Q&A with Michael Finch: PostNet design, print and shipping franchise owner in Salt Lake City, Utah
Design, print and shipping franchise owner of 14 years honored with Small Business of the Year award by local Chamber of Commerce
Michael Finch, owner of a PostNet design, print and shipping franchise, was recently honored with the Small Business of the Year award from the Salt Lake City, Utah, Chamber of Commerce. Michael is incredibly active in his community and is always networking and helping other small business owners connect with one another. His experience with franchises goes back decades, and he has owned his PostNet location for 14 years.
This is his story.
Why were you selected as Small Business of the Year?
I am involved in my community. I am providing a service, yes, but I also look at myself as a business coach. I like to talk to other business owners about what they are doing and where they get their work. I have 25-30 years of experience outside of PostNet. I want to help others first, but if as a secondary thing they give me work, that’s great.
I am very visible within the chamber, and as a member of its Ambassador Club, I go out and greet the new members. When someone renews with the chamber, I give them a renewal certificate. I’m not the only person who does this, but it does put me out in front. I introduce myself to others as a volunteer with the chamber, and I give them a PostNet bag. I don’t make a big deal about it, but it gives me an opportunity to get in front of five to six new businesses joining the chamber every month. The nice thing about working with a chamber as a volunteer is it gets me in the door.
How do you network with small businesses in the community?
The key is to be active — you have to be a catalyst to make things happen. I think that will be a way I can grow my business beyond where it is now. I’m proposing to the chamber that I do some networking training, which will give me more exposure. I want to meet more movers and shakers in the community.
Why did you want to change careers and do something different?
I owned a ServiceMaster franchise doing disaster restoration and cleanup, and I sold the business to my daughter and her husband. I then trained franchisees for six or seven years. After that, I was promoted to a national sales account manager, working with insurance companies to get them to use ServiceMaster.
I knew when I wanted to build a business again that I definitely wanted a franchise. First, we looked at what we could afford. We looked at different postal shipping companies at the time. We looked at hair cutting places and car washes. Once we narrowed our search to postal and shipping, we then talked to three companies. We felt that PostNet had the most to offer.
Why did you choose to own a PostNet franchise?
They were easy to work with, not rigid. As a franchisor you need to have policies and standards, but I could talk to them about “what if.” When I looked into the UPS Store, which at the time was MBE, they told me: “This is how we do it. Doesn’t matter what you think. You do what we tell you or we don’t want you as a franchisee.” In talking to Brian and Steve 15 years ago, it was completely different. I felt I could work with them.
How long have you been a PostNet owner?
We started in 2001. At the time, I was still full-time at ServiceMaster, and I didn’t leave until February of last year. My wife got the store up and running, while I worked part-time in the store those first 12 years.
How do you and your wife, Lisa, divide the work?
When we both worked in the store, we were butting heads. So my wife went back to working with a previous employer, who made a great offer for her to come back. My wife did a great job of getting our store up and running and making it profitable. I have great employees now, too.
When you introduced printing, was the positive sales impact immediate?
I knew five or six years ago we had to get into printing. PostNet had recommended that we get into printing a few years before that. I got into this business for shipping, and I had no idea how to be a printer. For the first three or four years it was, “No, I don’t feel comfortable doing that.” I made the commitment to get into printing three years ago, though, when I purchased some equipment: a vinyl cutter, a nice large-format color printer, and a large-format laminator. Six months later jobs started to come in. When I began marketing it in March of last year, it led to double-digit growth. I looked at some numbers recently, and our growth is coming from printing. We are maintaining our shipping business, but our printing sales are what is driving growth this year.
What makes you a successful PostNet franchise owner?
Listening is key. That is one of my strengths. I listen a lot more than I talk. I also ask my customers leading questions: What is their passion? Where do they want to go? What are their personal goals? What do they want to be doing personally? I never go into a situation trying to make a sale that day, I am trying to build a relationship. Because of my strong networking skills I know a lot of people. I usually know somebody who can help them, and I connect people. If I can connect Susan with Bob for help with financing, when she needs printing she will come back to me.
What are some lessons you’ve learned over the past 14 years?
You have to follow the system. It is easy to get caught up in day-to-day business and start doing the wrong things. PostNet has a lot of great ideas. If you follow the system, you will be good.
What does PostNet ownership help you achieve?
We plan to retire in January 2020 — a little less than five years from now. I left my previous employer to grow the value of this business — my goal is to double the value of the business and sell it for one piece of my retirement. I would also like to help set somebody up in my PostNet who will do very well and who will prosper. I am grooming a couple of employees to hopefully do that. I hope that works, because my goal is to help someone get in and be successful.
How large is the growth opportunity for your business?
Growth only matters to me if it is profitable growth. One store doing $2 million can be very profitable and another doing $1.5 million can be going out of business. That should be the focus, and not just growth. PostNet is onboard with that. The bottom line for us owners is to get profits, and you have to make sure you are paying yourself, too.
Is there a great example of your going above and beyond to help a business?
One that stands out is a mortuary that owns three cemeteries. We do quite a bit of work for them, and I have been able to help them with ideas for promotional products for trade shows or Memorial Day events. I met them through the chamber.
There is also a trucking company that has been a source of good revenue for us. Every city has trucking facilities where truckers come in. They have a hub and they need training materials or their service departments need service manuals. They need some signage occasionally for hiring events. We are close to Interstate 80, and trucking companies are lined up along the interstate, which makes it easy to market for them. During holidays, they like to ship their customers candy. We also have industrial customers like manufacturers. We do a monthly newsletter for them. We print up their shoe safety tickets — things like that you wouldn’t think of.
What do you do for fun?
My wife and I like to camp — we go up in the mountains every other weekend, somewhere around Park City. We like to take the grandkids with us and spend time with the family. My goal when I retire is to do volunteer work, and some of it might be political. I would like to change the world in my small little community. Who knows? I could even be working with whoever buys my PostNet. I may volunteer to work in their store for three weeks so they can take time off for Christmas.
Would you recommend a PostNet franchise to someone else?
Yes. I would do it again. I would encourage people to reach out to other franchisees, as well to the home office, and your community. There’s a lot of small business owners out there who want to help you to succeed.