Thursday, January 13, 2011

Franchise Success: From Lay-Z Boy to Fitness for Kids

What do environmental science and athletic performance have in common? In this case, a lot. Environmental science was just one step in a path that led from an elementary school paper route to an exciting – and rewarding – business opportunity.
Steve Halloran grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and graduated from Bowling Green State University with a degree in Environmental Science. While enrolled he helped run a recycling program where students were paid a portion of the savings small businesses realized by reducing dumpster and landfill costs. The part-time dumpster diver said, “We literally pulled aluminum, cardboard, paper, and other materials out of dumpsters to prove our waste minimization strategies would pay off.” After college he worked for a couple of years as an environmental consultant helping companies save money, improve the environment, and market themselves as “green” at a time when the recycling movement was just starting to explode.
The work was satisfying, but Steve decided to go back to school to obtain an MBA and took a job at his father-in-law’s retail furniture business. “I really got the best of both worlds,” he says. “I was able to bring a lot of ideas into the business and at the same time learned all the different functions: Delivery, service, operations, sales – really everything about operating a small business.” He rose through the ranks and became the general manager with responsibility for operating two stores.

After eleven years and a divorce he left the family business and leveraged his sales experience into a corporate position with Lay-Z Boy. He worked in New York, Miami, Chicago, Baltimore… wherever the company needed him. The travel wore him down and he began noticing that his stress level was rising exponentially. “I was highly paid but never home,” says Steve, “and that started to take a toll on my personal life.” While his pay was excellent, he slowly became dissatisfied with the effect his job had on his personal and family life. “I finally realized that while I loved La-Z Boy and enjoyed helping to make people comfortable, I wasn’t really changing people’s lives… and that’s what I really wanted to do. Plus, after years of working for other people, I had a real desire to start my own business.”

Read the House of Speed success story at Guidant Financial.

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