B2B franchise gives sales executive a new start
Cliff Peeke is not exactly where he thought he’d be in 2016. He and a group of colleagues started a multi-million dollar equipment financing company in 2004, a Chicago-based firm that focused primarily on transportation and construction equipment that Peeke admits was “extremely successful.” But then came the housing crisis and the Great Recession, and Peeke’s fortunes changed. “Everything came crashing down, and I lost every penny I put into it,” he says. “I was one of those casualties you heard about. I was in my 50s and the industry was in turmoil, so it wasn’t like I was marketable. I had to figure out something new and start over with something that seemed to make sense.”
That’s when he found InXpress. Our home-based B2B franchise was the ideal opportunity for someone with Peeke’s track record of sales success. Although at one point he had expected to be retired by this point in his career, he now finds himself in the midst of an exciting new venture that presents him with fresh challenges every day. This is his story.
How did you learn about InXpress? I was working with a consultant who specialized in franchises. I was looking into the potential of franchise businesses, and needless to say I really had a pretty wide net, so I wasn’t really looking into any kind of specific category. My career had been in sales management and sales my whole life, so I was more inclined toward a B2B opportunity rather than a bricks-and-mortar franchise.
What did you like about the InXpress opportunity? The highly attractive piece was their relationship with DHL and the fact that we were, at that point in time, one of only two resellers. The opportunity seemed to be really tremendous. There’s a lot of international shipping, and we could provide the service and the pricing our target market couldn’t get on their own.
How important is it to have a sales background to become a successful InXpress franchisee? I have talked to a number of prospective franchisees for validation. I would never say “don’t do this,” but I would certainly say this is a sales business. It is definitely sales in all aspects; anyone that doesn’t have a sales background or doesn’t appreciate that may not be the right fit. The momentum has to be consistent. Two or three years into this you have to be able to maintain the same type of enthusiasm as when you started out.
The misconception is that if I get into a franchise, I’ve got a safety net. There are statistics that favor franchise opportunities vs. non-franchise opportunities. In this type of business you’re the only one who’s going to make it happen. InXpress provides the platform and the relationship with DHL and the pricing, but the person who owns the franchise has to figure out how to take it from ground zero and climb the mountain. I’ve had very good success, but it was tough work.
You’re smart, capable, you had money you could have put anywhere. Why did you put it here? There was a relative newness to the organization, and it was growing, and I’m attracted to that and the challenges of that. I was one of the earlier franchisees. Granted, it was 3 years after they started, but it was the opportunity to get into a growing situation that excited me. Even 5 years later, it’s the same thing.
What do you like about owning the business? The residual nature of it is huge. Customers that I set up my first month in business in 2010 are still my customers today. That’s a really compelling argument for this business: You really have the opportunity to build the residuals. The DHL partnership is another thing I really appreciate. It’s one of those other items that attracted me to this business.
Knowing what you know now, if you were just starting out today, would you still become an InXpress franchisee? Yes, but I would do some things differently. One thing is, make sure you have some money to invest in a customer service person first. Don’t hire a sales rep right away; build it yourself, build a bit of an infrastructure. And then hire a salesperson. You have to hire someone with the same vision as the franchise owner.
What’s the importance of the residuals vs. bringing in new business? I have a sales rep doing a pretty good job bringing in new customers. When you bring in a certain number of businesses, at a certain point the customer service aspect takes on a life of its own. That’s the importance of hiring a good sales rep. Anybody doing this at some point down the road has an eye toward getting out or retiring. The only way to build value is through those residuals.
How do you feel about the direction of the brand? I feel very confident with senior management guiding the ship. I feel good about how we’re maturing, and it’s showing.
What is it about this business that makes you think you’re going to be around another 20 years? It’s a really good business model, and we serve a market that’s underserved.
What does your typical day look like? My typical day starts early. I’m more of a mature franchisee, so I actually spend more time managing the process now. I manage my sales rep and travel with him, help deal with any difficulties and issues. When I first started I was on the road most of the time, 8:30 til 5, knocking on doors. You spend your time at first bringing in customers and you service their needs. Your time on the road gets cut more and more as you do that. What I did not realize when i first acquired this was how much customer service this business requires. You’ve got to get that in place, even if you hire someone part-time or do it by outsourcing. The problem with bringing on the sales rep right away is you end up servicing both your accounts and the rep’s account, and you’re making less margin in doing that. You want to have a customer service rep inside and start to grow from there.
Take me out 10 or 20 years from now — you’re hanging it up, you’re done. What do you want people to remember about your business? I would want to be remembered as someone with high energy and with a lot of integrity. It’s hard work, you have to be really focused. I want to be remembered as someone who focused a lot on customer service. If you work hard and you do the drill and you do it every day and get off to a decent start you can make this thing really work for you.
To learn more
To find out more about the InXpress B2B franchise opportunity, please explore our research pages. If you’re ready to start a conversation, fill out the form on the right to download our free executive summary.