New owner shares what he’s learned about the process of becoming a new owner, and his plan for building the business

Erik Granroth opened his first Batteries Plus Bulbs store in July 2018 in Arlington, WA, but his experience as a business owner goes back to age 11, when he started a business called “Help Employ Little People” and hired his friends and siblings to do odd jobs around the neighborhood. “I put fliers up everywhere,” he says. “We mowed lawns, we washed cars, whatever it was that people would be willing to give us money for. Somebody would give us $10 to mow their lawn, and I’d pay another kid $8 and keep $2.”

He owned an insurance agency for 18 years before becoming a franchisee, and ran several side businesses along the way. He picked up business acumen while watching his father run a drywall company. “I got to watch him get up, work harder, work faster, work smarter than others, and make his day whatever he wanted to.”

We had this conversation with him four months after he opened his doors. As such, he had a lot to share about the process of becoming a franchisee and opening his first location.

What made you decide that you wanted to sell the insurance agency and do something different?

A little bit of a long story, but I’ll give you the short version of it. My dad passed away four years ago when he was 60. He didn’t get to retire, so I’m trying to plan like I’m going to live to be 100, and live like I’m going to die at 60. I’m buying a new boat, and I want to take this boat for anywhere from 10 to 30 days up the inside passes to Alaska. I feel like I’ve been chained to a desk in the insurance agency, so I was looking for a business I could work more on instead of in.

I’m opening anywhere from three to six of these stores, and that will give me the ability to work remotely and have the lifestyle that I’m working towards.

When you were thinking about ways to achieve the lifestyle you want, how did you choose the Batteries Plus Bulbs franchise? I assume you probably researched a lot of opportunities.

I did indeed. One thing that stood out was the consistent rankings in Entrepreneur magazine for best franchise opportunities. Batteries Plus Bulbs was one of the few mid-sized franchise opportunities that were not food-based and that has consistently been in the top rankings for many, many years.

I’m also a fan of a television program on CNBC called “The Profit.” Marcus Lemonis, who founded Camping World and owns pieces of dozens of other companies, is a business guru as far as I’m concerned. When evaluating companies, he always looks at the people, the processes and the products. As I looked at Batteries Plus Bulbs, they were very strong across the board.

One of the things that attracted me to Batteries Plus Bulbs is seeing how they adapt to changing marketplaces. Adding bulbs, adding cell phone repair, embracing eCommerce and getting into SEO big time to drive sales. If they tell me tomorrow that I am selling sandwiches, then I will — with confidence — because I know they’ve done their homework.

Also, I didn’t realize this until later, but years ago I was watching this terrible “where are they now?” TV show about past lottery winners. There was all these horror stories of people that were broke, and whose family life was a mess, etc. At the very end, there was a success story about a guy who realized how fast he was going to blow through his money, and then he invested in a store. It was Batteries Plus Bulbs. I remember thinking it was a unique concept for a business. He’s still a franchisee, down in Florida. Now he owns four stores.

What impressed you about the business model and made you think it could provide the lifestyle you want?

The number one thing is — and it’s the same thing I like about insurance — is that it’s something people always need and where I can help people. The reality is nobody comes in the store to wander around and look to see what we have. They come in because they need something and they need it now. Nobody else has it in stock, but we do. I love that. I love helping people and solving those problems.

From a management standpoint, I like developing people and helping them achieve goals. I intend to build a team of people where I’ll have a district manager and a couple of commercial salespeople. My job, long-term, will be coaching other people in their roles, and I enjoy that.

What is your strategy for reaching that point?

My goal is to have about 50% of our store sales to be commercial, and serve those commercial accounts.

Why are you emphasizing commercial accounts?

If I want to delineate the most successful Batteries Plus Bulbs franchise owners I spoke with from the rest, commercial sales is a huge piece of the story. I want to be the best. I also enjoy working with other business owners. They require a different level of service, and are loyal to people who provide great service.

Many people reading this will be learning about Batteries Plus Bulbs for the first time. What would you tell them about the recruitment process for franchise candidates?

I really liked their process with what they called Discovery Day. You go to the headquarters and see their operations, meet some of the people, take a deeper dive and learn more about the type of person that is a good fit for this franchise opportunity. There wasn’t a lot of pomp and circumstance. It was a lot of facts and good information, and getting to know some of the people at the top because, like I said: people, process and product. To learn who’s steering the ship was really an important piece for me.

Once you made the decision, what was it like getting ready and opening your first store?

The last few months has been a lot of drinking from a fire hose. However, the great thing is they didn’t just leave me out there to figure it out myself. They sent out a new store planner, we opened the store, and then, to my surprise, they came back. They really care about making sure that we’ve got all the processes ironed out. We text or call each other every day. We’re also creating our own processes as a local brand, and setting the culture we want in our stores. It’s going really well.

You mentioned earlier that you were pleasantly surprised by some aspects of the business. What surprised you?

The corporate support overall, and the personalized support on a one-to-one basis. Product support, order support, everything — when we call them, they’re friendly and they’re helpful. My assumption was that there was going to be a lot less of that. I thought there would be a lot less needed, and I thought starting a store would be much easier than it actually was, but any time I’ve needed help, there was somebody helping me or a team member out.

Great. It sounds like there are some challenges, as you would expect, with acclimating to a new business.

It would worry me if there wasn’t. Prior to my insurance business, I was in restaurant management for years and years. I have no retail experience. I have a lot of HR experience. There are a lot of skill sets I bring to the table that are valuable, but things like dealing with vendors and ordering and merchandising are all things I’m learning for the first time. Everybody’s going to bring something to the table and have something they need to work on. Being able to recognize those strengths and gaps early is important.

If it was too easy, that would worry me in a different way. If it was easy, everybody would do it. That’s the reality.

All companies have strengths. All companies have weaknesses. Successful companies tend to have one or two areas where they operate almost at a genius level. Based on what you’ve seen so far, what you would say those areas are for Batteries Plus Bulbs?

I think the website technology is fantastic. The “buy online, pick up in-store” model works very well. The eCommerce piece is outstanding. When people are researching products online, and are doing comparisons, they not only find BatteriesPlus.com — they take action by ordering, or making appointments, or calling the store directly.

Many bricks-and-mortar stores have gone out of business because they didn’t adapt to the ways customers want to do business. Batteries Plus Bulbs not only adapted, they became a leader. The SEO component is incredible. In our area, even getting on the first page (of search results) against us is difficult. If you’re searching “what do I do with my broken phone,” or something like that, the whole first page is stuff about us — the website, Yelp reviews, our Google Business listing, etc. They’re doing a good job with that.

I’m curious, what does your typical day look like so far? Obviously, you’re splitting between the two businesses, so your typical day will probably look different as soon as your insurance agency is sold. Walk me through how you’re balancing this.

My days will be spent, very soon, working on planning and opening my next store. My days will start with back office accounting and bookkeeping, making sure people are showing up and doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Then I will be servicing commercial customers, doing deliveries to local business owners and municipalities. They like to see the owners in the field. Ultimately, I will be working on building those relationships and coaching my team — working on my business rather than in my business.

Ramp-up time is a concern for anyone investing in a business. You’re beating even your best projections. What has been key for your success so far?

Canvassing. We’re going to all kinds of businesses in our community and we are giving away promo items, we are giving out coupons, we are doing a lot of guerrilla, face-to-face marketing. Twice a week, every single week, we are sending people out in the field to let people know that we’re here, that we fix phones, that we program key fobs, that we’re here to serve customers. And we’re winning referrals. Every single day we have a lot of people that come in the store that tell us that Walmart sent them over, Best Buy sent them over, Target sent them over. They didn’t have what the customer needed, so they sent them to us.

We go to a lot of the cell phone stores. People come in to buy a new phone, but they don’t want to spend $1,000, or they’re not eligible for an upgrade, so they decide they’re better off fixing their current phone. The cell phone stores send them over to us.

Is that part of the marketing plan that they recommended as you were going through the training?

Yep, absolutely. It was all designed, and they had marketing pieces for us. I think the big difference that is helping us beat projections is we are just following that plan consistently. It’s really easy to get busy and not do that, but the reality is “twice a week” was their recommendation, and that’s what we’re doing.

Not everybody does. What do you think holds some people back?

For most people what drives that is the fear of rejection. They’re not comfortable prospecting, and because they’re not comfortable doing it, they’re not comfortable delegating somebody else to do it or teaching somebody else to do it. People can get busy with whatever they want to get busy with. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ve got to sit here and check my emails.” It’s not easy to go out and tell people you want them to send you business. You can find all kinds of excuses, but if you realize how important it is, you’ll make time for it. I do. I train people how to do that and I send team members out to do that, and they do a good job, and we see the results.

What would your advice be to somebody who was considering Batteries Plus Bulbs?

My instinct is that a lot of people think it’s easy to be a business owner. They should know that it’s a lot of hard work, and you have to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Some people who aren’t entrepreneurs may think they can just buy the business, not touch it, and it’s going to make a lot of money. That’s how the path successful people follow. But if you’re willing to put in the work and analyze the opportunities your business provides, there’s great opportunity here. I will achieve my personal goals. There’s a saying that my Dad always told me since I was a little kid, “Nothing worthwhile is often easy.” I think that’s very true in this as well.

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