Arkansan’s busi­ness bites back

Mos­quito-con­troller fol­low­ing na­tion’s fran­chise uptick

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - JOHN MAGSAM

Brad Si­mon didn’t dream that some­day he’d be elim­i­nat­ing blood-suck­ing pests from peo­ple’s yards, but he knew he wanted his own busi­ness, tobe his own boss, and to build some­thing for him­self and his fam­ily.

Now, in about five years, he’s one of the top fran­chisees for Mos­quito Joe, with a ter­ri­tory that cov­ers most of Ar­kan­sas. Brad and his wife Stephanie re­cently were rec­og­nized by Vir­ginia- based Mos­quito Joe as one of its top five fran­chisees, top­ping $1 mil­lion in an­nual rev­enue. Their busi­ness now has its head­quar­ters in Paris in Lo­gan County.

Be­fore start­ing the busi­ness, Brad Si­mon lived in North­west Ar­kan­sas, work­ing for ven­dors of Ben­tonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. He knew he wanted to be an en­tre­pre­neur, but he also was in­tim­i­dated with the idea of build­ing a busi­ness from scratch. Dur­ing his re­search, he stum­bled across Mos­quito Joe and the com­pany’s brightly col­ored brand logo kept pop­ping into his head.

“I al­ways had that de­sire,” he said of be­com­ing his own boss. “It was a leap of faith.”

The fran­chise in­dus­try is ex­pect­ing solid growth in 2017 as eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity seems to be pick­ing up with con­sumer op­ti­mism and stock mar­kets surg­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Fran­chise Busi­ness Eco­nomic Out­look for 2017. The re­port was pre­pared for the In­ter­na­tional Fran­chise As­so­ci­a­tion by IHS Eco­nomics, an anal­y­sis and fore­cast­ing firm. The re­port notes fran-

chises could both ben­e­fit and be hurt by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. A new boss for the De­part­ment of La­bor and lead­er­ship in Congress likely will in­flu­ence reg­u­la­tions that will help fran­chise busi­nesses but pro­posed im­mi­gra­tion po­lices may be detri­men­tal to em­ploy­ment growth in gen­eral and hurt some fran­chise- in­ten­sive in­dus­tries.

John Reynolds, vice pres­i­dent of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment for the In­ter­na­tional Fran­chise As­so­ci­a­tion, said the econ­omy is look­ing promis­ing for fran­chise busi­nesses and their fran­chisees.

“I get a sense of a lit­tle more op­ti­mism with both busi­ness own­ers and their cus­tomers,” Reynolds said.

In Ar­kan­sas, there were 8,189 fran­chise es­tab­lish­ments in 2016 and the re­port pre­dicts 1.6 per­cent growth to 8,317 for 2017. Those busi­nesses are ex­pected to em­ploy 85,473 work­ers in 2017, up 3.2 per­cent from last year.

Brad Si­mon said dur­ing the com­pany’s prime sea­son, which typ­i­cally runs from be­tween March and Novem­ber, he has a pay­roll that sup­ports 25 to 30 work­ers cov­er­ing ter­ri­tory around most of the state, in­clud­ing North­west Ar­kan­sas, cen­tral Ar­kan­sas and the River Val­ley.

Mos­quito Joe sur­veys homes and other lo­ca­tions for stand­ing wa­ter, which at­tracts mos­quito breed­ing, and shade, which, mos­qui­toes just seem to like. Si­mon said the com­pany then de­vel­ops a plan to get rid of the fly­ing pests, which usu­ally in­volves a reg­u­lar spray­ing reg­i­men with a time re­leased, plant-based prod­uct ap­proved by the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

“Some cus­tomers are con­cerned about dis­ease, like Zika,” Brad Si­mon ex­plained. “But most just want their back­yard back so they can en­joy be­ing out­side again. I’ve had folks who couldn’t use their pools be­cause of the bugs.”

Buzz Fran­chise Brands, Mos­quito Joe’s par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion, is a rel­a­tive new­comer as fran­chises go, be­gin­ning in 2012. To­day, Mos­quito Joe has 127 fran­chise own­ers op­er­at­ing in 235 ter­ri­to­ries in 31 states, with an­other 50 ter­ri­to­ries un­der con­tract. Buzz Fran­chise brands also re­cently de­vel­oped Pool Scouts, a res­i­den­tial pool ser­vice and clean­ing fran­chise.

Brian Gar­ri­son, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer for Mos­quito Joe, said the com­pany is poised for rapid and sus­tained growth. He cred­ited fran­chisees like Brad and Stephanie Si­mon with the com­pany’s suc­cess.

Ed­ward Had­dock, dis­trict di­rec­tor for the United States Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion, said fran­chises can be a great way to make the leap into busi­ness own­er­ship. He notes while they can be cap­i­tal in­ten­sive, fran­chises come with man­age­rial sup­port, tested busi­ness mod­els and es­tab­lished best prac­tices. As a bonus, he said, new sim­pli­fied fi­nanc­ing is avail­able for fran­chisees through the SBA.

“It’s hard to build a busi­ness from the ground up,” Had­dock said. “They’ve been there and learned a lot of lessons.”

But in the end, it’s up to the fran­chisee to take the tools pro­vided by a fran­chise op­er­a­tion and make them work.

“You still have to be able to ex­e­cute,” Had­dock said.

Brad Si­mon said be­com­ing a fran­chisee made sense to him. When he had the op­por­tu­nity to go with Mos­quito Joe, it seemed like a good fit. He said the move gave him the chance to get in on the ground floor, and as an added in­cen­tive, he had no love for mos­qui­toes, since his daugh­ter was highly al­ler­gic to their bites.

Si­mon said not hav­ing to build a busi­ness from scratch, and the sup­port from the fran­chise com­pany, helped him get past the stum­bling blocks that de­rail many small busi­nesses.

“I wanted to build some­thing, so we cre­ated our pas­sion,” Si­mon said.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

Brad Si­mon, owner of a Mos­quito Joe fran­chise, sprays the front yard of a home in Springdale. His fran­chise was one of the top oper­a­tors in the chain last year.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

Mos­quito Joe fran­chise owner Brad Si­mon puts on his gear be­fore spray­ing a home in Springdale.

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