Veterans in Franchising – Cover Story

PIRTEK.  The Perfect Fit

One of the marks of a good leader is that he’s not only good at what he does, but makes others around him better at what they do.

It’s this type of leadership that earned Jim Lager, owner of multiple PIRTEK locations in Dallas, the Multi-Unit Franchisee Magazine 2014 Most Valuable Performer Veteran Award.

After buying his first PIRTEK franchise in 2010, Lager turned some heads by having the highest first and second year sales of any United States PIRTEK franchise in its history.

PIRTEK is a business to business franchise that services, maintains, installs and replaces hydraulic hoses and fittings. All PIRTEK franchises consist of a storefront, and a fleet of vans to perform on-site service.

Because of his meteoric rise within PIRTEK, Lager joined the company’s franchise advisory council and immediately started contributing valuable ideas.

Lager then found himself giving motivational speeches at the owner’s conference to tell them how he was doing so well, which prompted vice-president of franchise development Gwyn O’Kane to approach Lager about working with some of the company’s franchises on the west coast, which were having a difficult time recovering from the recession.

Happy to help out his fellow franchisees, Lager headed to the west coast and spent a week in San Francisco before he and the company decided that he should develop his own program and take it to the various other PIRTEK west coast franchises to help them get their sales up.

Some of those stores, like the PIRTEK in Kent, WA, went from being in the bottom 10 percent to being in the top 30 percent in the country under Lager’s tutelage.

“I took them from losing cash to making cash and now they’re actually growing to be a profitable business,” Lager said during a recent interview from his own office in Dallas.

The program he developed was hardly rocket science, though, the veteran said. He merely took his experience from his time at Snap-On Tools and combined it with obvious sales techniques that focused on the customer relations experience.

But, sometimes, he pointed out, it’s the obvious techniques that people can miss the easiest. He actually went out with sales managers on customer calls and gave them direction on how to reach out to customers, what to say and how to keep track of what they were doing and he made it all simple enough that they could easily adopt it.

O’Kane said Lager really deserves the Veteran’s Award for franchising because he truly understands the importance of the franchising system and that it’s not just about the individual franchisees being successful, but about everyone within the system and the system itself being successful.

Snap On Experience

Lager had perhaps the perfect background for putting together the program that he did with PIRTEK. Prior to purchasing his PIRTEK franchise, he spent time with Snap On Tools as both a franchisee and an employee of the company as a field sales manager, meaning he had 12 different routes he was responsible for with training and helping franchisees grow their businesses.

Lager credits Snap On with giving him a great opportunity. He exited the army reserves young and with no money, as he recalled. But, Snap On gave him a chance and within nine months of joining the company as an employee, he was a franchisee.

He was with Snap On for several years, running a franchise and then moving into his field sales manager position.

Eventually, he left and opened his own independent business, but he sold that and went back to Snap On as a franchisee again, this time growing his business up to five franchises.

And then he found PIRTEK.

“That’s what really changed my life and it’s an opportunity that I was really able to grow with and do what I wanted to do with a franchise,” Lager said.

He currently owns two PIRTEK franchises and is working on opening his third one by the end of this year. What Lager likes about PIRTEK is that you can build a team around you to help run the business, meaning it’s not just a one-person show.

Plus, it’s also a lucrative business. “You can make a really good living with just one franchise in this business,” he noted.

Military Service

For Lager, having a team that he can rely on harkens back to his military days. In the military, he said, you have to work in teams and you don’t get to choose your teammates, but you are expected to make it work regardless.

“You have to work as a team and your environment isn’t always ideal, but you still have to make it work at the end of the day,” he said.

It’s this ability to make the best of any situation regardless of the team you’re surrounded by that Lager said he brings over to his franchising business from his military days. He joined the U.S. Army air defense in 1985 and was stationed in Germany for two years before joining the Army Reserves in Minnesota. He left the reserves in 1991 and joined Snap On.

Veteran Savvy

Veterans are a natural fit into a franchising system, PIRTEK’s O’Kane said. In the U.S., PIRTEK has about 10 owners who are veterans that come from the Navy, Army and Marines.

“We find veterans are excellent because they make great franchise entrepreneurs because they’ve got that entrepreneurial spirit and they’ve got that willingness to follow a program,” O’Kane said during an interview from the company’s Rockledge headquarters.

With their U.S. headquarters stationed in Rockledge, FL., PIRTEK now has 48 locations and another two set to open in the U.S. by the end of the year. The company started in Sydney, NSW in Australia back in 1980 and is currently active in 23 countries with about 400 locations worldwide.

PIRTEK is part of the VetFran Directory program, run by the International Franchise Association, and the company offers discounts off of its franchise fee for veterans, O’Kane said.

As for advice for veterans who are transitioning out of the military and into civilian life and are looking at franchising, Lager said it’s important to do research and pick the right franchise for themselves because there are a lot to choose from and they might not be a good fit for all of them.

But, he added, with so many franchises to choose from, any veteran should be able to find one that is a good fit for them.

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