Learning Key Lessons from Business Venture
Even though Frank Collins retired to Pinehurst in 1996 at the age of 57, most days he would rather be working than playing golf.
"I still play twice a week," Collins said, "but advertising is in my blood."
Collins spent more than three decades in sales, marketing and advertising in the health care industry before losing his job -during the -corporate -downsizing craze in the mid-1990s.
He turned to consulting after moving to Pinehurst with his wife, Pat.
"My clients were major -pharmaceutical companies. I developed ad campaigns for them," Collins said. "I had three consulting jobs when I got here. In the middle of juggling them, I realized I wanted to focus on one thing."
So Collins "rolled the dice" in 1999 by taking $400,000 out of a 401K and starting a loyalty label business. Little did he know that it would take two years for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to approve his labels.
"Thankfully, Pat really bought into supporting me. She helped me a lot in the early stages of the -business," he said. "In fact, she made the first sale at a convention in San Antonio to a real estate -person from California. It's a great post-closing gift for realtors to give the buyer or seller."
Essentially, the business enables companies to stay in touch with valued clients by sending them a one-year subscription to a national brand magazine with a personalized loyalty label on the front cover of each issue. The cost is $16.
"It's targeted, but it's a soft sell, much like the rules you have in social media," Collins said. "It's an exciting niche business."
Collins has national clients such as Chase, Wells Fargo Advisors and Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate, as well as local clients such as Clark Chevrolet Cadillac in Pinehurst and 4 Seasons Heating & Air Conditioning in West End.
"The funny thing about the large companies is that I've never met any of these people face to face. It's all done by phone calls, email exchanges and document exchanges," he said. "The beauty of this business is that it's scalable right down to the individual -customer."
Collins has more than 10,000 -registered users, and up to 1,000 place an order in a given month.
"The technology and the -database I've got behind this thing is really, really robust," he said.
Collins was on his way to making it a million-dollar business when the housing crisis and subsequent recession put a damper on things.
"I was the sole owner until 2008, but then I had to bring in an angel investor to get out of debt," he said.
Collins learned a valuable lesson.
"Know when to cut the cord or make darn sure you can make it work," he said. "This was my baby. I couldn't let it go."
Collins, who takes 10 percent of gross sales as his salary, saw sales slip from $400,000 a year before the recession to $80,000 in the midst of it. But the business has slowly recovered with the economy.
"I'll do almost $300,000 this year," he said.
Collins is seeking a buyer for the business, and also has a patent pending for the data management process to create the labels to USPS specifications and clients' expectations.
"I'll stay with the buyer for two years after the sale," he said. "They'd be foolish not to keep me on because my name and number are all over this business."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or email@example.com.
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