Meet David Weaver. David has years of experience in the corporate world, but after finding this lifestyle unfulfilling, David left this path and decided he would be his own boss. Since that time, David has developed a deep understanding of the world of franchising, successfully owning and selling multiple franchises and running into some bumps in the road along the way.
Today, David Weaver is not only a thriving franchise owner, but he is also passionate about helping others pave their path to business ownership through franchising. He is a consultant with FranChoice, and works closely with franchise owner candidates to help them select franchise brands that are well-suited to their goals and needs.
Here’s what David has to share about his journey as a business owner, and how he helps others take the first step towards franchise freedom.
Hi David, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I grew up in Indiana, where I got to witness both of my parents work as business owners. My dad ran the family manufacturing business while my mom owned her own business working as an interior designer and a Herman Miller furniture dealer, home to the acclaimed Eames chair, which showed me the value of a brand from an early age.
I attended the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and then joined the Kone Elevator Company right out of school as a sales engineer. However, after seeing how often people in that sector must choose politics over performance, I realized pretty quickly that corporate America was not my bag. After leaving the Kone Elevator Company, I moved to a much smaller company where I was able to work directly for the President of the organization, which gave me a bit more freedom.
Not long after I made this move, my dad called and needed my help. I moved from Denver to Detroit, and from working in sales to operations; managing the shop and handling the day-to-day operations. This was a big change and an even bigger challenge, which I both loved and hated. I still wanted more freedom, but recognized that I had learned a lot about running a business and that family business wasn’t for me. I moved back to Denver and began working for Landmark, a privately-held direct lending company, where I learned about franchising, banking, and small business growth all at once. Truthfully? I loved this job. It was a great gig until the financial crisis in 2009.
After the financial meltdown, I was looking for something new. I had all of these various experiences and was hungry to apply them. I bought a bar on Denver University’s campus, and also started the FranChoice consulting practice at the end of 2010. Since that time, I have been helping people pursue their dreams of owning their own business. Today, my wife and I invest in franchise assets and real estate, along with my ongoing work as a franchise consultant.
This year, we found ourselves empty nesters for the first time, and my wife and I bought a home in the Roaring Fork Valley, and we are enjoying dipping our toes in the pace of Mountain Living.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Ha! Smooth? Not really. I guess that is really a question of pain tolerance. Change is good, and typically, that’s where the learning happens. But I think of it a lot like growing pains. Change is also painful and rough until you learn and evolve.
What do I mean by that? It hasn’t always been easy, as evidenced by the highs and lows of my journey through business ownership:
From 2013 to 2017, my wife and I owned an Elements Massage, which we successfully sold as intended. But within the first 90 days of ownership, we had 300% employee turnover among approximately 50 employees. This means that in just three months, we hired over 150 people who were either fired or quit. It was an unbelievable amount of work with almost nothing to show for it. The employees were mad, the customers were mad, and we were mad. But? This also helped us figure out what kind of employee we were looking for, who we wouldn’t tolerate, and how to attract high-caliber employees. We were able to sell that business largely due to the stable team we built, with a really incredible team largely in place for the new owners. That was something I was really proud of.
There were also plenty of business and life lessons to be learned from owning a Decorative Concrete franchise. We purchased the franchise in 2007, did a few jobs, built up our systems, and were even able to make our initial investment back by the summer of 2008. We were poised for major growth—then the financial markets fell apart. At the time, no one wanted to invest $15,000 into a fancy back patio, and who could blame them?
Then, we realized that the labor market had shifted. All the workers who needed new jobs started their own businesses, offering similar services at nearly half the price. The cost of a concrete patio used to be $15 per square foot and after the financial crisis, it fell to $8 per square foot. It was clear we had to pivot our plan, put our concrete business on hold, and ultimately shut it down at the end of 2009. By that time, it was apparent that the impact of the financial crisis would be lasting. We had to adjust and refocus.
Now, the COVID-19 pandemic is creating challenges for franchise owners. For someone who sells the idea of taking your life savings to invest in a brand because corporate America is no fun, the pandemic has been a struggle, especially when small businesses were forced to stay closed during the height of the stay-at-home orders.
It was humbling to tell my youngest that I needed to cash in her college fund to live on this year, especially since she would take the tax hit personally because these funds had been invested in a 529 education plan. This was another learning experience for me—who knew that was how it worked? It was a rough time, and honestly, is still a point of contention. I don’t expect my daughter to understand that I have a clear plan to replace these funds in the next two years, but I am well on track to do so. The major learning experience here? You learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in the big ups and downs of business ownership.
The skills and tools I have acquired through my franchise experiences include many examples of painful learning. Cash flow, managing people without industry experience, working through family business dynamics? These were hard lessons to learn. But they are also invaluable lessons that I carry with me into each new endeavor—and are also lessons I happily and freely share with my FranChoice mentees.
We’ve been impressed with Gratitude & Growth, Inc., but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Gratitude and Growth, Inc. is the name my daughter gave my company at the ripe old age of 11. Within that company, my platform is called FranChoice. FranChoice is a license agreement for the franchise brands I work with, offering national exposure and inventory management services that are designed to help those who have dreamed of business ownership for years. Through FranChoice, I get to help them bring this dream to fruition.
In my day-to-day work, I share a path of educational steps to set these dreams in motion and make them actionable. What this means is that I act a bit like an executive recruiter in the franchise sector. Essentially, I help people transition from something they know and understand, including corporate jobs and W-2-based incomes to something they want but don’t know much about, including business ownership, franchising, and K-1 income.
I am so proud to be part of the FranChoice family. Collectively, FranChoice has the smallest number of consultants across the country, but as a group, we produce roughly three times the number of business owners compared to our closest competitor.
What sets me apart from other franchise consultants? Not only have I done the thing I’m advising my candidates about, but I am still doing it today. I actively invest in franchise brands and run these businesses alongside my other projects. So, when a candidate asks me, “Can you really run this business semi-absentee?” I can share my real-life experiences, then offer a host of questions to ask franchise brands regarding this concept.
I like that my current experience gives me insider insight into what my candidates are looking for. I can provide them with examples of what I am doing right now, instead of sharing anecdotes about what I was doing back in the 80s or 90s that were successful in a completely different financial climate and consumer culture.
Most people don’t even know that there are people like me who are here to help them navigate the franchise space. Right now, there are approximately 4,000 companies selling franchises. Some of these brands are great, but some are horrible. My job is to help candidates cut through sales pitches and discern the difference. I have relationships with around 200 franchise brands, all of which have been through an intensive screening process. Why is this? I want to help candidates select brands with solid, capable leadership teams that know what they are doing; brands with strong business models and established processes to follow, as well as support structures in place to facilitate successful franchise ownership.
Through my consulting services, I also share my personal investment criteria process with my candidates. This helps them spotlight which brands to investigate first. Once they start to research specific brands, I help them ask the right questions to understand the quality of the franchise system they are investigating. I help to ensure they are communicating with both the franchise development team and franchisees to verify what they are hearing in the sale presentation is actually happening in the field.
The best part? My service is free to candidates—they don’t pay a dime to me. Like an executive recruiter who finds a COO or President for a company, I am paid by the franchise for my consulting time, which means my consultants get access to all of my years of experience and no additional cost.
Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
First, I wish I started sooner. I waited for so long and was so cautious, planning my life to a tee. I kept myself stuck to a corporate job well after I was ready to break free.
Second, remember that cash is king. Being frugal in your personal life is invaluable to building the business and the life you’ve imagined.
Finally, remember the importance of being flexible. Please take the time to create a game plan or a business plan and stick to it, but always be ready to pivot along the way, because new information and new circumstances can change everything.