COL Doug Paul researched franchises online from Kabul, Afghanistan while serving U.S. military orders in 2014. Upon returning from deployment, the Army colonel found himself back in Southern Colorado as the co-owner of a Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa.
Doug became interested in small business ownership out of a yearning to spend additional time with his wife and their two young children in place of extensive traveling. That’s how he discovered veteran-friendly franchising opportunities with Hand & Stone.
He and wife Heather Paul are coming up on their one-year anniversary of spa co-ownership at their Colorado Springs spa location on July 4th!
Doug remains active in the Army Reserves after 28 years of service in the United States, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and is now the lead entity for a contingency Joint Task Force in support of Special Operations Command Korea as the Commander of the Special Operations Detachment.
As a civilian, he had a career working on national agency intelligence programs as a Lockheed Martin program manager. Doug was also a program lead for Pacific Architects & Engineers (PAE), where he reconstituted the Liberian Armed Forces and trained and equipped other nations in Africa and the Middle East.
Doug’s military and engineering career combined with Heather’s corporate law career uniquely prepared the couple for the challenge of owning a franchise business together.
The entire Hand & Stone team is honored to be a veteran-friendly franchise that creates solid opportunities for vets or active military individuals pursuing careers in franchise ownership. In 2017, the Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa franchise was awarded a five-star designation from the IFA VetFran Committee. VetFran is a resource organization that offers veteran franchise opportunities to vets and their spouses.
I sat down with Doug to talk about his experience with Hand & Stone franchising. In our interview, you’ll hear about how he and Heather made the decision to go with the Hand & Stone franchise as brand new small business owners in their Southern Colorado community.
Q: Do you have advice for potential franchisees on making a midlife career change to franchising?
A: The biggest thing is that you have to want to do it. You can’t just think you want to do it. You really have to be prepared to take the risk, take the time to open up your franchise, and make sure it’s a success.
After that, it’s just pulling the trigger. There are a lot of intelligent people who have worked for major companies over the course of their whole careers but are afraid to make the jump. They’re comfortable in what they’re doing, they have a career, and sometimes it’s hard for them to break away from that and evaluate the risks versus the rewards of owning your own business. They’ll often talk themselves out of it. Personally, I think the rewards far outweigh the risks. You simply have to take the step by analyzing the risks and starting the process.
Another piece of advice is to make sure you have the right capital. If you have the right capital and put the work into it, you’ll be successful over time. The biggest mistake you can make is underestimating the capital requirement when you are opening doors and getting spa memberships.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being a franchisee?
A: I enjoy the climate and being able to come to a place that I own each day. I always tell the employees there are a lot of different businesses out there, but a spa is one of the very few places where everybody who comes through the door will leave happier than when they came. At Hand & Stone, we’re in the business of letting people escape for an hour and making their lives better. I like the products, services, as well as the concept of owning my own business and seeing my employee force and customer base grow. Just being able to engage with the community as a business owner rather than just as a resident has also been great.
Q: How does your experience in the military blend with franchising?
A: The military is structured. We do take orders in the military, but we’re also able to go into an unknown environment to excel. Franchising works well with both of those traits for a veteran. You still have the orders, intent, vision, and an end state. You just need to figure out how to get there with your franchise team. It helps to have military experience because it lets you understand that there is a hierarchy as well as processes and requirements to adhere to.
For now, Heather and I are the sole Hand & Stone owners in the Colorado Springs area. You need to be a go-getter to get brand recognition in a new location and, we do that by making networking connections and figuring out how to reach our core demographics.
Q: What did you learn about franchising from your career journey that maybe you didn’t expect?
A: There are a lot of applicable skills that transfer with you from the military that people may or may not realize. When you go into business from the military, the traits that you bring over with you are innate leadership, organization, and planning skills. Also, understanding risk and risk mitigation can help you run a business.
What I learned from franchising is that you’re working with a team of folks who may be different from those you served with in the military. With massage therapists, estheticians, and sales associates, it’s a different dynamic, so you need to work to keep your staff happy and engaged and of course keep your customers satisfied, happy, and engaged as well.
Customers are what is lacking in the military versus in a business, so it is different in that aspect. In franchising, I’ve learned a lot about marketing by working with Hand & Stone’s team. That’s something we’re always looking at, evaluating, and trying to improve.
Q: What other franchising opportunities did you look at in the health and wellness industry?
A: We had initially looked at multiple gym opportunities. We had a friend that has done very well with them, but for Colorado Springs, at least where we were at the time, we just thought it was too saturated of a market for gyms. Heather is the one who brought Hand & Stone to my attention because I was still deployed. She had met with some friends of friends who owned competing massage spas, and they mentioned to her that if they had known Hand & Stone was around, they probably would have gone with the Hand & Stone business model instead of their own. That piqued our interest, so Heather sent me the information on it, and we started to pursue it.
We also ended up getting a franchise coach as well as a franchise broker to look into other opportunities.They both tried to show us possibilities of different franchises out there, and we just kept coming back to Hand & Stone.
Q: How did you determine that Hand & Stone franchise ownership was for you?
A: In April of 2015, Heather and I flew out for a Hand & Stone Discovery Day, and that was key for us. We got to meet other people going through the process or initiating the process. Some of whom we are friends with still to this day, and we make sure we meet at the annual conference. We root each other on and share ideas.
The leaders that we met at Discovery Day were great. Like everything, first impressions are huge. Meeting and hearing the corporate team’s understanding of franchising, the health and wellness industry, their passion behind it, and their direction of where Hand & Stone is going is just really infectious. It was noticed and appreciated. At Discovery Day, we got the feeling that we could get into a successful franchise while the company is still growing and still be able to reach back to the corporate folks to get honest answers.
Here in Colorado, I work with the regional developer, and I can get ahold of him day or night. We meet often and sometimes even play golf. It’s always easy to get an answer when I reach out to Hand & Stone corporate. They remember me, know where I’m located, are interested in what I’m doing, and are hands-on in a good way.
Q: Can you tell me what it was like buying a franchise?
A: Hand & Stone has a nice military discount of 20% off the franchise fee. So right away we were saving some money that we could put into the business. That’s kind of how it all started.
I wasn’t specifically looking for veteran franchise discounts. I was looking for a franchise that was growing and that I could get behind. They all have different entry fees, and obviously we didn’t want anything too crazy expensive. It was really appreciated that Hand & Stone not only offered a military discount, but a significant discount. It’s nice to have that recognition as a veteran or as someone who is still in the military.
Q: How did you transition from an engineering and military focus to a health and wellness career?
A: I’ve been in the military since the late 1980s, so it’s been 28 years. The military got me into some defense contracting positions with Lockheed Martin and PAE government services. I started doing a lot of work with the Department of Defense and Department of State, and it was almost all overseas in the Middle East and Africa. I got tired of traveling and being gone.
For the entire year of 2014, I was deployed in Kabul, Afghanistan. I was on military orders at the time, and I knew that I’d need to find a new program with Lockheed upon return, and I just decided that I didn’t want to get back into what I was leaving. So I started just looking at franchises on the internet while I was in Kabul. My wife was back in the United States working as a corporate attorney, and we emailed back and forth about it. We wanted to do something we both had a passion for, so that’s why we wanted to get into the general health and wellness industry.
Q: Your job took you all over the world. What made you want to switch careers?
A: I wanted a change of pace and a stop to all the traveling. I have two young sons (Colton and Cody) I wanted to spend time with. As the owner, I’m here every day but have a full-time manager and staff, which allows me to be an ambassador with the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and local Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce. There I get to do all types of networking events. I get to be so much more of a part of the local community as a business owner than when I was at Lockheed or traveling. Part of growing the business is getting out there and talking to people so that you become a part of the fabric of the local community. I really like that aspect as well.
Q: How did the people around you react to your decision when you made the career change?
A: As far as support, everybody was just very curious. Why did you make the decision? How is it going? And so many people are interested in franchises and doing their own business, but there is a lot of hesitation of the unknown out there. l help coach and mentor folks about building their own business to put them at ease and help them move forward.
Q: How has business been for you at Hand & Stone?
A: It’s been going well. We’re nearing our one year mark. We’re in a relatively new and growing area, and it’s a good location. In two to three years, it’s going to be an even better location. New businesses are popping up all around us as we speak! We’re in a great core demographics area.
Our gross monthly sales are still climbing with the memberships, and we have a very steady employee force. We are looking to recruit just a few more. Everything seems to be looking good at the end of 12 months. It’s really great seeing employees enjoy what they do. We want them to continue to be a part of the company and recommend their friends to come over and be part of the team here.
The other success, of course, is our online and in-person customer reviews, which are going well. We want to make sure customers who are getting worked on are feeling better about themselves and want to come back and refer us.
Q: Do you have advice for veterans who may be considering a move into franchising?
A: I think military folks may look at all kinds of different franchises, and I think some people may get fixated on a certain type of franchise, like a gym for instance. The reality is you need to take a holistic look at all the possibilities to find a good fit for you and your community—as well as something you can get behind and run with for the next decade or two.
Do you have questions about becoming a Hand & Stone franchise owner? Please contact us for more information about the steps to spa ownership.