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Apr252019
STORIES

Jay Patel on Opening a Franchise in the Charlotte Convention Center

Only a year removed from opening a franchise location in the Charlotte Convention Center, The UPS Store franchise owner Jay Patel has built quite a presence in a short amount of time. He comfortably breezes around his store – a non-traditional location with an open storefront that’s on the lower level of the convention center – talking shop with his employees and chatting with just about everyone who works at the center (all of whom he seems to know well).

While the location has only been open since early 2018, Jay’s resume includes decades of experience in the franchise world and five The UPS Store locations. He opened his first The UPS Store almost 30 years ago and has been a multi-store owner for the past quarter century. Recently, he sat down to talk with us about a range of topics including his experience opening a franchise location at the Charlotte Convention Center, the perks of running a non-traditional store and his advice for entrepreneurs thinking about getting into franchising.

Here are some highlights from our conversation with Jay. Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.

On why he chose The UPS Store franchise system

With almost three decades of franchising and five locations under his belt, it’s safe to say Jay’s experience with The UPS Store has been a positive one. But we wanted to know, what made him choose The UPS Store in the first place?

JP: There was a location in Charlotte which I decided to try out. I'm passionate about helping people, so retail was appealing to me. I wanted to go with the franchise model because, as a franchisee, there’s a comfort level in having a partner that provides you with the resources and the guidance you need to grow your business. I would say the support you get from the brand, especially a brand like The UPS Store, is the main benefit of opening a franchise versus starting an independent business.

On how The UPS Store supports his business growth

For Jay, having the backing of a well-established brand has been a positive force in his success as a franchise owner.

JP: I love being part of one of the world’s most popular brands. It’s a positive thing for my business to partner with such a recognized brand. As an owner, I feel a lot more comfortable working with a brand that’s so well-known and trusted.

Jay pointed to another benefit – the consistent customer experience.

JP: The work that corporate is doing to create  consistent branding in terms of the customer experience has really enhanced my business. I feel comfortable knowing that, when customers travel across the country, they’ll get the same great experience at any The UPS Store franchise location. Along with training, corporate gives us a lot of tools and resources to make sure we can deliver our products and services the right way to guarantee that consistent, positive customer experience.

On why he decided to open a franchise location in a convention center

Jay’s spot in the Charlotte Convention Center was his first foray into a non-traditional stores. For him, opening a The UPS Store franchise in this location was all about delivering services that convention-goers desperately needed but weren’t readily available.

Jay Patel: This convention center didn’t have a business center, and they had minimal services for their conference-goers. Conventions are all about engaging with customers and establishing connections, and attendees didn’t have the business services they needed to do that. Since we opened, we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from attendees and exhibitors. They like being able to have their packages sent here and having a place to print the documents they need. It’s a lot easier than carrying it all with them while they’re traveling.

On marketing a non-traditional store

According to Jay, one of the benefits of operating a non-traditional store is that it allows owners to exercise business skills they don’t get to use as much at traditional centers.

JP: My other stores have all been traditional locations where you have parking, street visibility and anchors like supermarkets that help drive traffic. With non-traditional locations, you don’t have that, so you have to be very aggressive with your marketing to get the store name out there. Over the years, I’ve gained a lot of experience with marketing, and, when this opportunity came along, I decided to pursue it because it allowed me to utilize that expertise.

On future growth

Even with five stores under his belt, Jay is still open to future growth. But his focus is on growing his business the right way.

JP: To me, positive growth means you still need to be a good ambassador for the brand. That’s always been a primary focus as I grow, remembering that one of the reasons I’ve been so successful is because of this brand. I want to make sure that, if I do expand, we’ll maintain the world-class service and brand standards of The UPS Store.

I think people can have 10 stores or 20 stores, but they need the right structure – centralized accounting department, centralized marketing department, maybe someone to handle the ongoing training. That’s something I’m looking to transition to as I look to grow my stores in the future.

On working with his family

You could say Jay’s theory of growth fits in with the overall theme of how he does business – strategic thinking with a family touch. He cites some advice his grandfather gave him years ago to explain his growth mindset. 

JP: My granddad always told me only to eat what you could chew. Adding stores when you’re not ready is putting too much on your shoulders too soon.

But it isn’t just grandfatherly wisdom that gives Jay’s location a family feel. Currently, Jay runs the business with his son who he hopes will continue the tradition when the time comes for him to retire.

JP: Right now, I'm starting to go through what you might call transition where – and I think this happens to a lot our franchisees throughout the country – I’m starting to look to my kids to run the store when I do decide to exit. I think having an exit strategy is essential. So, for now, what I’m doing is getting my kids involved in the business, letting them see the ins and outs to find out if it’s something they’d be interested in pursuing.

Speaking of exit strategies…

Whether Jay’s son ends up following in his father’s footsteps or chooses a different path, Jay knows how important it is for business owners to plan for the next chapter. Whether that means passing his store to his kids when he retires, transitioning ownership to his business partners or selling it to a new franchise owner.

JP: It's critical that franchisees have an exit strategy if they want to get a good valuation for their stores. To do that, you need to keep your business in top shape. To be ready when buyers start looking at your business, you’ve got to have good leases, keep your store operating the right way, and stay up with corporate specifications. I’d say start by looking at your financials. If you don't have those things in place, it’s going to be difficult to get a good valuation.

On working with other franchise owners in the network

One of the things Jay loves most about The UPS Store is the cooperative nature of the franchise network and the ability to improve his store by learning from other owners.

JP: It’s really motivational to go to other stores. I’ve visited hundreds of stores over the last 29 years, and I think that’s what anyone thinking about opening a franchise business should be doing. One of the most significant assets we have in the franchise model is the ability to network with other franchisees, visit their stores and find out how they're operating. It gives you more confidence as an owner to learn some of their best practices and incorporate them into the way you run your store.

You can’t just isolate yourself in your store. You've got to go and develop those relationships with other owners and learn. Years ago, corporate would send out a list of the top 20 stores nationwide, and I would make a point of visiting each one and learn from them. Then, I’d take what I learned and adapt it to my locations.

His advice for prospective franchisees

With more than 30 years’ experience, Jay has a wealth of advice on opening a franchise business. His main advice: do your homework.

JP: It’s all about educating yourself. Go and talk to other franchisees in the network to get a sense of what it’s like to run the business. The more you know, the more confident you’ll be when opening a franchise business. Owning a business is all about confidence. Having confidence sets you up to grow your business and succeed if you work at it.

When you're not prepared, that’s when owning a business can go wrong. So my advice is to know what to expect, educate yourself by talking to other franchisees and have confidence in your decision.

For Jay, being a successful franchise owner is also about adaptability and having the drive to keep learning.

JP: Another big factor that’s important for franchise owners is being able to adapt to change. You need to understand that things are going to keep changing and have an ongoing willingness to learn. Keep educating yourself, keep networking and developing relationships with other franchisees, and keep your training going.

To stress his point, Jay made sure to provide one last tip for entrepreneurs thinking of opening a franchise business.

JP: I’ve talked to a lot of people over the years and learned so much. And I want to keep that going. So, if people want, they can always contact me. I love sharing my opinions and thoughts on how to approach running a successful business.

Are you interested in learning more about opening a franchise with The UPS Store? Contact our franchise development team today!