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Ideal Image: Another medspa franchise.

Last year, Dean Akers was snow skiing and running a small landscaping firm. Then he found an ideal situation.
Franchise_EBook_350X350.jpgNow, as the new CEO at privately held Ideal Image in Tampa, Akers believes he's the man to make a laser hair removal franchise development company a $300-million baby in scant time.

Akers, a corporate vet and Bay area lifer, became CEO in October and inherited a goal of 20 clinics within a fiscal year.

But Akers has taken that plan and more than doubled it. He wants 50 locations open by this time next year.

Annualized sales could be in the $75-million to $100-million range, and Akers' goal is to have 180 locations scattered nationally in key markets in three years with total franchise sales in the $250-million to $300-million range.

blockquote.gif  A franchisee's investment is likely $500,000 for a turnkey operation that includes the lasers, office furniture and advertising. But now that Akers is steering the operation, the franchisees must have the proven wherewithal to open fast and in some cases open more than one location fast.  blockquote.gif

Those are some hairy goals for a company that in 2001 had just $44,000 in sales.

But things are moving. Franchises were just inked for as many as eight locations in Las Vegas, four more in Atlanta and operations in Phoenix; Raleigh, N.C.; Boise, Idaho; and Knoxville, Tenn. Eight locations are running now in Tampa, Lakeland, Sarasota, Miami, Jacksonville, Boca Raton and Atlanta, and in February the concept opens in New Tampa, Palm Harbor, Charlotte, N.C., and Sydney, Australia.

A laser beam of opportunity

When Akers took over, the plan had ambition but lacked cohesive direction. Franchises and territories were being sold fast and stores were opening, but they were a patchwork of inconsistent arrangements.

With Akers on board, that's all changed. If his strategies work, Ideal Image could become a Bay area model of smooth profits and maybe an IPO candidate.

First, Akers brought the vision of being big. "We needed some rules," he said.

Often franchisees take the entrepreneurial spirit and run with it, so much so that they are prone to making independent decisions, he said.

"They get on board and immediately want to change the recipe," Akers said.

A franchisee's investment is likely $500,000 for a turnkey operation that includes the lasers, office furniture and advertising. But now that Akers is steering the operation, the franchisees must have the proven wherewithal to open fast and in some cases open more than one location fast.

"That means capital and horsepower," Akers said.

Would-be franchisees are brought to Tampa and extensively interviewed. One candidate had the money, but it wasn't a right fit.

Since it's illegal for franchisers to tell franchisees what returns will be (See footnote), Akers acts as a sounding board for each franchisee as it navigates the business planning. He asks tough questions about their budgets so they arrive at their own conclusions, he said.

The parent company provides a template of the potential costs.

"They plug in their numbers, and I'll see that they are not putting the right stuff in and I'll ask more questions," he said. "I serve to validate their business model."

The parent company has also created other safeguards for itself. It has a buyback provision should the company decide to go public.

Franchise relations now

Akers created a "franchise concierge" service as part of an overall philosophy of communication at the company.

Internally, he began a program called "circles of success," in which he created a circular organizational chart that encourages interaction among all staff. There were often long staff meetings where much of what was being discussed was irrelevant for a portion of the staff, Akers said.

By asking questions, listening and responding to needs, the company is making an investment in franchisee-relations that history has proven can easily sour.


 "Since it's illegal for franchisers to tell franchisees what returns will be..."

Kinda.... Franchisors can not say what potential returns look like for franchiees unless they disclose all the actual numbers of current and former franchisees. It's a nuance but important. If a franchisor tells you that they can't talk about numbers their right... They can't talk about numbers unless they actually disclose them. This regulation is designed to keep the "wow' factor to a minimum but it's often used as a way for franchisors to avoid the issue. They'll give you the 'I can't disclose that because it's against the law' spiel but give you the wink, wink - knudge, knudge at the same time.

In fact they can choose to disclose the numbers but they have to disclose the bad ones as well. If you're numbers don't look good you go for the 'I can't tell' model. 

Reader Comments (6)

I firmly believe the franchise heads who run these see profits only from suckers who buy in and pay monthly royalties. They don't look at the market and see saturation. They see potential franchisees paying them upfront and monthly, the product could be manure sales for all they care. Look at this duded..LOL..a landscaper. LMAO. Wow. Just wow. How many illegals would he hire if he could to run these places the way he probably did in his landscaping biz.
05.12 | Unregistered CommenterMichMD
I guess the advertising guys thought that "Let Dean mow your lawn" would be a great tag line.
05.12 | Unregistered CommenterCamMD
Or it coult be "let us trim you bush".

Not going to make it on hair alone. hese guys have no idea of what they are dealing with especially in Florida. As we know, the laws can change at the drop of a hat.

I agree with MichMD they make their money off of the suckers willing to pay all of the upfront costs. In situations like this Ideal Image is not taking any risk. It is all placed upon the shoulders of the franchisee. Just look at this site. I would be very concerned with some idiot that has plans to open 50 of these in 1 year.
05.12 | Unregistered CommenterLH
LOL very funny bush comment!
Not to mention it sounds like he is selling to non-doctors. Humm, last I checked that was illegal in California.
Good luck.....
05.12 | Unregistered CommenterLA MD
Actually, this article was originally in the Tampa Bay Business Journal. Printed in January of 2005. Right now, if you look at the Ideal Image website, they have 59 locations listed across the US.
05.12 | Unregistered CommenterSD
They will sell to anyone that will pony up the dough.

Sorry for the typing in the last post.

Another tag line could be "whether it's your lawn, your bush or your playground we can help"

Sorry guys and gals, I could not resist.

05.12 | Unregistered CommenterLH

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