How a Love of Travel Took This Man From Drummer to Franchisee
By Carly Okyle
Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees.
Jon Harvill’s earliest travel memory is seeing fireworks over the Disneyland castle through an airplane window. The thrill of that moment stuck with him years later as he toured as a drummer alongside music legends. After a stint in pharmaceutical sales, Harvill is on his third act: he’s a franchisee for Expedia CruiseShipCenters, helping others experience the excitement he feels in discovering new places.
Read on to learn more about his path to success and what’s coming down the road.
Franchise owned (location):
Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Birmingham, Ala.
Q: How long have you owned a franchise?
We opened our doors in June of 2014.
Q: Why franchising?
I have always dreamed of owning my own business and had extensive experience in corporate America. The support of the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise system allows me to capitalize on my experience while taking advantage of a proven system. I’m not left to “reinvent the wheel.”
Q: What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
My most recent experience was 15 years in pharmaceutical sales. During that time I reflected on where my true passion lay and it was in travel. Having played drums on the road alongside such notable musicians as B.B. King, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Louise Mandrell and others as a young man, I sought a career that not only stoked my sense of adventure but also helped people achieve their dreams. I performed on the same stage with these blues, country and rock greats and entertained troops in Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Spain and Turkey, so I knew finding a job that compared to these adventures would be challenging. I decided I wanted to help travelers have amazing foreign experiences too. Expedia CruiseShipCenters made sense as I’d be enriching their lives by helping them travel to these incredible places and others.
Q: Why did you choose this particular franchise?
It resonated with my earliest travel memory: I was a young boy returning home to Southern California on an evening flight, and I witnessed the fireworks exploding over the Disneyland castle. It was incredibly exciting, and I experienced a similar excitement when I looked into the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise. The Expedia name is known worldwide. I am able to combine a lifelong love of travel with the dream of owning my own business during a time when the popularity of cruising is soaring.
Q: How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Before opening, I spent approximately $100,000 for the buildout of the retail center including furniture, phones, carpet, signage (both internal and external), Chambers of Commerce, business association memberships and marketing. The franchise fee was $39,000.
Q: Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
The Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise development team provided the vast majority of professional and legal advice. Through my research I learned that the cruise industry will be relying on travel consultants who specialize in cruise vacations for a long time to come. Twenty-four million people are expected to cruise in 2016 and 65 additional cruise ships will be launched in the next five years.
Q: What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Lease negotiation is inherently challenging, but Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ franchise support team assists with this. A key ongoing challenge is keeping an eye on consultant recruitment while carrying out all of the daily responsibilities of a new business venture.
Q: What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
First, you have to love both the industry you want to break into and the brand you want ownership in. Make sure you do the research. Ask the tough questions. A good company will comfortably answer them. If you are interested in investing in an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise, ask yourself the following questions: Is travel sales for me? Do I have the passion and desire to recruit and develop a dynamic team of Consultants to become the leading provider of cruise and travel services in my community?
Q: What’s next for you and your business?
We’ve done very well since opening, better than expected for a landlocked community like Birmingham. So, our goal for 2016 is to add a significant number of travel consultants to our team and to enhance our presence within the Greater Birmingham travel community and beyond.
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