Looking Ahead
Or How I Found The Best Small Business Franchise Opportunity

By Doug Shepherd

A banker explains how he found and chose the best small business franchise opportunity for him in his retirement.

Doug Shepherd and his dog OCRetirement. It’s a time of opportunity.

In my case, I am planning to retire from a relatively senior position in the financial services industry. But I am not planning on "retiring" as such.

I need to be active, involved, engaged, and doing things, obviously, that I enjoy. So, I will have the time. What will I make of the opportunity?
  • A “home based” business?
  • Sales?
  • Go "back" to the work force in a less demanding role?
  • Consulting?
After 40 years traveling all across this country, as well as doing some international work, I'm asking, What next? Elaine, my wife, and I sat down and evaluated what we liked and what we wanted to do in our retirement years.

Travel was very important. So were
  • working around our acreage,
  • enjoying our animals, including horseback riding in the foothills,
  • and outdoor activities, such as fishing, and my personal interest in upland bird hunting with our son.
From a travel perspective we would like to follow the sun and leave this Alberta winter behind each year. We felt a business interest would be a good way to use some of my experience and my time, constructively. A small business done correctly, would add another dimension to our financial planning strategy.

While the objective was not to make a lot of money, the financial reward had to justify the effort.

Our investigations took us down many roads from coffee shops, to real estate investments, to tourism related businesses. We felt we had time, a three to four year window to figure this out, but we also wanted to get some things started, not become perpetual "lookers" or wait until it was too late.

The one thing that kept playing in the back of my mind was, "How can I turn a hobby or interest into a business?"

We had seen herb gardens on the Gulf Islands, bed and breakfast enterprises, equine endeavors, etc., etc. None quite made it past it the second look.

Several months ago we came across some small business franchise opportunities. Franchise businesses intrigued me, but the idea of having “brick and mortar.” employees, and all the related issues, to say nothing of the personal time and commitment, were not what we were looking for, whatsoever.

So you ask, "Why even consider a franchise?" One thing I knew from my years in banking was that good Franchisors have a proven business model to support the franchisee. This was a key point for us, and a critical deciding factor, in anything we undertook. We did not want to be on vacation in Maui, for example, putting something together for a client, and having to deal with administration type issues. Administration problems occur in every business. It’s just that at this stage in our lives, this was not what we wanted to be spending our time on. Better to pass on the business idea completely than end up with headaches.

Around about this same time we were also reading about the future of Internet business concepts, e-commerce or i-commerce, and developing a residual income stream. This had real appeal for me, especially with respect to the flexibility of being able to take my business along, wherever I went in the world as long as I could, at the very least, connect a laptop.

This was simple, and it was also transparent to the client, and the residual income ideas I had read about played into my financial plan. Capital investment in some cases was required, but not excessive. This time my banking background and comments about the "Global Economy" struck a familiar cord.

Somewhere, there had to be a combination of ideas bringing the Internet and the Franchise concept together. I also wanted to be able to deal with people face to face, when the suitable opportunity presented itself. As I reflected on the foregoing, I kept going back to the question: Can a hobby interest become a successful business?

Early in 2006 I came across some information about a small business franchise opportunity based in the United States looking to expand into Canada.

  • The US head office took care of all the administration.
  • The business was global in nature.
  • Clients did business face to face, by phone, or in many cases electronically.
  • The franchisee’s web site was a key contact point.
The business was about connecting people who like to fish and hunt with reputable resorts, guides, and outfitters, around the world.

I found what I was looking for. Something related to one of my hobby interests, that had a business component to it, supported by a franchise system, done electronically, anywhere in the world, at any time.

Based on historical information from the US, I knew that clients will repeat buy close to 80% of the time. This is another form of residual income. I could look after my business from my home or whereever our travels took us, no need for office or staff, and I would met the most interesting people with a passion for the outdoors. After considerable analysis I became one of the first Outdoor Connections franchise owners in Canada.

©2006 Doug Shepherd