How did you get into the industry?
I grew up in NE Ohio where my parents would occasionally go to the flea markets on weekends and sell items to supplement their income. I became interested in the value of ‘second hand’ items and young age to make extra money. I joined the Marines in the early 80’s, and while stationed in Jacksonville, NC, as free entertainment, I would go to Don’s Auction Barn and watch the auctioneer work the crowd selling items. Because I was a regular at the auction, the auctioneer eventually asked me if I wanted to work there. As I worked at the auction, I gained a greater appreciation of antiques and collectibles and what individuals were interested in, and what they were not.
In 1986 I was stationed in Virginia Beach, VA and was searching for other auctions to attend and potentially work at part time, but I came up short. I did however open Atlantic Coast Auctions and Antiques where we conducted weekly auctions with me as the auctioneer. I sold the business to an employee when I left as a result of me being transferred.
My Marine Corps life consumed more time than I could dedicate to a part-time job, so I simply bought and sold items for the next few years on the side, as time permitted. In 1995 I learned of a relatively new online auction platform called eBay, which intrigued me. I opened an account and began learning the process of selling items via online auction. Because I was in Okinawa, Japan at the time I opened the account, I assumed the username ‘Orient Express’ as I would frequent the Japanese antique stores and second-hand shops in search of interesting items to sell on eBay. I became very interested in Japanese antiques and collectibles while stationed overseas.
Upon returning from Japan, I was stationed in San Diego, where I could be found at Kobe’s Swap Meet, usually looking for great deals, but occasionally setting up a booth and selling items. For the next several years I enjoyed going to early morning garage sales on the weekends in search of treasures and selling them either on eBay or at the swap meet.
When I retired from the Marines in 2003, I found a job with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) as a program manager. Despite my work schedule with SAIC, I obtained my certified appraiser’s credentials from the Certified Appraisers Guild of America and opened the business, American Personal Property Appraisers, where I would provide appraisals for insurance purposes or equitable distribution of property for divorce settlement cases.
I consistently dabbled with the used merchandise markets through my seven years of working with SAIC, and a couple years working with the U.S. Government as a interoperability analyst. I resigned from my government job in 2012 with no real plan other than to NOT do that unfulfilling job any longer.
Later in 2012, I obtained my auctioneer’s license for the state of Virginia and I opened McDaniel Auction Center in Manassas, VA. We conducted live auctions weekly (sometimes two a week) for the next four years. During that time, I also purchased an existing business, “Smart Move for Seniors” which was an estate sale business in the area. As we began conducting estate sales and auctions every week, I learned more and more about the business and the flaws in the different processes.
In 2006, I stopped conducting live auction and began conducting online auctions out of my facility in Manassas. The advantages were I was able to reach a broader market, the staffing requirements were fewer, and the prices were significantly greater! By combining what I had learned on eBay online auctions, selling items at live auctions, and conducting estate sales… I was able to open and successfully operate ezDownsizing.com – combining the best of all three!
What’s new in the business or in the franchise model?
Our newly designed, state-of-the-art, web-based and mobile application bidding platforms were built specifically to support ezDownsizing franchises. No other online auction bidding platforms custom or otherwise, offer the features and capabilities provided by ezDownsizing.com’s – Specifically the ability for franchisees to support seller-managed sales (permitting third party individuals to use franchisee-specific site conduct their sales and for which franchisee will make 25% for providing access), and the ability to rapidly catalog auctions using the mobile application.
Where do you see opportunities or challenges for the franchise/business moving forward?
ezDownsizing.com franchisees have a significant opportunity to avoid the costly mistakes made by investing in and attempting to grow and develop an estate sale company from the bottom up. ezDownsizing.com offers a proven track record of success which involves understanding best practices and streamlined processes. One of the main challenges involve recruiting, training, and maintaining qualified staff to support growth. As the business rapidly evolves and franchisees go from conducting a sale or two a month, to a several sales a week, the ability to effectively manage multiple projects and teams simultaneously can become a job in itself.
What is your goal for the business moving forward?
Our goal is to develop an internationally recognized brand, with a culture focused on service to others (clients, customers, community & employees). We intend to expand to 50 franchises in the next five years, and for all franchisees to experience rapid growth and success beyond both their expectations. We will continue to nurture, develop, and grow the original Northern Virginia company-owned ezDownsizing.com location to serve as a model for both potential and existing franchisees. Our day-to-day engagement in the operation of the original ezDownsizing business will enable us to identify market trends, successes, and challenges, and share the information and necessary mitigation strategies to the franchisees in a timely manner. Our robust online forum for franchisees and ezDownsizing members will assist in facilitating meaningful professional and personal relationships focused on support, encouragement, culture, and financial gain. Our vision is for all franchisees to experience and embrace the reward of personal and professional achievement gained through service to others, and to meet and potentially exceed the financial success experienced by the evolving original ezDownsizing.com location.
Talk to us about training and support and how do you deliver.
We intend to provide franchisees five days of onsite (corporate office) training, which will include both conference room and practical application/field training/OJT. Franchisees will gain an in-depth knowledge of the ezDownsizing.com culture, model, and comprehensive understanding of the web-based and mobile application software bidding platforms. Franchisees will be provided with both written manuals and online training courses to both review and provide to newly onboarded team members. ezDownsizing.com will provide continuous distant training support via email/text, telephone, or video. ezDownsizing.com franchisor leadership will make periodic visits to franchisee sites for review of operations or as needed for additional training.
Your most difficult moment at the business?
As I am confident is the biggest hurdle with most businesses, our challenge is finding the right people (staff) to adequately support the operation. As business grows and the demand for services increases, the demand for labor increases at almost a proportionate level. Balancing full-time staff and supplemental part-time labor with projected and unforeseen service requirements is a constant balancing act. Providing enough incentive for part-time employees to remain interested by supplying them with sufficient hours/compensation is a roll of the dice, as week-to-week and month-to-month requirements remain inconsistent due to the nature of the business.
Define your franchise model:
The ezDownsizing.com franchise model provides a proven process for franchisees to liquidate property effectively and efficiently in a fair and transparent manner, while achieving an excellent financial return for both the seller and the franchisee. The model is simply providing homeowners and executors of estates a method of liquidating their items through the competitive process of online bidding. After contracting the sale, we begin by taking of photos of items within homes using our mobile application, creating a catalog (writing descriptions of the items), and creating and publishing an online auction event consisting of the entire contents of the property. There is an advertising push once the event is live, which consists of placing ads in Estatesales.net, Auctionzip.com, Craigslist and Facebook. Email notifications are sent out to subscribed bidder and a text message / mobile app notification is sent to subscribed bidders. At the conclusion of the bidding, we schedule a time for winning bidders to retrieve their items, which we staff, directing them to their items and ensuring all their items are accounted for and are safely removed from the residence. We collect 55% of the selling price of the items, by charging the sellers 40%, and the bidders a 15% buyer’s premium. On a standard $15,000 sale, we make $8250.00 (less labor expenses). It is very possible to conduct eight or more sale events per month. We also offer sellers to conduct their own sales using our/the franchisee’s platform to host their events. Sellers do the heavy lifting of taking their own photos, writing their own descriptions, and supporting their own pickup events. Franchisees simply approve the start and ending times of the events to deconflict with existing sales and collect fees 25% of the sale! Franchisees retain the buyer’s premium of the sale, along with 10% of the sale proceeds for simply hosting the event on their site. A seller-managed sale of $6000.00 will net a franchisee $1500.00. Conducting several seller-managed sales per month is not unlikely.
- Training and Support Model?
We provide 5 days of onsite training at our corporate headquarters in Sterling, VA where franchisees are provided two days of conference room training, and an additional three days of on-site actual engagement of the day-to-day process of listing items, consolidating items for pick-up and auction pick-up. In addition, we provide video refresher training and constant online and telephone-access support in order to ensure franchisees are provided the necessary information to achieve maximum success.
- What is the Fee Structure?
ezDownsizing franchises may be purchased for $40,000.00. Royalties shall amount to 6% of gross sales or a minimum of $350.00 per month for technology/site fees. Franchisees will be required to pay a minimum of $350.00 per month for technology fees, which will cover their specific website hosting and support, as well as franchisor support.
- Territory Definition?
A territory will consist of defined zip codes amounting to a population of approximately 1,000,000 residents. Additional zip codes may be purchased at a cost of $1000.00 per 25,000 residents. If adjoining zip codes are in jeopardy of being purchased by potential neighboring franchisees, the existing franchisee will have first right of refusal of adjoining zip code populations.
- Day in the life of a Franchisee?
Franchisees will spend their days visiting potential clients, marketing their franchise by attending chamber of commerce or Business Networking meetings, or processing existing (under contract sales). Days are typically long, starting at 8:00 a.m., and can continue until 10:00 p.m. (depending on whether there is an auction event ending that evening). As business owners, franchisees are subjected to the hours that are required to make their business a success. Additional staff means less hours, but more compensation. There is always a balance between what a business owner is willing to do, able to do, and willing to pay someone else to do. As the franchisee’s business grows the requirement for additional staff increases. Although you may be doing your own payroll, you may wish to permit a third party to handle it. Although you may be willing to manage your own bookkeeping and tax filing, you may wish to hire a bookkeeper and CPA to properly handle your finances, accounting, and tax filings. As your business grows, so shall your expenses and third-party service-providers.
What does your franchisee do in the business every day?
Who is the ideal franchise candidate?
- Passionate about owning, operating, and growing a business.
- Excellent communicator
- Excellent leadership skills
- Willing to constantly represent the brand favorably
- Excellent customer-service skills
- Exudes an infectious positive attitude
- Excellent critical thinking skills
- Driven – affinity for hard work
- Entrepreneurial spirit
- Believes in and practices, and supports proven systems
- Eager to learn
- Constantly seeks improvement
- Open to evaluation and constructive feedback
- Outstanding credit history and ability to manage finances.
- Ability to network and develop and foster meaningful business relationships.
- Passionate about service to others (Clients, customers, community and employees).
What goals do you have for the franchise model in the future?
The future of the franchise will be ever-evolving, based on observation and feedback from franchisees. As brand recognition gains traction, ezDownsizing franchises will become the ‘go-to resource for individuals looking to downsize or liquidate estates. Despite evolving, the core values of the ‘service to others’ culture will provide a consistent professional and pleasurable experience for clients and customers. With franchisees displaying rapid growth and financial gain, their example will create a snowball effect for the future sale of franchises, both nationally, and internationally.
For more information on the franchise, visit the site: www.ezdownsizingfranchise.com