Life consists of taking risks. Some of us tend to avoid them at all costs while others will dive into a new situation without a second thought. Mike Retherford is the owner of one of the top performing studios at SpeedPro Imaging, the nation’s leading wide-format graphics franchise. Retherford will celebrate eight years as the SpeedPro Imaging Orlando studio owner this May. Part of the success in Retherford’s life can be defined by calculated risks. Retherford is certainly not risk-averse, but as a former insurance company executive, he seeks to minimize any foreseeable obstacles. This strategy has proved successful and profitable for Mike and his team.
Retherford spoke to us about his experiences as a SpeedPro Imaging studio owner, how the native Iowan ended up in Orlando, the perils that come with being 6’6” and why he finds wide-format printing… Sexy.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, Mike?
I’m 59 years old and have been happily married to my wife, Denise, for the last 35 years. We have three wonderful sons and three adorable grandchildren. Denise, along with my middle son, Taylor, and I work at our SpeedPro Imaging studio here in Orlando.
I’m deeply involved at my church. For me, it’s family, work and church, with a little travel and sight-seeing mixed in as well.
What was your professional experience before joining SpeedPro Imaging?
I have a financial background. I have a master’s degree in business after double majoring in accounting and financing with a minor in computer science. I always considered myself a very process-oriented person. That worked to my favor as I rose quickly through the ranks at the insurance company where I spent the first 18 years of my career. By the time I turned 30, I was both the chief financial officer and chief operating officer. I was running the company my final eight years.
After a two-year stint running an IT company, I made the decision to go into business for my own. My first foray involved coaching 30 CEOs across Iowa.
How were you introduced to the SpeedPro Imaging franchise opportunity?
I first noticed SpeedPro Imaging in 2008. When my oldest son graduated from college, I tossed out the idea to him of opening a business together. Coaching CEOs had introduced me to the franchise model and I found the prospects of running a SpeedPro Imaging studio interesting. We were in Des Moines, Iowa. The studio opportunity was in Omaha, Nebraska. My son’s wife got a great job in Des Moines, so he was unavailable. Time passed, but I was still interested. Up to that point in my career, I had only dealt with intangible products — insurance, IT and coaching. In SpeedPro, I saw a business manufacturing wide-format graphics, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
How did you wind up owning a SpeedPro Imaging studio in Orlando?
In September of 2009, I went to Omaha to look at sites for the studio. I stepped out of the car and was promptly greeted with a bone-chilling wind. The second the wind hit me, so did a moment of clarity. I thought, I can open a SpeedPro Imaging studio anywhere. I looked at the open territories and discovered Orlando was open. I discussed it with my wife and once she signed off, we moved to the Sunshine state.
How did your previous experience translate to being a studio owner?
I was a decisive decision maker in the corporate world, and I bring that same instinct to our SpeedPro Imaging business. Luckily, I’m able to determine the outcome of potential issues quickly. I’ve learned it’s human nature to make mistakes. I try to determine what happened, how can we prevent it from happening again, and constantly refine situations to make them bulletproof.
In the insurance industry, the main goal is to reduce and eliminate risk. Risk hurts your bottom line and harms your customers’ confidence in your abilities. At our studio, we make sure we are G7 color accurate on all our wide-format printers. Very few people do color profiling to the extent of our studio. Then, we leave the cutting to the machines. That eliminates human error. I want the size to be perfect. I want the color to be perfect. All we do is print and the rest should take care of itself.
How is SpeedPro Imaging’s franchise model effective?
I’m 6’6” and 220 pounds, so I can be a little imposing to some people. I’m not much of a networker and I consider myself to be a slight introvert. But SpeedPro Imaging’s model is set up to put an owner in the best position for success. If you follow the model, go in and pitch to potential clients, how our product can boost their brand and help their growth potential, you don’t have to be America’s top salesman. The confidence comes with the products SpeedPro Imaging offers.
Why do you feel you have been so successful in Orlando?
We focus on producing quality products, faster than anyone else in Orlando (usually within 24 to 48 hours). We quote every job, and try to deliver that quote in hours, or at the latest, same day. By quoting all jobs quickly, you can win the job by sheer default, plus we never have issues with our customers, when the invoices are sent for final payment. We want our customers to know that we appreciate them, and we are always paying attention when they need our services, plus we rarely charge rush fees, even if it’s same day production. From a strategic perspective, we teach our customers that they can deliver artwork to us at the very last possible minute, and we will still execute to deliver quality products for them and their customer on-time. Our focus on quality and speed, allows us to deliver a premium solution, at premium prices, and our customers find it difficult to move away from us, to one of our competitors. Our 3-legged stool strategy (Quality, Speed & Premium Price) works in the Orlando, and we’ve been extremely successful executing it. Thankfully, our amazing clients have no issues referring us to others.
Why should someone transitioning into franchise ownership consider SpeedPro Imaging?
This is a super sexy business and I love the process part of it. When I walk into Orange County Convention Center, look up and see the graphics hanging from the rafters and on the wall and on the window, it brings me joy to be able to say “We did that!” We’ve also decorated Daytona International Speedway. If you make good money out of it and enjoy some of the quirks that come with it, there’s nothing better.
I’ve also enjoyed spending time with my wife. I went into this business with my wife as my partner, and our partnership in and out of the office is stronger than ever. It’s been so amazing watching her growth in this business. We’ve always loved building things, including in and around the house, and we’ve built something amazing with this studio.
What does the future have in store for you, Mike?
I’m looking to achieve $5 million in gross revenue by 2020. I think this business can go even further. I’m trying to figure out what the business can look like at that milestone. I’m also looking to retire soon. I’m putting a Board of Directors in place that can operate the business once I make that decision.
As I said earlier, I like to travel. One of my frequent destinations is Iowa to visit my three grandchildren. The great thing about owning a SpeedPro Imaging studio is that I can run it from anywhere in the world. I don’t have to sit here for it to be successful. I’m able to enjoy the best of both worlds: being a successful business owner while getting the chance to spoil my grandchildren every other month.
If you’re tired of working for someone else and want to lead an independent lifestyle, just like Mike Retherford, consider joining the SpeedPro Imaging owner team. For more information on the SpeedPro Imaging franchise opportunity and what it takes to be a successful franchise owner like Mike, visit speedprofranchising.com.