EYESthere franchises out

Thursday, November 1, 2007

TAMPA, Fla.--In mid-October, Doug and Vicki Dunbar opened the first EYESthere franchise here, taking the Dallas-based company's turn-key, customized digital security solutions to the Sunshine state. EYESthere, which also has a corporately owned Portland, Ore., office, has an ambitious goal of opening 210 franchises by 2010, said chief executive officer Rick Rene.
The Dunbars, said Rene, are typical of those who have shown early interest in the EYESthere franchises. "Because there are not that many business-to-business franchises, the quality of the prospective franchisees is phenomenal," he said. "The average executive who wants to start his own company doesn't want to make pizzas or serve ice cream, and he generally doesn't want to work nights and weekends in a retail establishment."
In this case, Doug Dunbar is the former vice president of marketing at Sprint Nextel, while Vicki ran her own catering firm.
"I wasn't necessarily looking to get into the security industry," Doug Dunbar said, "I was looking for a business that leveraged my skill set. I've been involved in the wireless cell phone industry for 22 years ... I was a direct sales representative and then over the course of my career went through general management all the way to senior VP. It was a way to leverage that experience: it's a business-to-business environment and it's a consultative sale."
While initial franchises are going to be opened by owners coming from outside the security industry, Rene said talented installers who can build teams would do very well with an EYESthere franchise. Buy in is $45,000 for the first franchise, $35,000 for additional franchises, and EYESthere estimates an initial investment of $187,000 to $295,000, including the franchise fee, is necessary to get open for business.
EYESthere, as the name implies, has focused initially on the video surveillance market, selling hybrid IP/analog solutions to small- and medium-sized businesses. However, Rene said his R&D team has just finished evaluating a new access-control system that will be tied in with video surveillance and he expects to be installing that soon, as will franchisees.
Mark Siebert, chief executive officer and founder of iFranchise Group, which is consulting with EYESthere, said, "what Rick and EYESthere are doing is very consistent with a pattern of franchising penetrating new markets." Basically, as a market matures, the independent owners are pushed out by franchised operations. See the real estate and fast food industries for examples.
Siebert said franchising gives "some very significant advantages, and we see this pattern repeated on an industry-after-industry basis ... What ends up happening is that the franchisees end up getting significant advantages over non-franchised businesses; they have more advertising power, consolidated backroom services, significant advantages in purchases ... As franchisees get into the marketplace, the franchise brands tend to dominate the non-franchise brands fairly quickly."
Right now MonitorClosely.com is the only other well known franchise in the security installation business, with roughly 70 franchisees working a slightly different business model, where franchisees do not have a storefront or inventory (search "MonitorClosely.com" at www.securitysystemsnews.com). Siebert expects to see at least one more security-based franchise very soon.
"Typically," he said, "you'll see an initial market leader or two, and that gets followed a year later by four or five different people that see that initial success and they enter the marketplace. There's usually room for about three major survivors ... and then you start seeing niche players. I'd be surprised if you didn't see at least one more company get in in six months to a year."
The next EYESthere franchise will open in Pittsburgh in November, and Rene said to look for franchises in Boston and Denton, Texas, in the very near future. Other markets where franchises are likely in the next six months include Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Fort Worth, Texas.