PostNet Franchise Review: Q&A with Ron Bradley

PostNet Franchise owner Ron Bradley talks about his business’s longevity and the importance of community

As a 7-year-old, Ron Bradley was reselling gift wrap, making a dollar off every unit he sold to his neighbors. By 13, he had his own lawn-mowing business, a venture that ignited a bold declaration: Ron would own his own “official” business by the time he was 30.

Ron did just that, and at 46 has recently celebrated his 15-year anniversary with PostNet at his outpost in Asheville, North Carolina. His success has largely hinged on PostNet’s Neighborhood Business Center model. Ron knows his customers, and more importantly, he cares about them. Whether it’s printing materials for a multi-billion dollar company or ensuring that a local business has the materials it needs to succeed, Ron is ready to help.

What were you doing before you opened your PostNet Franchise?
I was a purchasing manager for a plastics company; I spent about $12 million a year. It was pretty fun, really: You look at the orders, determine the amount of plastics that need to be ordered and then call the vendors, work some deals, make sure that customers get products when they need them. Before that I got my master’s in business, and I was Mr. Mom for about a year.

When I was 7, I wanted to have my own business. I was in Cub Scouts, and they had this way of ordering from this company called Sales Leadership Club. You could order gift-wrapping paper and sell it in your neighborhood. I bought it for $2 and sold it for $3. And of course, being that young, I sold to everybody. I thought it was the coolest thing that I got this extra profit.

When I was 13, I opened my own lawn-mowing business; then I made a declaration that I wanted to have my own official business by the time I was 30.

How did you find out about PostNet?
After my stint as Mr. Mom, I decided I was going to open a Subway. I had looked at Entrepreneur magazine and seen something about learning how to open a sandwich shop; that evolved into Subway. So we looked at what was available, and the city we wanted had just been bought — by a person who actually ended up being a customer of mine with PostNet. So I had a brother-in-law who said: “You know what? With your background and knowledge of computers, you ought to go into something like Mail Boxes Etc. … I called Mail Boxes and PostNet and another company, and PostNet called me back. They seemed to fit what I like.

Describe the PostNet Culture.
It was, “You’re part of family; we want your input into this.” A lot of franchisees in other businesses talk about how they don’t like being told where they have to buy their stuff. PostNet does have some supplier restrictions, of course, but they’re based on quality. They have vendors I can use, but if I had somebody local who I felt was better and who offered high quality, I could use them. I don’t feel micromanaged. PostNet has allowed me to evolve, and as long as I maintain their quality standards in the store, they are fine.

What sets PostNet apart from other franchise opportunities?
One of the biggest things in my opinion is they listen to their franchisees. I can call up there and say, “This is something I need to do.” For years, whenever we sent out promotional materials like pens and mugs, they had the corporate information on them. We (franchisees) kept saying that we’d rather have them with just our information. So recently they implemented that. Now we get promotional materials with our own information on them, not corporate’s. It’s little things like that.

They also have committees of franchisees for various things like marketing, technology, education and training. It’s not just some owners sitting in Denver (PostNet’s corporate headquarters) and saying, “This is what I think. This is good.” They incorporate a lot of input.

What do you think sets PostNet apart from a customer’s perspective?
Customer service. Our quality standards mean that customers can go into each PostNet and get pretty much what they are expecting.

Plus, we are one of the only places left that has all of the carriers under one roof. You go to a UPS store and find UPS and maybe USPS. You go to a FedEx and get FedEx. We have UPS, FedEx, DHL, USPS — we have all of it. That’s a differentiator.

Another big thing was that, about four months into the business, my shipping was slow, so I decided to focus more on copying and printing. Corporate was looking at the same thing, and three or four years later, they made it an official part of their corporate strategy. They tend to be out front.

How do you get customers? Who are your target customers?
A lot of my growth has been by word of mouth. I built the brand from scratch in Asheville — no one had ever heard of it before. Over the years we’ve landed a few good customers and referrals, and it’s just compounded since then.

Our customers are mainly businesses. My biggest customer is the marketing director for a multi billion-dollar company. He lives in Asheville, and we were in the right place at the right time. And then I have another multi-million dollar company, and I knew them when they were 20 employees. We’ve grown with them. I have been fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time for some of these bigger customers.

What type of personality does it take to be success as a PostNet owner?
You’ve got be somewhat of a people person, and you have to be thick-skinned. You have to be a person who’s not intrusive but who is interested in the customers’ lives. You want to know their names when they come in, you want to ask: “How was your trip? How are your kids?”

What type of support have you received from headquarters?
I think they’ve done a fantastic job. I know it can be thankless, because you can completely satisfy one person in North Carolina but have somebody who’s not happy in California. They find that medium that will satisfy everyone as best they can, and I think that is extremely difficult. So I think they’ve done great.

After 15 years, what are your goals as a PostNet owner?
It is growth, and I am not necessarily talking about financial growth — although to me that’s a byproduct of it. So my success is more defined by the impact I have on the community. So when I say growth, I mean becoming a bigger part of the businesses in the community, more a part of other people’s lives. In doing that, the growth comes, the finances come, the friendships come. That’s what I want my PostNet to be about. We’ve got customers who say, “I go to my PostNet people, I go to the people who take care of me.” And that is who I want to be.