PostNet Franchise Review: Q&A With John Yovetich of Missoula, MT

“With the level of franchise support, success is almost guaranteed,” John Yovetich says of owning a PostNet franchise

John Yovetich started his PostNet franchise in 2004.

John Yovetich started his PostNet franchise in 2004.

John Yovetich was ready to have a career that wasn’t at the mercy of other people. The former manufacturing consultant had survived several rounds of layoffs at IBM Global Services, but when his team was assigned to work with an Indian firm to outsource much of their responsibility, he felt a pink slip breathing down his neck. Rather than wait for the axe to fall, he started exploring business opportunities — particularly opportunities that would allow him to move back to his hometown of Missoula, Mont., a beautiful Rocky Mountain city that he felt would offer a better life for his wife, Linda, and his then-10-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. John discovered PostNet and opened his Neighborhood Business Center in 2004.

How long have you been a PostNet owner? What were you doing before?
I opened my PostNet in 2004. Before PostNet I was living in Phoenix and working as a consultant. The last position I had before starting PostNet was with Parametric Technology as a client services manager who helped roll out software used in manufacturing product development — 3D modeling software.

How did you learn about PostNet?
I was consulting with IBM Global Services, and you become a road warrior, and I was leaving home Sunday night and coming home Thursday pretty regularly. We had a young family and I felt like I was missing the growing-up time. It was time for a change in my career path. I decided to move back to Missoula where I was born and raised — I wanted to raise my kids in a nice, smaller community. I thought, OK, what am I going to do with my background in high-tech manufacturing and consulting? There really wasn’t anything I thought I could do with that in Missoula, so Linda and I decided to open our own business. I hadn’t owned a business before and started researching franchises. I wanted the support and experience of a franchise and the success rate that comes with that versus being an independent. I started looking at food franchises, then I was going to get a UPS Store, but that was already locked up, so I started looking at competitors and I found PostNet.

I like the model because I wanted a business that was going to work well with my priority of my family being first, not my job. I needed a business whose hours would fit, and after being in manufacturing for many years and working with lots and lots of people, I wanted a business with fewer employees — and fewer headaches that way. I also wanted something that gave me the opportunity to earn the income I was used to and one that would allow me to interact with and consult with business people to solve their problems.

What made PostNet stand out?
First appearances are important. PostNet had just come out with their brand new store model — the GenNext store, and it’s very flashy and professional and organized and is a striking store when you come in. That mattered. I knew it was privately-held, and I got to be acquainted with the owners — Brian and Steve — young guys, forward-thinking, who knew technology was important. My research showed that there was a strong relationship between successful franchisees and great support. Those were some things that influenced me. I also like the fact that you had flexibility to offer more than just UPS services: FedEx, UPS, DHL or postal. There was more flexibility in shipping services.

When I came in they were just figuring out that print was going to be the way to go to grow the business moving forward, so I was on the cutting edge of franchisees who came in with the expectation that you wouldn’t just stand behind the counter and ship packages. You would need to get outside the store, meeting businesses and doing some marketing the first couple of years. They thought it through to the point where they understood what equipment was needed and they refined the model during those first years we started out. We didn’t have everything we needed at first because it was still evolving. But they figured it out.

How do you feel about the continuing evolution?
I feel good. What I said about Steve and Brian holds true today — they embrace technology and are constantly looking for ways to make franchisees more profitable. It’s evident in everything they do. I look forward to having more stores join the system to strengthen our marketing and brand power. I’d like to see us be larger.

Missoula isn’t a big city. How does PostNet fit in?
Missoula doesn’t have a lot of industry here. It’s a beautiful Rocky Mountain small town, and recently some industry that was here has died out, like lumber and paper mills. It’s a very service-oriented town. I was just looking at the numbers of what are the largest sectors, and the No. 1 is trade, transportation and utilities. No. 2 is government. No. 3 is educational and health services. The University of Montana is here, and they employ a lot of people. There are a couple of big hospitals. Then leisure and hospitality. Manufacturing is all the way down around No. 10. There are a lot of low-paying retail service jobs, and a lot of people work multiple jobs so they can be here. The hunting and fishing is second to none, but good paying jobs are hard to come by. Still, there are a lot of businesses that need what we offer. I have a diverse mix of mainly service-oriented business people. I just did a little evaluation of my customer base, and I’ve got a weird mix: A guy who has a propane services company that sells propane tanks and builds custom propane delivery trucks is our biggest customer. Another one is a healthcare consultant who goes into large hospitals and shows them how they can be more productive and cut costs. I have a swimming pool equipment manufacturer. I have a guy who is a court reporter who does a lot of copies and things to support his business. It is a weird, diverse group of small businesses and owner-operated companies. That’s what you get in Missoula.

How do you help your customers?
I do a lot of mentoring, people who are much smaller clients. I’ve gone from dealing with multi-billion dollar companies to businesses that are doing $1 million or less. They very much look at PostNet for help. The propane company, I am basically his director of marketing. Whatever advice I give him is what he does. You are their total marketing resource, and they look to you for advice. They trust you to make sure you’re doing the right thing for them.

What direction do you think the industry is headed?
As far as I can see, it’s going to be more emphasis on business printing and marketing, with less and less revenue from the pack-and-ship side and more and more from design and print and marketing. That’s it in a nutshell. The way in which we reach out to customers needs to be more and more through online tools. I believe that, right now, the majority of new customers are finding us through an online search, and I think that will evolve further.

Do you feel part of the vision for PostNet’s future?
You always have the chance to share your vision. Steve and Brian listen to feedback. It’s up to franchisees to be assertive and express their opinions, and they are very open to hearing from franchise owners. You are free to share and be involved. I’ve been on multiple committees within the franchise, which is an opportunity to get involved and try to drive your agenda.

What personality or values do you think are needed to succeed as a PostNet franchise owner?
More and more we’re having to be salespeople, so a younger set of people, very comfortable with technology whether it’s mobile devices or software applications. Somebody who is tenacious and not afraid to cold-call a prospect and then interact with business owners and feel comfortable advising them on the direction they need to go with their marketing. A younger tech-savvy group that also has some business experience behind them.

Where do you turn for help with your business?
The franchise network itself is very important. From day-to-day camaraderie, to have people you can interact with and ask questions — that’s why you get a franchise. The support is not just from headquarters but from other franchisees, and you can further that experience by being in a performance group where you get similar PostNets together and on a regular basis you share in-depth details — business challenges, financials — and then you consult with one another. After a while — after 6 or 7 years — the value of support from headquarters isn’t as important, and the performance group can help you continue to grow. It’s very important to have support at all different levels as a franchisee.

How did you get your B2B customers?
The most effective way is knocking on doors and getting out of the store. BNI has helped, but nothing is more effective than prospecting and direct calls by a PostNet owner. Getting out and marketing is how you generate sales.

What does your typical day look like?
I typically work from 7:30 to 5:30 each day. I’m usually cleaning up email in the morning, doing accounting work and paying bills or whatever else. Then I line up the production schedule, make sure all our priorities for the day are lined out, get organized and ready to go. Then I deal with things as they’re coming through each day. I’ve lately been focusing my time on organizing a plan for getting out more. I do deliveries every now and then.

What do you like the best?
Freedom and independence. I’ve been laid off a couple of times, and the ability to dictate my own future is the thing I like the best. Within PostNet, I like being able to help other companies succeed — using my knowledge and resources to help other companies succeed. I enjoy that. I also like change, and whether it’s websites or other services, it’s fun for me to try and grow the business we work with. Most of the weird stuff is in the shipping area. I have shipped live animals before. Private mailbox customers can be an interesting group.

Would you recommend a PostNet franchise to someone else?
Absolutely. It’s everything I wanted when I came. Of course, different franchises and business models will suit different people better than others. When I was looking for a business model, I didn’t want to have a lot of employee issues. I wanted to have revenue that was similar to what I was used to. I wanted to have hours that work well with family life. My single income supports my family of four without having to work long hours or weekends. What business allows you to do this as a small business? Not many. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a small business opportunity. Then, with the level of franchise support, success is almost guaranteed.