Running the Bases today with AJ Titus, President of Signarama and Starpoint Brands at United Franchise Group. Signarama is the world’s largest sign and graphics franchise. A.J. is the son of United Franchise Group CEO Ray Titus and grandson of franchise mainstay, Roy Titus.
AJ explains how his family started the Minuteman Press franchise 40 years ago and Signorama 37 years ago, and now owns various brands and companies such as shared office space, business brokerage, signage graphics, embroidery, screen printing, food and charcuterie under the United Franchise Group umbrella. He also advises other working parents about staying in touch with their families and shares the lessons he learned from his father about values such as honesty, hard work, and respect. AJ emphasizes the importance of research, passion, and hard work for entrepreneurs looking to enter franchising and reminds us that even small businesses can make a difference in their communities.
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I'm fascinated with entrepreneurs and small business owners. Plus, I love baseball. Every show I sit down with a small business owner and we discuss their running the bases of entrepreneurship. We throw the ball around on strategy, management, execution and innovation. Plus, a little fun baseball tug. Hey, thanks for joining us today. Settelain, grab your cracker jacks and you know what they say. Play ball. And it's a great day for a ball game. Hey, thanks for joining us today. I'm Randy Rohde and you are listening to running the bases with small businesses and today's guest comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. One might say it is truly in his bloodline. A third generation family business with over a dozen brands and 1600 franchise locations worldwide. Our guest grew up in the franchise business and as he says, franchising is all I knew. His work experience has humble beginnings. His parents had him working at the local franchise locations doing all of the jobs, cleaning, sweeping floors, answering phones, learning all of the equipment, all of the fun stuff. After graduating with his MBA from the University of Miami, he moved into a leadership role in the family business. And today you can find him at the helm of the largest franchise business in his family's portfolio. Sinorama overseeing 750 franchises across the globe. That number could even be more today. I'm not sure. Sinorama has been named to entrepreneur magazines top global Very impressive. So welcome to the show today. AJ Titus, the president of Sinorama and Starpoint brands, the world's largest sign and graphics business. AJ, welcome to the Thank you so much, Randy. Appreciate on. Yeah. We get into all of the fun stuff we're going to hit on today. I do have to say I understand congratulations. You're a new dad. Is that Yes. So I have a 10 month old at home. So I'm well rested for those other dads that are listening, but they know what I mean. But yeah, that's it's been a great blessing. It's been Oh, that is great. Is first first baby? Good for you. That's always fun. Boy, girl. Girl. Yeah, there you go. That is always how do you navigate? I know when my kids were babies like that, I was traveling a lot. How do you kind of balance that, Rick, life balance with the baby? Because I can't imagine you've got, you know, sites all over the world. So I do, you know, I'm sure you travel a Girl. So actually, I just got back from South Africa yesterday. So I was in South Africa with our franchise owners there for our conference. And so if I look a little jet lag or sound a little jet lag, I might be. But no, it's, I'm still navigating being a new dad and doing that. But I think the best advice I ever got was from my grandfather where it's talk to your spouse and your kids first before you get into anything. And so before the day starts, if the time difference works, call your spouse, call your kids, talk to them, tell them you love them and then go on with your day. Don't be the one who forgets to call them every day. Well, that is good advice. And it's hard, especially when you're on time differences, time zone changes and such. But I don't know what it was like in South Africa, but I know I've been on the west coast and, you know, three hours back and on the east coast time. And, you know, by the time getting up or whatever, my kids are already off to school or whatever. But yeah, that's great advice. That's good. We also probably have some other, I will say connection, not really, kind of remotely, I guess, because we're outside of Cleveland. And I know you're a big Miami sports fan, right? Dolphin. Huge heat. Yeah. You like baseball? We were chatting a little bit about the Marlins. And so, unfortunately. Yes. And so I'm not going to get into the LeBron James Miami heat Cleveland, you know, Cavaliers winning the championship. That was great. But also, my office is just kind of down the road, so to speak, from the Don Chula Stadium, because Don Chula went to John Carroll University right here in Cleveland. great Huge so, in Cleveland. Yes. So, you had to open up that very painful past, right? But I would respond to that as the heat got two championships, Cleveland only got one. So, you know, that one should have been the heats, but you can have one. I think that was good for you all. And then it's great for us. Yes. Oh, I'm sure. And it's, yeah. So that was awesome. But no, I'm a, my dolphins fandom goes deep. So I'm a huge Miami dolphins. They would be my number one team. But all the Miami sports, I have a, you know, my wife jokes that I have a mild sports addiction. So all the Miami teams are who I support. So yeah, the heat So, you know, that one only And then it's great the Miami teams are who I support. So yeah, that's okay. I'm a Cubs like diehard fans. So, you know, I know the, I know the feeling. So does my wife, at least my wife likes baseball and likes the Cubs as well. So, you know, it was not a prerequisite for our marriage. It certainly works for us. All right. Well, let's get into a little bit of your background. What you're doing today and because I'm so fascinating, I think your history. And I'm, I love, and reading through our notes. I love the background, the growth of your family business. And I'm going to call it a family business. Obviously, you've got, you know, a very large footprint now. But maybe just run our audience kind of through the background of kind of the, the roots of your Well, it's, it's a long story, but I'll, I'll summarize it into, you know, bite-sized package. But my grandfather, Roy Titus, he actually started Minuteman Press, which is a printing franchise that still exists. It's over 40 years in existence. So, it exists to this day. My dad actually grew up in that business and he, you know, know anything, but franchising like I told you from my experience, but he really did the same thing. And then he wanted to start his own business. And with my grandfather's help started Sinorama in New York, 37 years ago. And so from there, built the business, moved the company down to South Florida because hey, who would want to not live in South Florida? And then has built it ever since and has added brands and franchising's just been a part of our dinner table conversation my entire life. So I have two brothers that are in the business full time. I have three cousins in the business full time. And, you know, we're very active. So it's one of those things where we didn't think of doing anything else, but it's really my grandfather Roy and my dad Ray who have really laid the foundation for us really take over and to move forward. And so, but my dad's not going, he's not retired or anything, but it's, it's definitely been a part of us. Ray who been a part of us. Well, that, that is fabulous. So just to be sure I want to kind of understand. So it all started though with your grandfather and starting with one business, right? With one minute man press. Was that always called minute man even I was. Yeah. Wow. Yeah. Wow. And it man pressed. Yeah. That was great. It's a great brand. I mean, I've known minute man press for probably the 40 years. I don't know. Since I've been in business. Yeah, they're probably close to 50 now. Yeah. Yeah. All the exact numbers. But yeah. So, and then at some point, you know, they grew, they grew, they grew, they grew. And now you have, and maybe explain star point brands. How does that, is that more of an umbrella company for other brands besides Sinorama? How does that kind of dove down? know. Since I've been in business. Yeah, they're probably close to 50 now. Yeah. Yeah. All Yeah. So when my dad started Sinorama, the majority of our history was only Sinorama. And then we added brands throughout that time. And so at some point, my dad looked at everyone's shirts and everyone looked like NASCAR racers and had all these different brands on their shirt. So he created an umbrella name called United Franchise Group. And we started with that as a name, but as we've continued to expand and add companies and businesses that are in a part of franchising, we wanted to distinguish our franchise brands between United Franchise Group. And so, star point brands came from that. So all of our brands that have franchise owners are under star point brands. And the ultimate vision for star point brands is to create a brand that customers know. Because customers really don't know United Franchise Group because it's a franchising business, right? So we want to create a brand that people know when they trust and has the brands underneath that. And so And so that's what we're working on. Yeah, yeah. So I think I'm going to try to tease out something that I think you just said quickly, but I'm like, huh, do you have some brands under your umbrella that are not So we have everything is connected to franchising. Okay. So, but they don't have necessarily franchises. Some of them don't have as majority of them do, right? But we do have a handful of them that are more franchise services or business services. Okay. And so we're looking to expand that and build that Uh, that is fascinating. Somewhere in my notes and, God, I'm horrible that I don't have these better organized, I guess that's my fault because my team does a great job with this stuff. Somewhere I had seen. a list of like all of the different businesses and such in your, I think portfolio will call it. It was like business, but you've got restaurants, right? And we're very diversified. So yeah, so everything from, very diversified. So yeah, so everything from, you know, shared office space to business brokerage, signing graphics, embroidery screen printing, food, charcuterie, Greek. So we're all over. We're very diverse. Yeah. So Yeah. So I guess a question that when I was looking through the notes and I saw that I was like, are those brands that you either created, right? So it was like, hey, here's the AJ out to her and around like, I like that business. going to go start one for our family portfolio. Or did you see a business? And I think I remember seeing one was like a Greek restaurant or something like that. There seemed like it was a Greek restaurant the way that the name of it was. And like, did you see it and then say, we would like to have that and then you go buy that brand or it was at a mixture of kind of all of those things. I don't know. The answer is yes to all those questions. So it's The answer is yes to all those questions. So it's all, it depends. So we've done joint ventures with people. We've purchased businesses. We've started them from the ground up. Yeah. And everything in between. So yes, the answer to all your were yes. Yeah. That is restaurants and food businesses, quite a departure from sign and graphics business, printing business. Who in your family had the interest in that area and food? So the funny, the the funny story behind that is for most of the businesses life, my dad would stand on stage and say, I'm never going to own a food business. And he literally said that for decades. Okay. never going to own food for all the reasons that you wouldn't want to own food. Right. And then actually before I went into Sinorama, I met with a client who with the business that we no longer own. since sold the business. But it was a food business. And I brought it to my dad and he's like, oh, let's take a look. You know, let's and he was more open to it. And that's what kind of opened the door being more involved with food. But it's not my it's I'm not trying to take the credit for it. But just his mindset has changed over the years. And we have some great partners that we work with now moving forward. So I mean, it's I guess it's just evolved. And it's hard to be a big franchise company when most of the franchise businesses are in the food space. So it's hard to be a big franchise company without having some food brands. Yeah. he brands. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I love diversity like that in business. So you know, applaud your efforts in that. Let me want to switch over and talk a minute about or more, obviously about Sinorama. So I said, currently, and I'm not sure, hopefully this was accurate about 750 franchises. Yeah, about right. Yeah. Crizies is out of pride. 13 countries. Is that sound about right? Are you? We're a little bit more than 13. So I think right. Yeah. Crizies is out of bit more than 13. So I think we're about 25 30 countries, something like that. Yeah. So like, for instance, we have just was in South Africa. So at that conference, we had South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. That all were represented. All right. And I Yeah. So like, for represented. All right. And I think the researcher said, hey, be sure to ask him about Oregon and give a plug. So do you currently still don't have stores in Oregon for a sign or you were were just liking to dig a knife in an empty. I was actually trying to help him. Yes, the answer. The answer is yes. Unfortunately, we don't have someone in an Oregon. And if you know someone, Randy, we'd love to have the first store in Oregon for Sinorama. That would be great. Yeah. All right. So actually trying to help him. Yes, the answer. The answer is in Oregon for Sinorama. That would be great. Yeah. right. So you can, if you're in Oregon and you want to look into Sinorama, go reach out to a J. It's me a call star points brands.com and you'll get connected there. All right. So I'm trying to help a brother out here. I it. All right. So tell us about Sinorama. I it's a fascinating business. And from the notes that I've read just about the model itself, I, if I were looking at franchising, I would like, wow, this is really great opportunity. It seems like so. folks, I'm not trying to pitch Sinorama. So don't, you know, like send me all your whatever email. Your checks in the mail, Randy. But I am really the way that it's structured in the what I would say the autonomy. And I'm not going to go too deep into this. I'll let you go on with it. It would be very appealing, I think. me a call star appreciate it. All send me all your whatever email. Your checks in the mail, Randy. But I am I mean, we're a full essentially the business model is where a full customizable, full service sign and graphics franchise. So we do everything from the small indoor, ADA signage to large outdoor electrical signs, vehicle graphics and everything in between. Pretty much anything that has your brand on it in your business. as can do. And that's what sets us apart from other sign competitors because there's sign companies that focus in on certain things. They might be, I fabricate channel letters or I'm good with interior signage or lit signage or things like that. We do everything in between. And we've been around 37 years as well. So we have the history, we have the network as well. And so, and we do give, I mean, there's varying degrees of franchise control. You can go from one end of the spectrum where you buy the food, you buy the cardboard, the paper, you lease your land from the franchise or to, hey, I'm just licensing the name. And then everything in between, we give a lot of flexibility because it's a fully customizable business. You're brandy. If you needed signs for your business, I can't just go around the corner and say, oh, Randy needs some signs for his business. Let me just take that off the shelf, right? We have to design it, create it, print it, apply it, there's more to it. And so it's hard to have the controls that other franchises have or try to have where it's fully customizable. And we want the entrepreneur to flourish. Like we want each one of our franchise owners to be entrepreneurial and flourish. And so we try to make a system and a culture that they can flourish in and give them that flexibility. I and give it. I will say If I could, I would tilt my camera over and show you but in our office on one of the main walls, we actually have our logo in some vinyl print letters and stuff. We use Sinorama, a franchise local in here too. Very good to do the cut and they came out of the store. Is he on the east side of town? Yes, actually on the east side and a little bit north of us of where we are. Very good store. Is he on the east Okay, I think I know which franchise owner that is. It's probably Sam. So do you work with the guy or no? was here when they came in and told me. Okay, when they did it. Okay, I don't know who that's. So if Sam's listening, then maybe, you know, it'll be good. Very funny. So your business, so especially I think, is 37 years. That's a long time. And we have come through like leaps and bounds and technology. How has technology changed the way that you guys, not only Okay, when they did it. Okay, I don't know who that's. So if Sam's listening, then maybe, you know, it'll be good. Very do business, but as well even the types of business and or delivery of business. How has that It's changed rapidly, but it's also stayed the same. And that's the beauty of design business. So our core products from 37 years ago are pretty much the same. I mean, we cut vinyl, we print vinyl, we do a lot of different things. But just to give you a perspective, 37 years ago, there was a dark room in the original store where they developed film. There was a painter on staff that painted signs, okay? But we still had a plotter in the store. And stores still have a plotter to this day in the store. And so at the end of the day, the way in which we've made products, the equipment has changed and advanced quite rapidly, the way in which you market has changed quite rapidly, our website has changed. I mean, when we first started, there was no website 37 years ago. To now, you know, there's so many things we can do with our website. So we've invested a lot in our technology. But the cool part is we're still selling signs. We're still using some of the same pieces of equipment. We used 37 years ago, but it's just advanced a little further. And I think there's going to be a lot of other changes, exciting changes around the corner from an electrical signage point of view, digital signage, and 3D printing. I also think that at some point, 3D printing will be applicable to our Right, right. I'll tell you, just for my own experience, it was so easy to kind of deal with, you know, here's, I'll show you if you can see. Oh, it looks good. OK. I'm trying to get it to, yeah, it was unbluried for a second, but yeah, looks good. There we go. Nice. OK, great. So because I just said, like, well, here's my logo, right? And I took the logo electronically. I sent them the image and I wanted to be X tall and X wide. And boom, they just came out with a letter. It was fabulous. And I think I read somewhere in the notes as well, though, and talking about this technology. This is where it kind of triggered me. It was that so you can even actually go and print directly onto items and nuts. I said, you are. I'm going to read this quote, I think, because I thought, really, you can do that. Were you printing directly on the piece of what you call this? I'm going to read this. I think this is it. Yes. There's flat bed printing where you can print directly to a material instead of printing on a piece of vinyl and then placing it onto something. You can take a door off the hinges and print on the door Oh, it looks good. OK. I'm trying to get it was unbluried for a second, but yeah, looks Nice. So That's a funny story you actually bring up. So yeah, so to answer your question, flatbed printing a lot of our stores, not every store, but most of our stores at this point have had some sort of flatbed printing into their shop. And there's even some sort of printing, the printer direct is called DCS printing. And so they actually prints Braille. So it actually raises off of the substrate. So you can actually print Braille in some letters with texture and things of that nature. So there's some really cool things that stores are doing with interior design. But flatbed printing, you can print on a lot of different substrates and different types of things. But when flatbed printing became a thing, the HP rep came to our head office and he said, hey, we can do this and we can print on this and we can print on a door. And so Jim Tatum, who was my predecessor, said, show me. And we literally took his door off of the hinges and brought it into the back. And we printed on his door and the door that my vice president has is that original door. We painted over it white, but it was a picture of Jim on the door that we printed as like the as the sample. So yes, so if you did want to print on a door, you can print on a door. They proved that right. can but it was a is bad. When I read that, I thought, wow, that is great. Because I've always thought about maybe taking one of our vehicles and wrapping it with our logo and such and drive it around, you know, the promoter agency and I wonder if I could just like drive my car. They just print right onto my vehicle. So, but can't do that yet. I don't know if you want us to do that. do that yet. I don't know if you want us to do that. Can't do that yet, but I'm sure that technology might be there somewhere. Oh, yeah. That's I want to get into the whole concept around franchise and what makes a good franchisee and all of that and maybe we'll do that after the 17th and stretch. But before we do that, how about give us, I guess, your insights on the current state of franchising and the franchising industry. Obviously, you're a very large franchise or so I would expect to hear, you know, good things about it. From your insights, though, what do you, how do you see the industry today and where do you see it going in the next three to 10 years? Is it recessionary proof? You know, there's all this conversation about recession. Well, there's nothing. I wouldn't say there's anything that's recession proof. I would say Sinorama speaking selfishly is very recession resilient because we have so many different types of products and people still need to market their business. So our product mix is going to change during a recessionary time and we've seen that because we've been through a couple of recessions in our 37 years, either pandemic related or financial related or whatever the case may be. So we've seen that prove out over time. But the thing with franchising, I would say there's no better model in the world that helps people generate wealth and helps them own their own business because there are many franchisees that could never start their own business on their own. But the guidance that franchising gives them and the training and the support and the network that they get helps them to be successful there where they wouldn't be where they would be kind of on an island starting their own business. And I like the joke that we've made all the mistakes so that other people don't have to make the mistakes. And so that's what we have. We have that 37 years of experience and the stats prove out that a franchise business is way more successful than someone that just starts by themselves. And so I think, and again, I've grown up in franchising. It's one of the greatest economic drivers in the history of the world. Now the industry itself is strong and really good. You do have some politicians who like to get involved in franchising and like to speak on things that they don't necessarily know about. And I think their intentions are pure. Honestly, I think their intentions are in the right spot. But I think that at the end of the day, they're not really digging into franchising and understanding what franchising is and they don't get what the model is and they could end up really hurting it. So there are some threats to franchising that we work with and then there's some people who are working on that as well to educate people and help them understand on what franchising is. But overall the industry is very strong. It continues to grow. There are a lot of franchises that you wouldn't even think of franchises. You could be in your shopping center and you may look think, oh, that's mom and pop business, but it's actually a franchise. So it's a huge part of the pandemic the things that I love about Sinorama again is kind of the autonomy. You allow your franchisees to offer this service or that service or a lot of services, how they probably structure their shop itself, meaning management structure. They operated what's the staffing models look like things like that. But I'd saw it as well. And this, only because I am somewhat familiar with franchising and... loved this scaling royalties kind of concept. Do you guys still do that and maybe explain what that is? So we So we do and it's rare in franchising. Usually it's just a 6% flat or an 8% flat of gross sales. We actually scale it down. So it's 6% up to 600,000 in sales, 4% to a million and then 2% thereafter for however long the franchise or much the franchise owner grows. So the better that the franchise owner does, the better that they do. They actually get a discount for doing better because we want to encourage sales. We want to encourage growth and we're partners in this. We're a 6% partner. The franchise owner is 94%. So they got to run their business and run the system the right way and hire and fire their employees. But we're going to do what our 6% is and a lot of our franchise owners who grow and get to those 2% is actually totally not at 6% is actually totally less. And if you were to do math so. Wow. It is rare and that's why I wanted to be sure to kind of call it out because when I came across that and then know it's like I've not heard of that in the franchise world. Scaling royalties because as an entrepreneur it makes sense to me but from a franchise or a perspective is like you're kind of just giving money away a little bit versus right. And then the way for you to continue to incentivize your franchise is like go out go get it. Well it's also a Well it's also a different mindset because we're a family run business. So I'm not building this business to sell to a private equity company or go publicly traded or anything like that. Like I'm helping to build this company because I want my daughter to take over in 20, 30 years when she's old enough to do it. So we want long term relationships with our franchise owner. So of course everyone wants to make money and we like to make money too just like the next person but we also want that long term relationship with our franchisees. Yeah, that's terrific. All right. So we're going to come back to all of that fun stuff in a second. But here we go. And time for the seventh inning stretch. right, AJ. Now is the time. We're going to get into the seventh inning stretch here. And before we kind of hit the record button was, hey do you like baseball ball? We have a lot of guests. Our current show that just released on Monday, you know, the case from Scotland. And he's like, I don't know anything about baseball. So we get all kinds. And I'm assuming all kinds. And I'm assuming you don't have any Bartman questions as I'm a Morales fan. You're a Cubs fan. fan. No, no Bartman question. Okay. So here we go. We actually, my researcher was like, hey, she thought she was on the line of a great question, a great pursuit. And then after spent about an hour into it, she's like, I just can't find anything. Cannot find. She wanted to do some kind of a question and get some hard information on signage in the But there's a ton of signage right in the ass throughout stadiums. But she's like, I cannot find anything on pricing. So there's certainly no shortage. We have opportunities to have a sign in a stadium. And then she listed all of this banner ads on walls and sidelines, ivy screens, different kinds of screens, restroom ads, on field branding, scoreboard, concourse signage. I mean, there's all kinds of stuff, right? And Cubs and cup holders and stairways. And she's like, it is, she goes, and there's no pricing. She had this great idea. Like, I'm going to what's the most expensive sign or something? You know, I ass like it. That's the beauty of our businesses because everything's custom. So the price, you know, that's something that we always discuss with our franchise owners because price is kind of up in the air. I mean, you can get it kind of a feel, but you can charge what you want. And there's some very famous signs in baseball too. I mean, like, I think of the UTS pretzel sign and Yankee Stadium. There's the, is it sit-go? The big sign that's outside of Fenway Park. Yes, yes. So that's a famous one, but that's not even in Fenway Park. They kind of cheated the system by facing it the other way, but it still kind of goes on the Fenway anyway. but that's not even in Fenway Park. They kind of cheated the system by It gets a lot of eyeballs on it. Yeah, the only thing that we could find, why I say she could find was, and I'll just throw this out because I really don't have a question. So you're getting, okay, we're getting a real softball lob to you to knock it out. The only thing that even is a relative question is, I'm going to couch it this way. What is the cost of a logo patch on a follow up questions. So is it the actual cost to advertise a logo patch on a uniform or the actual cost to uniform or the actual cost to make it star point brands wanted to put your logo patch on a Oh, And this is in MLB, baby. That's all. That's all we talk about. Okay. Cause the all. That's all we talk about. Okay. Cause the Marlins, they might be begging you just to stick it on the thing. I mean, that's what they might be doing. It I mean, that's what they might be doing. It could be an for you, right? It might be. I'm sorry. I'm so cynical about my team. I'll still watch them all, but they just, I'm just so cynical. I don't mean to be like that. But all right. long a a year? You know, actually, I don't even know what it's probably. I'm just going to guess $10 million. It's got to be a multi. It's got to be a multi year. what it's probably. I'm just going to guess $10 million. It's got to be a I'm going to guess $10 million. I don't even know the hard number. She just has written down eight figures eight figures. Okay. So, all right. Yeah. So I guess eight figures. Yeah. It's quite expensive. Yeah. So yeah, that's expensive. Yeah. Yes. So that's that's the question. Anyway. And and that was the honest seven thinning we've had for a while. Very good. There we go. Let's get back into it. Playball. Okay. So, all right. Yeah. So I guess eight figures. Yeah. It's that's expensive. Yeah. Yes. So back into it. I wanted to talk with you. And really, I think I read a quote again or somewhere. And maybe she pulled this out of a podcast. I think that you're on earlier at some point. And you have this viewpoint of your role, which is helping businesses grow and be successful. I don't know if that's a direct quote or not, but that was kind of your viewpoint. Anyway, that you were expressing. I love that as a franchise or and in your role. I mean, you're you're the top top man there. You're the top franchise or. So how do you do that? So kind of maintain that viewpoint, pursue that kind of mindset in a day to day basis. How do you do that as a CEO? Well, so it's a a go back to what I said earlier about being the best economic one of the best economic creations of our time in the world. It's because of the symbiotic relationship with it. And so if our franchise owners do really well, we make money. If the brand is really valuable and does a good job, our franchise owners make money and it works together and one can't work by itself. You got to work together and the only way you can motivate franchisees and the only way you can motivate people is to have relationships with them and to care about them and to care about their lives and what they want to do. At the end of the day, I love when I hear franchise owners tell me, hey, this business has helped me put my kids through college. This this franchise has helped me afford a great retirement. This franchise has helped me put my kids into business. And they take over for me and there's longevity there. so that's what gets me up in the morning and that's what makes me happy. And so if you don't have your that mindset, you can't be a successful franchise or I mean, my cell phone is given out to all our franchise owners. If anyone wants to talk to me, they can talk to me. can shoot me an email, shoot me a text. I have a 10 month old at home, so I don't sleep all that much. So it doesn't matter what time zone you're in. Look, that's that's the way you got to be. You got to live it. You have to be involved with it because as soon as you don't live it, then the quality starts to go down. The relationship starts to go away and you're not going to be as successful. And so, you know, when I not to digress Randy, but when I was dating my now wife, she saw me being in the franchising business. So I there was a point where we were dating for I don't know, it was like a year or something, whatever it was. I just had this conversation with her to say, look, you know, I really like you and I'd like to marry you someday, but you got to know that I'm going to travel a lot. I'm going to be very involved with our franchise owners. And this is going to be your life too. And so if you're cool with that, then great. I'm going to make me very happy. But if you're not, you're not cool with that, then we got a split. You know, we got to do our separate ways. So I'm happy she chose to stay, hang around. But that's just how serious we take it. It's just the part of our lives. good. Good advice. Good relationship advice as well. That wasn't a proposal either. That was one of either. That was one of just, hey, it's some day, it won't be a proposal. some day, it is, you know, we might as well cut it off now. I was hoping, buddy, that that was not the proposal because I'm like, that really wasn't all that romantic. I did a little, put a little more effort into it than that. So when you have a new franchisee or just somebody new in business, maybe what and kind of back to this mindset that you have, which is helping businesses grow and be successful. Are there some first kind of fundamental steps or things that you want to cover or as an overview with I'm wondering about that romantic. I did a little, put a little more effort into it Well, I mean, for each franchise, each franchise has their system. So there's a system that works. So when you look for a franchisee, you want someone who listens and follows a system. And so, and that's been proven out over years. And it's been tweaked and added to. And, you know, we adjust over the time based on what happens in the world and advice and things of that nature. So you want someone who's focused on the system. So I always point back to if something's not going right, one of two things is going wrong. Either they're not following the franchise system that we have or they're not working hard enough. There's nothing in between, right? So they're either, and again, not being, I'm not being facetious, there could be things happening in their life to not make them follow the system. Like, you know, there could be a number of different things. But usually when that, when something's going wrong, it's those two things. And so I always point back and train on, what does the system say? What does the system say? And are you doing that? So those are really the two questions that when I was in support, I would do. And that same thing when I talk to franchisee now, and it doesn't matter if the franchisee is doing a half million dollars in sales or seven million dollars in sales and everything in between, it's usually those two things. That's good. are, don't we talk about this before, but you're really a family business and goes all the way through and I'm curious. I mean, just earlier, the beginning with the introduction, talked about your uncle and your cousins all involved in the business in different parts of the portfolio. How does that work? I mean, in the sense of, well, you're already plus years, you've three generations, you got a lot of hands, a lot of opinions. Yep. How does that all kind of stay together and keep going in the right direction? I'm sure sometimes doesn't feel like it's going in the right directions. I mean, I know family dynamics and sure. How do you guys keep it all I Well, we're, it's all my dad. You get to be honest with you. It's all my dad laying the foundation and speaking truth into all of us. Like he's been very clear with me. Like you're not the president of Sinorama because you're my son. You're the president because you're working hard and you're the best person for the job. But if I cease to become the best person for Sinorama, he has your problem telling me that and firing me as well. And so there's a clear cut communication in that regard because it's not about enriching the family. It's about our franchise owners and growing the business. That's what it's about. And so that's the first thing is that my dad has laid a great foundation. The second thing is he's made as very aware of the statistics because first generation, the second generation, it's high. It's maybe 60, 70%. And I'm going to watch the numbers directly. But successful. Successful. Pass on the business continues to be successful. Second to third generation, it's probably like 20%, 15%. It goes down pretty much. Third generation, the fourth generation, you might as well buy a lottery ticket. It's like low single digits. And so the joke is the first generation works really hard, builds it. Second generation maintains it. The third generation spends all the money and the fourth generation closes it. And I hate to say it like that, but that's what the statistics tell us. And so we don't want to be a statistic and we don't want to be part of that. And we have a plan in place and my dad has done an amazing job at being clear and honest with all of us and have our mindset on the right way because of course, where there's times where we disagree and of course there's times where we might not see eye to eye on certain things, but it always goes back to, what's the best thing our franchise owners? What's the best thing for our company as a whole? And we move forward. But it's not about AJ or my brother or my cousin or ever. It's about our business as a Well, first I applaud that because I think that would still be very difficult to pull personalities out of the mix. And I'm sure your family's got a handful of personalities. And to stay focused on the overall objective of the company and success of the company and your franchise ease. And I'm probably gonna harken back because you mentioned and certainly want to give credit to your father and I understand that, and I don't have a lot of facts on this. And so I wanted your, really your insights on that. So I understand you wrote a book about your dad and the lessons Tell us about that and give us maybe a taste of some of the lessons. you Well, there's the other call to action is my books on Amazon. If you all want to read it, it's very cheap. So I'm not making a ton of money from it. It's really just to get out there. your But the book is called The List Lessons from a Father by AJ Titus. And it's on Amazon. But the story goes is my dad, he traveled a lot growing up. He traveled a lot more than even I traveled now because every trade show was out of town. And he had people all over every continent and things of that nature. But my dad took two things very seriously. When he was home, he drove us to school. And he had that time with us in the car. And then the other thing was everyone eats at the dinner table. So he was home at 6.30 almost every day. And we ate at the dinner table. And we talked. Okay. so that's where a lot of the teaching happened. And with my dad. And so one of the things he did driving to school is he made us memorize and recite what he called the list. And it was 15, 16. I wrote the book. I should know. But multiple facts on Lessons to the Bible. So like one of them is honesty. Always tell the truth. Another one is hard work. Work harder than other people. Respect. Respect other people. Dedication. Dedicate yourself to good. And we go down this and we had to memorize that. And say it back to him when we were kids. When we were eight years old, nine years old, 10 years old. And then once we've memorized it, the lesson changed from, okay, you memorized it. Now are you living by the list? Are you living by these lessons that were given you? And so going through the process of having a child and for the first time, you think about things. You didn't even think about before. Right? So one of those things is how am I going to parent my daughter? And so my best example that I have is the people who parented me. And so I thought back and I thought, you know, this is a good thing that I should share with everybody. And that's why I did it. You know, I don't, don't make any money on it. It's just one of those things where it's out there. And if you want to read it great and I gave it to our franchise owners. And if it helps someone, then that's what makes me smile. So that's the whole purpose. purpose. What a great gift to give to your father as well as well as your, your own kids, your own daughter. Yeah. Just to continue to share meaningful lessons from your father. I love it. I'm going to go check it out. The list. Yeah. The list lessons. It's a quick book. Yeah. Quick read. Yeah. Nice. So let's get in a little bit about, It's a quick book. Yeah. you mentioned some things about, you know, what makes a good franchise, the E. And I'm kind of curious because you do have all of these different brands. And I did find, no, I probably lost it. I did find the list of, of the various, of the various different franchise or groups and things that you have. probably going to say this. And this is probably a dumb question, I guess. But does a franchisee prospect in Sinorama look different than a franchisee prospect in the Mediterranean grill? I think was one of your friends. Yes. Is that right? Yes. Is that right? Yes. Yes. The answer is yes. So, I mean, each business needs different, you know, mindset behind a different skill set. What we generally find though is, you know, for instance, for Sinorama, someone has to have either sales, marketing, or management background of some, some regards. So they have to know how to manage systems and processes. They have to have an open mind. They have to have a positive attitude. But we have franchise owners between all walks of life. I mean, someone who is an operational person to a sales-minded person, but they got to hire their weakness, you know. So if they're an operational person, you got to hire a sales person. If you're more of a sales person, you got to make sure you have a strong operational person. And each brand is a little different, right? And the investment level is a little different for each brand too. So we have some brands that are more absentee ownership, where Sinorama is really not an absentee model. You have owner operator who's in the business. And so, yeah, there are definitely differences between each one, but really the attitude piece and the mindset piece stays the same. You got to be able to follow a system. You got to be able to be positive. You got to be able to be open-minded. I mean, there are some people who flat out cannot be in the franchising business. You know, and I've told people on Discovery Day tour, this might not be for you because you don't want to change everything to suit you, where we have the blueprint to move forward. And you'll have flexibility and entrepreneurial ship within the blueprint, but you got to follow the blueprint. You can't have a blueprint for a house, and then there's a canoe sitting there. But if you want to color your house blue and have a pool, and the model pooled and great, that's awesome. So have the blue or the blue. anyway, that's good. All right. So as a question. So we have a lot of small business owners listening to the podcast. That's primarily what do they need to know if they're considering franchising their Well, so number one, they should first call accurate franchising, which is one of our consulting firms that we help people turn their business into a franchise. So thank you for that plug. I didn't even know that. So yeah, so accurate franchising.com. But besides that piece, there are as I kind of alluded to earlier, there's a lot of legal, legal ease in franchising. And so the FTC and whatnot, you have to have a franchise disclosure document and all that fun stuff. And so that's something to keep in mind. But before you even get to the legal side, the things I would be asking myself is number one, is this a replicable model? So franchising is successful over many states and many countries. So is this something that is widely replicable? The first thing, number two, do you have a written down system? Or is this just all in your brain? Would the business completely fall apart if you got hit by a bus? Or can this be written down and passed to someone and talked to someone else? And then number three, I would say is are these products and services? You know, can you get these to these different places? So like, you know, there might be a regional thing. Like, for instance, I married a Texan. So the girl I told that was going to be in franchising. She's a Texan. And so they eat things called collaches in Texas. I had no idea what the hell that was. A collache. Okay. I since now know what it is and it's delicious. But if you rolled out collaches in South Florida, people would think you are nuts. Now, again, I'll eat my own words because there are many brands that have done a great job in rolling things out in other countries and areas that was never there before. But in the same breath, is this something that is easily explainable? So anyway, I didn't even know that. that's good. I know what collaches are. You are. Okay. I think I know what it is now. Cleveland even. So here we are. We're going to roll into the bottom of the ninth. And generally we have a kind of a set question in regards to the bottom of the ninth when we ask for your advice for those starting out in business or maybe already are in business. But I'm going to fine tune the question a little bit closer to your niche here, which is, are. Okay. I think I know what it is now. you have any tips or advice you can give to entrepreneurs thinking about getting into franchising? So that's a good question. I mean, big things for me is you want to know the people you're going into business with because this is a partner type of partnership. It's not a true partnership, but it is a type of partnership. And so where the brand goes really is where your business will go. Even if you run the system the right way and you work really hard, the brand as a whole, if they're growing and successful, it's really going to determine a lot of your success. So, you know, number one is the franchise been around for a long time. Do they have that longevity, that history of success? Number two, who are the business partners, the businesses, the people in charge? So is it a family run business like us? Do they have the same owners for 10 or more years? Is this a stable ownership group or is just as being passed to different people? And is it an industry that you're excited about? There's a lot of great businesses and a lot of great franchises and a lot of great industries. Is this something that you're excited about because again, like I tell this franchise prospects all the time because they're all about making money, making money, making money. And that's great. Again, as I said, everyone should want to make money. We're a capitalistic world, making money is not a bad thing. It's not a dirty thing. Okay. But you got to enjoy what you do. You got to enjoy waking up in the morning and you got to enjoy going into work and you got to enjoy being passionate about the products you sell. And so are you going to be passionate about flipping burgers? Are you going to be passionate about helping people grow their businesses, what sign around with this? And so again, that's my spin on it. But again, some people aren't passionate about signs and that's fine. That's no problem. I want people who are passionate about the business, right? And so those are the things I would say from a franchising what you're looking at. at. Yeah. Oh, good advice. Good advice. How about just in general, because I still want to get that, yeah, so it's such great experience and you see all different types of businesses and operators. What advice though do you have just in general, not kind of taking out the model of franchise, but just advice in the general work hard. There's no such thing as luck. I mean, at the end of the day, I Hey, there is let me take a step back. at the end of the day, I'm going to be a I definitely would sit here and say, I'm extremely lucky to be born to the family that I was born to and have the mentors around me that I have mentored me and helped me. But in the same breath, I have also worked very hard and I've earned it. Same thing with everyone listening to this podcast. There's some things you're going to be lucky about. There's some things you're not going to be lucky about, but you can choose how you can react to that luck and create your own luck in a lot of ways. So the people who grind and work really hard, they're usually successful. Now there's more nuance to that, okay? But at the end of the day, it's really, are you working hard? Are you passionate about what you're doing and do you want to make a difference? Because I tell our franchise owners all the time, hey, you think if you don't think you're making a difference by selling signs, you're wrong. You're making a huge difference in your community. And there's a ton of people who have helped people become entrepreneurs with sign and graphics and have donated to nonprofits and have done things to make a difference. And so, you know, care, work hard, make a difference, and you'll be successful. Yeah, yeah. I love it. That's great advice too. And I love, wish I knew who said this quote, but I think it dovetails directly with what you said is something like luck or success is when preparation, substitute, hard work meets opportunity. And I think, you know, what you stated as well, just really just echoes that same sentiment. So listen, AJ, thanks for being on the show. It's been great to get to know you and understand our point brands and folks, you can go check out the show notes. We will have a link where you can get in touch with AJ if you'd like. Talk to him more about business, about family business, about franchising. And start point brands.com. Well, also I have a link to his book. I'm going to go check that out. That'll be fun. And yeah, it's just been fun having you on the show. Appreciate Randy, the pleasure has been mine. I really appreciate the conversation. yeah. All right. Hey folks, that's the ball game. Thanks for joining us today. And if you like our show, please tell your friends, subscribe and review. And we'll see you around the ballpark. Joining the bases with small businesses is brought to you by 38 digital market. A digital marketing agency committed to client growth with lead generation, higher conversions and increased sales. Connect