Franchising Today - Summer 2016 - 72

WILD BIRDS UNLIMITED

baths, bird watching supplies and
accessories. The franchise includes
298 locations across the United
States and Canada, mostly run by
single-store owners.
The owner-operator model has
been a part of Wild Birds Unlimited
since its beginning. In 1981, Carpenter
was unemployed and couldn't find a
job he liked. So, he created his own job
when he opened the first Wild Birds
Unlimited store in Indianapolis. "I
liked to feed the birds," he explains. "I
had a few thousand dollars and found
a cheap place to rent."
Carpenter didn't start out thinking his single store would someday
morph into a national brand. About a
year after opening, a customer came
into the shop and asked how he could
open a store like Carpenter's. Carpenter told the customer to come back in
six months and they would talk about
franchising. The first Wild Birds Unlimited franchise location opened in
1983 and more prospective franchisees soon began to contact Carpenter.
The company's franchising operation grew slowly for the first several
years, adding about five stores annually. The original Wild Birds Unlimited shop was still small itself, and
Carpenter wasn't focusing on the
franchising operation. But as more
people contacted him about opening
their own stores, he realized the company's potential. "The farther out we
went, the more word got out that this
was an opportunity and the more people wanted to own it," Carpenter says.
Paul Picket, now the chief development officer, was the company's first
full-time employee, and Carpenter's
assistant, Sue Hernandez, soon followed. Pat Perkinson, now the COO
and executive vice president, was
hired in 1995 to coach new franchisees
and train field staff.
72

franchising-today.com

SUMMER 2016

Wild Birds Unlimited says it is important
to create an energizing environment that
fosters long-term customer relationships.

BECOMING ENTERPRISE LEADERS
Even as he surrounded himself with
talented employees, Carpenter still
didn't really know how to grow a franchise system. For Wild Birds Unlimited to expand, he knew he needed
to better understand how successful
franchises operated. Carpenter began attending franchising seminars
through Inc. Magazine and reached
out to a mentoring group in Indianapolis co-founded by Dr. William
Haeberle, a retired professor at Indiana University's Kelley School of
Business. Haeberle helped Carpenter
form an advisory board for Wild Birds
Unlimited that is still in place today.
Carpenter learned that it was not
enough for prospective franchisees
to have a passion for birds; they must
also be willing to delegate the business's operation and become enterprise leaders. It completely changed
the kind of person Wild Birds Unlimited was looking to partner with. "I
still want the passion for the hobby of

bird feeding, but you also have to have
the passion for growing a company,"
Carpenter says.
Many franchise owners come to
Wild Birds Unlimited from other
business or occupation backgrounds.
Most have not previously owned their
own business and don't have professional staff in place. "We're pretty
much taking someone who may have
major skills in whatever they did in
their prior life...to teach them how to
be retailers is a new thing."
To conduct that training, Wild
Birds Unlimited uses a system called
Online WBU Learning, appropriately
shortened to OWL. Franchise owners
can utilize OWL to train staff on customer-facing jobs. The system tracks
who has taken each course and tracks
their results so the store owner and
corporate can receive feedback on the
training and ensure staff is learning
the necessary skills. "Every year more
and more stores are using it with their
staff," Carpenter says. The company


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Franchising Today - Summer 2016

Contents
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Franchising Today - Summer 2016 - Cover2
Franchising Today - Summer 2016 - 1
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