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Opening Your Second Location

By Mike Burke

Step 1—call Mike Burke. Just kidding, but this is the number one question I’m asked by coaching clients, and the number one issue I’ve assisted business owners with. If you read my last article, you’ve already gone and found yourself a millennial to answer the phone, text customers, schedule appointments, and restock the paper towels. Now it’s time to phase yourself out of the other half of your job—tinting.

Replace Yourself
Hire your replacement, and train him to be you. Groom them to interact with customers, promote them, compliment them when they do things right and let them make decisions, good or bad. When they make mistakes, let them figure out the solution. Once things are humming along without you having to interfere, you go and open your next location. People always ask me how I opened store after store, and the answer is I always had a parachute on my back because my first store could pay the bills. If it failed, all I would lose was my investment in the second store.

The Transition
This brings me to the next important point: do not go into debt for the second location. Save enough to do a basic upfit, and live off sales from the first shop while you put all your sweat equity in the second. You can always make upgrades later once the new store is turning a profit. Do everything yourself. Don’t take any money from the second store, reinvest all of it in the business. At first, your long-time customers will follow you personally to the new shop while new customers will mostly find the more established one. In time, things will even out and business will pick up at both. Once the second shop is supporting itself, you know what to do—hire your replacement and start the process again.

AskaPro
No matter how many locations you have, Burke says it’s crucial to have a clean, organized shop that is “professional and classy,” and signals to customers that you care and want to make a good impression.

Why Stop There?
After the second location, you can keep going to as many stores as you want. The second store is the one that requires a change in mindset. When you own one shop, you’re the tinter, you’re the business and you wear all the hats. If you have employees, they’re just helpers. If you want growth, you need to invest in your employees and build a team. Make it about the brand and not your ego. Learn to coach and people will follow. Interestingly, the number two question I’m asked is, “How do I keep my employees from going out on their own after I train them?” The answer is exactly the same. Train them to replace you, and then get out of the way. I pay all my employees on commission because it ties their compensation directly to their effort. I also give them a lot of control over how they run their individual shops. When you empower your employees and give them room to grow and accomplish as much as they want, they have no reason to leave. Stop being the tinter and start being the owner.

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Mike Burke has been in the window film industry for 33 years. His company, Sun Stoppers, has over 35 locations in 16 states and offers residential and commercial tint and decorative film services as well as automotive tint, paint protection, and ceramic coatings. If you have a question for Mike to tackle in a future column, email him at mike@sunstoppers.com.

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