how to get customers in the door is not necessarily fun, but it is rewarding when they actually do show up. We spend a lot of time on marketing and that is one of the more rewarding parts of the business. I enjoy getting out and talking to people about the business.
PayScale: What are the biggest challenges you face as an owner operator?
John: Keeping the equipment and the building clean. We have thousands of kids and parents come through and play every month. We clean nightly, but keeping the floors and carpets clean is a constant battle. Dust also accumulates everywhere. Managing the dust and getting rid of it are regular battles. Maintenance is another problem. The inflatables require regular attention. Occasionally they need to be shipped out for serious repairs but you also become good at doing minor repairs yourself. I have learned how to work with a heavy duty awl and how to glue tears and repairs. It is a pain, but it is a lot more cost effective to learn how to do repairs yourself whenever possible. Other challenges include the expenses. The facility is large and rent is not cheap. Managing labor cost is another regular battle. You have to stay vigilant on scheduling and making sure the staff is adhering to the schedule. Other costs just seem to always come at you. Sometimes it is maintenance, sometimes marketing expense. You have to get a lot of customers through the doors.
PayScale: What advice would you give someone thinking about becoming an owner operator of their own franchise?
John: Do your homework. The location and the corresponding rent can make or break you. There is a large commitment of capital, time and energy. You need to be prepared for it. It is hard to pen as a part-time job, and you will probably spend $300,000 or more to get open. However, if you get the customers in, the business is good. Most franchises need to bring in around $32,000 to $35,000 gross per month to break even. Some more, some less, but that is probably average. After that you make about 50 to 60 cents on each gross dollar earned. So if you make $50,000 gross, the business does pretty well. It does take some time to build the business to that level, but the franchise helps and supports getting you there. The location of your business can be very important in getting customers through the door. You can save a lot on rent by going into a less desirable location, but that is not always the best way to go. Again, I would just recommend that you do all your homework and be confident in what you are about to undertake before you do it.
PayScale: What are some of the crazy things that happen as a franchise owner?
John: Everyday is a new challenge with employees and customers. We have had some minor injuries and once had the police out for a burglary. We have done a few charity events here. Those are always cool. We have also had a few celebrities in for birthday parties. Once we had a Pro Poker player handing out $20 bills and autographing them. We had a major ice storm in December of 2007 and over 300,000 people were without power. School was closed for a whole week and many families were living together. We were lucky enough to have power. My family and I slept here at night and were sold out for playtime for a week!