Listening to Bates Kennedy’s smooth southern accent you begin to understand why he’s experienced success as a Batteries Plus franchisee. Since 2001, Kennedy has opened eight of the battery and light bulb retail stores in his home state of South Carolina as well as one in Savannah, Ga.
It’s not uncommon for franchisees to leave one industry and enter into another when becoming franchise owners. Kennedy couldn’t have told you a thing about batteries or light bulbs 11 years ago. In 2001 Kennedy was driving down the interstate listening to the radio when PBS aired a story on Batteries Plus.
“I remembered they mentioned it was 50 percent commercial and 50 percent retail sales. I knew I could handle the commercial,” said Kennedy, recently unemployed at the time. Before Batteries Plus he was a textile manufacturing sales representative. As the climate of the textile industry changed so did Bates’ employment opportunities. He liked what the radio had to say about Batteries Plus and later in the year, on September 11, 2001, he purchased his first location in North Charleston.
Today, almost 11 years later, Kennedy is a franchise veteran. As he speaks about his experience with Batteries Plus, he remarks on both the best and the worst parts about being a franchisee:
“These days dealing with banks is the worst part,” says Kennedy, referring to the anxiety shared by small business owners and entrepreneurs alike over finding capital and securing bank loans in today’s economy. Opening any business “takes a lot of capital. You’re going to live without and it’s going to be a time commitment.” Bates adds that being a Batteries Plus franchisee was more than he expected, in a good way. His decade-long partnership with Batteries Plus has been filled with “evolving support” and he feels the franchise has a “good model.”
“In the beginning there were a lot of moving pieces,” he continued. “It takes a few months to get the retail location ready. When you’re finally open for business you’re looking at all your brand new inventory and you’re excited. Then you wonder, where are all the customers? Once I had someone walk in, look around, turn to me and say, ‘Batteries. Good luck!’ and walk out the door.”
It’s in these beginning moments franchisees begin to realize the financial implications of their franchise agreement. “They’re going to take their cut,” says Kennedy of franchisors, “Whether you write a check or they draft your account.” Bates isn’t bothered by what he pays to Batteries Plus. It pays for all the things he couldn’t or doesn’t have time to handle himself but needs in order to be successful, like marketing. He’s thankful for it.
Bates admits franchising “is not for everyone” and he understands why the relationship between franchisee and franchisor can become strained, especially in the beginning and especially when it comes to money. That being said, he’s very happy to be a Batteries Plus franchisee.
In the end, “A lot depends on you,” he concludes.