A Bio Teacher and Minister Invest in a Paint Franchise...

Posted by Pete Gilfillan and Nat Truitt on May 13, 2021 12:40:20 PM

...within two years they become franchisees of the year for 360 Painting!

Sharon and Mack Strange have been an incredible success story. They decided to retire and completely change course by investing in a franchise. 

Pete was their consultant and on this episode, you will hear about their process and what led to their success.


Nat:                  Well, I am so excited to have Sharon and Max Strange here with us today. It is a real pleasure to have you guys, and you guys are in Nashville, is that right?


Max S.:             Yes, good morning, Pete.


Nat:                  Good morning.


Sharon S.:         Thanks for having us on.


Nat:                  You are welcome. And did you guys get all that fun weather last week?


Max S.:             We're not good with snow in the south.


Sharon S.:         I was talking to somebody yesterday from Chicago who said, I thought people were kidding me when they said no one would be out when there's snow or ice in the south, and they were not kidding.


Nat:                  Yes. Well, it gets to be dangerous because nobody knows how to drive, and you watch some of the videos of Texans; they don't even know how to walk on ice, right?


Max S.:             Yes, exactly.


Nat:                  I saw a YouTube video where this lady is walking on her frozen pool, right? So she walks on her pool that's ice, and can you believe it she falls through?


Max S.:             Wow.


Sharon S.:         That's crazy.


Nat:                  So be it. Well, hey, congratulations. I know you guys; I worked with you about two years ago or roughly that time frame. And you guys came to me looking to potentially invest in a franchise.

So what I wanted to do is kind of take a step back. So you guys, I remember, came from very diverse backgrounds, so really, your careers were not in business or franchising, right? So Sharon Max, can you guys tell us a little bit just about your backgrounds prior to investing in a franchise?


Sharon S.:         Sure. So I was in teaching, have a degree in biology and chemistry, taught high school, and then went to eighth-grade science. And yes, we were moving along in those careers.


Max S.:             I was a minister for 30 years. And honestly, what it came down to is our kids were grown, we have four kids, and they're in their mid-20s, literally all around the world.

And we're very dedicated in both careers, and we just did not have much in terms of togetherness from the standpoint of how our days went in our careers, and we just wanted to be together.

And so literally, we both retired; it was a shock to both places. But it was really the right thing to do. And Pete, you led us in the right direction of 360 painting, and we were very pleased with it.


Nat:                  All right. So you both had very successful careers, but you thought, hey, now we're going to go into the second kind of part of our career, right? We're going to go do something together. And I know you guys were looking at many different options. But as you thought about a franchise and then we got into it, what kind of attracted you to investing in a franchise?


Max S.:             I think for us because we had a low business acumen. And we don't have a lot of knowledge of home improvement, or really many of the things we were doing. We were good at what we did, but you put it outside of that, and we weren't as good. And we needed help in what to do and how to do it.

And for us, franchising gave us that opportunity to look at a business, be trained, and then be coached in it in a good way. And our good friend Dave and Lloyd Greenberg, they took us to breakfast. We were looking at one specific franchise, and they really point us to you to look at a broader picture.

And that really changed things for us when we looked at that broader picture because you were very honest with us and straightforward. And in the end, I think we made the right decision.


Nat:                  All right. So you're thinking about franchising, and it's a way to have somebody help you, right? So you didn't have that business acumen, experience. And so as you went into it, I mean being a teacher in ministry, right?

So that's a big leap to running a painting franchise, right? So tell me a little bit about kind of as you guys kicked this off this last two years; I'm sure there are some great learnings. Tell us some stuff that you've learned over the last two years on your journey.


Sharon S.:         Gosh, a lot. So part of what I do, I guess in teaching and who I am as a learner, has come into play in a huge way of, if you're going to be in anything really, you have to keep learning. Because the environment, everything around you is going to keep changing. And boy, did we have a big change this last year.


Nat:                  Yes.


Sharon S.:         So I think that's probably one of the biggest things to learn, and how do you shift. How do you take that and move and learn something new? And I mean, I talked about that for you.


Nat:                  Yes, absolutely. So always being open to learning, right? Because you're going into new things. So learning is one thing; what else did you guys learn as you've been on this adventure?


Max S.:             For me, Pete, and this is the ministry piece; life is about relationships. And at first, when we got out of training, we were real intimidated. And then one day, I was sitting there in front of a customer's house about to go and do an estimate, and it just occurred to me, this is a real person, it's okay, they're not going to bite your head off.

So it's about relationships, it's really not about paint. And so into that house to find out their why not just their what. Because I'm determined, I'm going to ask them why they want to do this. And then I talked to them about how we can meet that why, and I got the business.

And I think in the end, when you realize it's about relationships, it really helped us kind of be more confident and peaceful about all of it.


Nat:                  Yes. So you guys, I've been told have done a wonderful job building your business. And I heard the rumor you guys were the franchisees of the year last year?


Sharon S.:         Yes, we did.


Nat:                  Hey, by the way, here's the trophy.


Nat:                  All right, yes.


Max S.:             And by the way, Pete, it says Sharon Strange, my names not anywhere near.


Nat:                  We know who the real boss is, absolutely.


Max S.:             One of the things is we decide in our evolution, and I kid all this all the time, it started out as 360 painting Max and Sharon Strange, a little bit later is 360 paintings Sharon and Max Strange, and now it's 360 painting Sharon Strange, and we got it right.

And we decided as Sharon, she evolved so quickly, and it took leadership, you never know. And instead of saying this is our model, we're sticking with it. We saw Sharon's potential in giftedness and said, hey, we got to let her go with that. And if we're woman-owned now, and we really are, that's the way we present ourselves: Sharon Strange and 360 painting.


Nat:                  Yes, oh, that's awesome. And that's another lesson you learned, right? Adapt, right. So kind of you shifted your business model, and boy did it work. And franchisee of the year during a COVID-19 2020 or just crazy.


Sharon S.:         For sure.


Nat:                  From that standpoint of a business, and as we talk about last year, we're not going to spend a lot of time talking about, we would like to all forget 2020.

But this idea of being a franchisee during the middle of a pandemic, did you see the real benefits of being part of a franchise system where the franchisor helps adapt the business model? You can kind of lean on them as you're going through the tough times, as well as other franchisees. Was there a real benefit to that?


Sharon S.:         Absolutely. That's one of the biggest reasons why we went with a franchise, and specifically, the one that we chose was looking at the support that was offered. And all of the different methods.

We have a central forum where everybody goes; they send a lot of things there, as well as everything is shared drives, and everything Google based. So it's wonderful to be able to share those resources immediately. So when everything happened, we have an advisory committee.

Of course, everybody met an advisory committee, then here's what we're going to do and how to reach out to everybody. So it is a great thing to do to have somebody that has already worked out all the systems.

You can always adapt it how you want because, ultimately, it is your business, and if you need to tweak it and do it a little bit slightly different, that's up to you in running your day-to-day business. But the overarching part of it, franchising, is great to be able to do that.


Nat:                  Okay, so excellent. So it helps you through it. Now as we as we look towards the 2021, right? So this year. How's it looking so far? Are you seeing things kind of bouncing back? And you guys on fire as I suspect usual?


Sharon S.:         Yes. So we have another person that works with us, and he was just saying yesterday because we were just, all these, of course, it's great. Weather, we had crazy weather last week, great weather and phones are just ringing and appointments, and he was like can you feel the tsunami rumble? I was like, yes, it's coming. And we keep shifting as to where our target market is.

So we've had some of those things are ultimately, we have a higher-end target market with our franchise that we chose. But some of those have even been shifting to be even higher in some quite large homes that we've been working with, to see it shift.


Max S.:             And I go back to the relationship thing; I think people are dying for people they can trust. The people who will listen to them, and then people who do excellent work and then back it up. And you know this, Pete, not every job, whatever job it is, is perfect. But I think the thing people know about us and the reason that things have gone so well.

Is ultimately, they know we're going to back up whatever we do, we're going to make them happy. And again, you get those unreasonable customers. But out of 100, you might get one or two. Now I've seen the people are very gracious, kind, and good, and our experience has been very much to when there's a problem lean into it, and take care of it, not run from it. And I think by word of mouth, that's really gotten around.


Nat:                  Yes. And I think that's important, because in today's world where everything is zooms and calls and stuff like that. You don't get the same level of customer service you had before, right? It's more work to provide that level of customer satisfaction.

So congratulations on that, and certainly it's paid off being the franchisee of the year. So let me ask you this, so somebody that's thinking about doing what you guys did, going a whole new different direction, right?

They've got this career; they want to go different direction. What advice would you give somebody that's thinking about? Hey, maybe I should look at investing in a franchise?


Sharon S.:         So in that direction, and from our experience, what we had is we were looking at something that was just a building, brick and mortar that was kind of our perception of well, if you're going to start a business, you're going to have to have a building, you're going to have to have all these different little things. So we were kind of locked in that that's what we had to do.

And our process with you, you were amazing and just opening up would you be open to, and okay, we can make sure well, why not? We can look at something else, okay. But I just knew that I was locked into this one model, and you were so good at like well, just look at this one, the same way you've been done, just look at this and see what you think. And it really opened the door to exploring all the other models of business that are out there.


Max S.:             Yes, I think you're really honest. I remember the moment you looked at us and said or we were on the phone talking to you, and you said I need to be honest with you, I don't think you have enough money to do this other option. And that's not easy to hear, but the reality was we were about to put a whole lot of money down for something that was a brick-and-mortar situation.

And you also bought into the fact that we love our house, we love living in Nashville, and you said maybe you could work out of your house, and it changed our perspective that then changed our decision. And I mean my gosh, the proof's in the pudding. I mean we've been doing it 18 months now, and it's just been like Dr. Walker; I mean, it's worked out well.


Nat:                  So bottom line is keep an open mind, right? And we all have preconceived notions and stuff like that. So when I presented different concepts to you, I presented 360 painting; you guys probably thought I was a little crazy, right? A painting franchise, we don't know anything about painting.


Sharon S.:         Yes.


Nat:                  Pretty close.


Max S.:             Sharon would tell you I don't know much about anything else other than what I was doing beforehand. I mean, we were starting from ground zero one way or the other.


Nat:                  Yes, okay. So as you take a look at somebody looking to become a business owner, what characteristics do you think would be important for somebody to have in terms of if they're going to start a business? What characteristics would you think would be vital for them to be a business owner?


Sharon S.:         Skills, obviously. If you're going to be in business, every day you're dealing with people, and you need to know what to do with that. You need to know how to appropriately respond to people and to read people.

And see where they're really coming from, what they're doing, rather than just focused on here's my product or here's my service, and this is what we do. But to form those relationships, so I think that's a.


Max S.:             If it's just about the money, it's not going to work. And you got to be willing to be, in my opinion, humble and be willing to serve people. If you can do that, I think you can be successful. I also want to say you have to be willing to take some risk. I've just read Matthew McConaughey's book Green Light, and I'm a Texan, so I love the book.

But you have things in the franchise business that you can be strategic about, and then there are things that just come your way. And I think one of the things we've been really good at is when those opportunities have just shown themselves to help us improve our business, we really haven't done a lot of overthinking.

We've said, let's do this. And for us, those things have worked out. And I think seeing those green lights and going through them have been great for us.


Sharon S.:         Well, I want to add that one of the big things is it's not just starting a business doing this, but looking at okay, you've got all this new stuff you're going to be doing, you're going to have to figure this out. So what are you doing as far as what you're living on? Do you have a loan? Do you have some money in the bank? Do you have something?

So that you can make sure you can pay those bills as you get up on this bicycle and get it going? There's so many times I had that analogy in my head of trying to get this bicycle up and going. And it's bumping along, but I got to get it going smoother and learning all those different ins and outs of everything. So money to live on and working capital.


Max S.:             Yes, the money deal is, you need to have some savings or something to make sure you make that first year.


Nat:                  Okay. So one, it's people skills, right? It's about being able to connect, and I suspect that's with customers as well as team members, right? So number two is this idea of having an open mind and kind of shifting and being able to adjust.

And then number three is literally going and having the business properly capitalized because if we're not properly capitalized, it just puts stress on the business, puts stress on the business owners, and stuff like that. Is that correct?


Sharon S.:         Yes. And that's what we were talking about with the house, that if we put everything, our house, all of our investments, everything into that original business that we were looking at, we just would have been so tight, it's too much. And so this was a better fit for us, to be able to have room to breathe.


Max S.:             Yes. And I think. Also, new franchisees worry too much about profit in the first year. Your first six months, don't worry about profit, just do business. Learn how to do it, and learn how to interact.

And if you can do that, it gives you; I think so many people are stressed out because they're expecting some like 20% profit within three days of getting started, it's just not going to happen.


Sharon S.:         And I will add, though, that there's a book called profit first, and one of the tenants that it talks about is pay yourself first. So don't wait till the end to pay yourself and take that out of your profits, because it just might not be. You're going to find so many things you're going to want to spend things on.

Well, I've got to invest here, and I've got to do that, and it's time to buy this, you got to live. So you need to pay yourself and worry about what comes after that as far as, yes, profit. But it's not the biggest part yet, because you haven't gotten yourself out there to build your dreams.


Nat:                  Okay. So a sense of urgency to get that bicycle off the ground, right? As you said before. The idea is that you got to kind of pace yourself and have realistic expectations of what the business is going to do.

But also, what I thought I heard you say is hey listen, you also got to pay yourself a little bit here, right? Because you got to live. So let me ask you this, and I don't want to know the amount.

But how long did it take you before you were able to start paying yourself a little bit? Take a little bit of money from the business, do you remember by chance? Was it six months or three months?


Sharon S.:         No, we started paying ourselves right away.


Nat:                  Okay.


Max S.:             Now please understand my salary was covered basically by my retirement, that's what I mean. I think we had, that's a benefit we had going into this.


Sharon S.:         Right. We had some of that that we balanced with. But then we were able to go ahead in that very first month; we were making money.


Nat:                  All right, that's awesome. Well, congratulations on that, okay, perfect. And you guys have mentioned a couple of books; it sounds like you guys are always learning from something. What would be a couple of books you'd recommend to people? If they're looking at doing something, what are your favorite books? What books would you recommend to people?


Sharon S.:         Atomic habits is one, that's been a good one with making sure that you continue because you know coke had just kind of knocked everybody for a loop. And I found myself being out of certain habits, and then like gosh, I feel so disorganized.

What's happening? And okay, I just need to work harder, and it's like, oh no, I need to get back to basics and what I know is the right thing to do. And so that's a great book. E-myth is a good book.


Nat:                  I think I know who gave you that book.


Sharon S.:         Actually, brought that one right here.


Nat:                  All right, very good. It's one of my favorite books.


Sharon S.:         Yes. So that's a really good book too, and it really does go through the different basic business tenants about systems and putting things in place, and there's just so many things with business. What is your aim? What is your why?

How are you going to execute these things? How do you interact with people? I think there's a lot of business books that focus on that same sort of thing or maybe just elaborate on one part. And we found that there's another book that we did last year with our team, which we have there's a total of six of us now full time. And we just did that again recently, which is this one.


Nat:                  Really? Okay.


Max S.:             It really will change your life. And the word for 2021 is the word discipline, because ultimately what this book talks about is the fact that you don't need to set like all these; you need to set as an individual, maybe for you as your business side, a word that'll help inspire you and help you can put out before you. So my word is discipline because I need that. And your word is?


Sharon S.:         So my word is lead. So this whole little process, I mean just to even read this book or flip through it, is like 30 minutes. And it works through like three different little questions. The first one is what do you need? The next one is what's in your way? Then the next one is what has to go?

And then you kind of see what sort of thing, what kind of word then just kind of comes to you, like this next, what's the? And for me, that was lead, but in particular on focus and priority. Making sure that the things, maybe you've seen the analogy where somebody takes a big container, and you have to put the big rocks in first, then the smaller rocks.

Then you can pour the sand and all the gritty details of everything and be there. Because if you pour all the sand and do all the little tiny things, you can't put the big rocks in there. Take the big rocks out of the way.


Max S.:             We did our words yesterday; that was great. And I think it gave us a sense of family, because if some of the words were very emotional for people because it came from some maybe pain or hurting their background. But what they're wanting in the next year, and we can support them in that, and we want to do that.


Nat:                  Yes. That sounds like a great exercise; I'm going to go get the book; that is awesome. Another great book is you look at operations of a business it's called traction, so I'd highly recommend it if you guys haven't read it or used it.

It's I think from operating business standpoint, it's pretty good. So are there any kind of thought leaders you guys follow? Do you follow Darren Hardy or anybody, any thought leaders you follow?


Sharon S.:         I would love to have a list of ones to follow. I just have like a few that come up on my phone as I'm going through.


Max S.:             Michael Hyatt.


Sharon S.:         There you go.


Max S.:             I'll be honest with you, this is also new to us. We've been in this survival mode for so long, and not only did we make it, but we succeeded. And I think for Sharon and I both; now it's kind of like okay, what are you going to do.

We're now starting to build structure, we're now working more on the business and in the business. And so I think we're just in that now we're just looking at hey, I'd like to read a book. I mean, we both are hard workers, and Sharon works seven days a week, and I work six. And we do have a few things we do, but we work very hard.


Nat:                  Yes, absolutely.


Max S.:             That's why she's the CEO because she works seven.


Nat:                  All right, fair enough. Well played. So are you guys having fun? I mean, it sounds like you're working hard, but are you enjoying yourselves?


Sharon S.:         We are. We have a great team of people that we put around us, and they come into the office, and we have a good time. And we've taken some time to be with family and have a little bit of that coming up soon too.


Max S.:             And our deal was we're going to work incredibly hard to build the business as well as we can, to position ourselves to be able to do what we want to do. Which is to be with our kids and to go places, and we really believe that's happening.

I do want to say that our director of operations, who is just a great guy yesterday. His word was grateful, and he basically said I'm just grateful to be here and be in an environment that's positive, it's upbeat, and where we're accomplishing things together. And to me, that was the greatest compliment of what we're building here that we could have.


Nat:                  Yes. I think there's a lot of stuff tied gratitude to success, right? If you have a mindset of gratitude, generally, success comes your way. At least I've kind of done that stuff, so that's awesome.

Well congratulations, it sounds like you guys are doing awesome. I'd love to see the trophy; you made the team proud from that standpoint.

And I thank you for sharing your journey today, because if somebody would have come to you three years ago and said you'd be having a painting franchise, and you guys are going to be working six, seven days a week in it, and all this kind of stuff, you would have gone no way, right.


Sharon S.:         Thank you for putting us on the right path.


Max S.:             Yes. We credit you with that and our friends Dave and Lori Greenberg. They've been really kind to us and been, so we they live close here, so that's great we get to see them.


Nat:                  Well, next time I'm in Nashville, I'll take you guys to dinner. I'd love to see you guys in person, get out of the zoom world and go celebrate your successes. So thanks again for sharing your time; I know you guys are crazy busy. So thanks.


Sharon S.:         Oh, you are amazing, and thank you so much. And we highly recommend you to everyone; it was a fabulous process.


Nat:                  All right.


Sharon S.:         Thank you.


Nat:                  All right, best of luck to you guys.


Max S.:             Thank you, Nat.


Nat:                  Thank you so much.


Max S.:             Bye-bye.


Nat:                  Take care.

Topics: Insider, Franchise, entrepreneurship, becoming a franchisee, Podcast

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