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Franchisee steers his life in the right direction with Midas

crop2By Jeff Hall
As I turn 42, I look back at both the highs and the lows throughout my career. During a particularly challenging transition a few years ago, I took a chance and bought a Midas Canada franchise in Kingston, Ont., that had previously been underperforming. Today, it is number one in the entire country for sales—and it has even helped move my family in the right direction.

Early entrepreneurship
I was born in 1970 and raised near Kingston in the town of Gananoque, Ont., the gateway to the Thousand Islands. It was beautiful there and I stayed until I was 18, then moved to Kingston to start teaching karate.

Right out of high school, I didn’t have fantastic marks and probably couldn’t have gone on to university. While I wasn’t great at my formal education, however, I was very entrepreneurial, thanks to my dad.

He had worked as a penitentiary guard, an insurance salesman and a painter before he ran a General Motors (GM) car dealership that became one of the top shops in a small town. He came from a poor family and taught me a strong work ethic. And while I wasn’t a car guy myself, the dealership provided some of my best business training.

I was very lucky getting the chance to teach karate. I had gotten my black belt at 16 while training in Kingston. My high school guidance counsellor was also a black belt and took me under his wing. During a tournament I competed in, I met one of the owners of Superkids Karate, who suggested it should become my career.

I worked with Superkids until I was 24. I started as a teacher, then got into program development and ownership, with two of my own schools by the age of 22.

At 23, I was offered the job of developing franchises, which involved scouting locations, negotiating with franchisees and training them to teach. This meant moving to Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood. It was an exciting time and we were pretty successful. At our peak, we were up to 27 schools.

Unfortunately, the owners had some disagreements and the franchise expansion stalled. I didn’t know what to do next, but got an offer from Martial Arts America to handle a licensing program. I went down to Orange County, Calif., to work with them, becoming a consultant who would help martial arts schools by licensing the brand. I was 24 and very excited, but I hated my time in California—it was eight months of rain! I learned a lot, especially about cold-calling, but I missed being in Canada. It made me appreciate home more.

crop1During that time, I had kept two Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Superkids schools going in Pickering and Mississauga, Ont. I sold the Mississauga one to the co-owner and rebranded the Pickering location as Martial Arts Canada.

Through the licensing program, that brand grew to include 10 schools across the GTA, including Newmarket, Markham and Richmond Hill, Ont., among others. I owned three. The licensing fees paid for items like uniforms. In 1998, I won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Durham Region.

It was a very lucrative business, but also pretty far spread out. And while I didn’t want to work for someone else, without a strong mentor or coach, I made mistakes. And I went through a divorce, which was very life-changing. We got married in 1995 and only lasted eight months together.

I was so driven at a young age, like I had something to prove. I worked a lot, cut my cloth and was successful, but my life was not balanced. I did that until I was 32, at which point I wanted out of the business. I sold it and just drifted for about six or eight months.

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  1. Hello sir.. glad to see ur doing good.. I used to be one of ur instructors at Martial Arts Canada.. I miss those days.. had a run of bad luck though had a roommate steal all my belts on me bout 20 yr ago … sucks cuz I wish I had them still to show my son.. but hope all is well with you sir have a great day

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