GREAT. BIG. VISION. FULL-LENGTH INTERVIEW WITH SPEEDPRO IMAGING CEO LARRY OBERLY (PART ONE)JANUARY 5, 2018| SpeedPro
A new era has arrived at SpeedPro Imaging, the nation’s leading printing and graphics franchise, with the recent appointment of Larry Oberly as Chief Executive Officer. A proven franchise leader with more than 25 years of experience as a franchisor and franchisee, Oberly led RE/MAX’s global development for ten years prior to joining SpeedPro Imaging.
Oberly is excited about SpeedPro Imaging’s future, which is why he has already implemented strategies and procedures designed to produce immediate results. He is also seeking feedback from various levels inside and outside the SpeedPro home office to build better relationships within the SpeedPro Imaging family. (Learn more about his game-changing vision in this recent press release).
We recently spoke with Oberly about his experiences as both a franchisor and franchisee, the importance of relationships and where he developed his insatiable competitive spirit. In this post (part one of a two-part series), Oberly tells us about his professional background and why he believes SpeedPro Imaging is poised for explosive growth. Join us next week for Part Two!
It’s great to speak with you, Larry! First things first: how did you get your start?
I initially began working in the airline industry. A few years into my tenure, I decided to buy a Baskin-Robbins franchise – and when I found a second location opening close to me, I bought that store as well. I wound up leaving the airline industry to become a multi-unit owner of Baskin-Robbins franchises from 1992-1998, and was fortunate to find great success.
In a 240-store region, I was proud to have one of my stores rank second in sales. When it was time for me to accomplish something else, I sold my two profitable locations and looked for a new adventure.
Why did you decide to leave Baskin-Robbins?
After years as a franchisee, I wanted to see what the other side of the equation looked like. That led me to actively pursue an opportunity with a franchise company that had great relationships with their franchises, which I ultimately found at RE/MAX. I joined RE/MAX in 1998 as a franchise development consultant and rose through the ranks quickly. Three promotions in seven years had me serving as vice president of U.S. regional development in 2005, overseeing seven regional business units of 1,100 offices and 14,000 real estate agents.
A year later I was asked to move to RE/MAX’s international division (or global development department), where I inherited a network of about 55 countries. When I left RE/MAX, we had operations in more than 100 countries and territories, over 3,800 offices outside of the United States, and more than 54,000 agents that my team and I were responsible for. We added about 65 countries and territories to our network over that period.
The international division operated almost as a stand-alone business unit, and I used the position as an opportunity to learn even more about being a franchisee and a franchisor anywhere around the world. The knowledge and experience I gathered at RE/MAX has prepared me for what’s ahead: achieving great growth and building meaningful relationships at SpeedPro.
What inspired you to commit your career to franchising?
I love the entrepreneurial nature of franchising, especially the B2B design that’s at the core of the SpeedPro business model. In fact, SpeedPro is nearly 100 percent B2B, and I really thrive in that configuration. While my Baskin-Robbins operated on more of a management model – where the business drove customers into the store with consumer advertising – SpeedPro Imaging and RE/MAX both require pioneering tactics for customer acquisition and retention. Baskin-Robbins was more process-driven, while SpeedPro is all about collaboration, consultation and solving customer problems with creativity and innovation. Our most successful SpeedPro studios have grown through impactful personal promotion – i.e., showing the customer why they would want to work with their individual studio, their creativity and their ability to perform. Franchising – especially at SpeedPro – is that perfect balance of being in business for yourself and not by yourself.
In addition, the franchising model, to me, is very much like a marriage in a sense that there can be a few bumps along the way to growing old together. There’s going to be ups and downs, but ultimately there’s a shared quest for achieving meaningful things, lifelong memories, and success.
What distinct advantage does your experience with all sides of franchising afford you as CEO?
When I began managing RE/MAX’s southwest region, we had about 8 percent market share. By the time of my promotion to global development five years later, we had grown to about 15 percent market share while unseating the number one company in that region. With the RE/MAX brand already well established in the United States, I considered my role as an equal mixture of leadership and management. However, my overseas experiences gave me a better glimpse of the entrepreneurial landscape and the importance of having drive and vision.
There’s a large measure of scrappiness that’s needed when you’re starting something new, such as what we were doing with RE/MAX’s global department. People didn’t know the brand internationally and quite frankly, weren’t accustomed to how we approached real estate in the U.S. and Canada. We embraced a maverick mentality to help revolutionize the industry and make it more educational and customer service-based.
Here at SpeedPro, we’re right smack dab in the middle of the spectrum – we’re an established company with 20 years of experience in the wide-format industry, yet we’re right at the cusp of a major breakout. My goal is to propel us from more than 130 studios and grow dramatically, on top of helping our franchisees be considerably more successful than those of any other franchise in the space. We’ll accomplish that together.
What is it about the SpeedPro system and business model that makes it on the cusp of breaking out?
We’re authentic and unconventional. I love the SpeedPro name, particularly for the fact we have “pro” in it. Originating as a family-run sign shop, founder Blair Gran had the opportunity to name the company after himself, but decided to choose a moniker fit for the business he envisioned. SpeedPro Imaging is a business built on the professional service our studio owners provide to clients. We apply a white-collar approach to a traditionally blue-collar industry.
It’s also a very creative and customizable field. There are several market segments we can extend into that could lead us to new heights. I consider SpeedPro a diamond in the rough, and my job is to leverage all of our strengths. We’re going to use the power we have within our business model and I feel that, with the way we have established our philosophy and our culture, we’re on the verge of doing even more great things.
From a franchisee point of view, I see the creativity inherent in the SpeedPro design as a huge asset. When I was a franchisee in food service, I had a set product line and standard routine that I practiced every day. At SpeedPro Imaging, we pride ourselves on being marketing solutions providers. We help businesses grow by assessing clients’ wants and needs, then providing the best possible solutions for their business. The clientele and industry present endless challenges and opportunities for inventive thinking and innovative problem-solving.
Lastly, SpeedPro Imaging studios have attractive employment environments. I like that the total labor cost is generally lower in our segment than in other industries, and that many of the team members within our franchisees’ studios are semi-skilled to skilled employees as opposed to entry level. Our franchisees are also typically working in non-retail spaces that come with lower average-occupancy costs. Added up, it’s a great business model for our owners and customers.
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