Thriving in Franchising After Leaving Corporate America
Franchisee Profile of Fred and Lorraine Pierson
Showhomes Franchisees, Raleigh NC
Fred Pierson’s path to entrepreneurship was anything but linear. Before becoming a Showhomes Home Staging franchise owner in Raleigh, N.C., Fred Pierson had two different corporate careers.
In college, Pierson earned a degree in aviation management and went on to manage corporate jet facilities across the United States. Due to the nature of his work, he and his wife, Lorraine, moved frequently. After years of packing and unpacking, Fred, Lorraine and their young children settled in North Carolina and Fred left the aviation industry and his first corporate career.
Fred then joined Starwood Hotels and Resorts. He felt that “hospitality was similar in nature” to his aviation work. For the next decade, Pierson worked his way up the corporate ladder, eventually earning the title of General Manager. As the economy contracted during the Great Recession, Fred returned to work for a competitor at half the compensation of what he had been making.
“After doing corporate work for 25 years, my wife and I felt it was time to start working for ourselves,” says Pierson. “In life, opportunities present themselves occasionally, but what really made Showhomes the right opportunity for us was the timing,” he explains.
As luck would have it, a good friend of Fred’s was starting her own mortgage brokerage firm around the same time as his departure from the hospitality industry. Due to her encouragement, Fred became a national and state licensed mortgage loan officer — passing both tests on his first try.
“Old dogs can learn new tricks!” he says.
Working as a mortgage officer was very interesting to Pierson, though he soon realized it could put a strain on his relationships with friends.
“I refused to sacrifice my relationships with people to originate loans,” Pierson explains, “As such, my wife and I looked at opportunities that would provide me with a pipeline of loans without pushing me to use my personal contacts.”
A good friend led the Pierson’s to Showhomes, a business model they felt they would use as an “ancillary feeder” to his mortgage business that catered to those relocating to the Raleigh area. “We quickly saw that the opportunities with Showhomes were far greater than within the mortgage business,” says Fred. “In a short period of time we saw impressive results that allowed us to walk away from the mortgage side of things and focus on Showhomes.”
The Pierson’s ultimately chose Showhomes over other franchise opportunities because it played to the couples’ talents. Lorraine enjoyed interior design and, as a byproduct of Fred’s aviation management days, was adept at staging houses and making them feel like homes. Fred, a self-described “turnaround specialist for companies,” easily brought in new business.
“Technically no one does what we do on a national level with the level of support and national branding that Showhomes offers,” Pierson says.
On what to expect when becoming a Showhomes franchisee Fred says, “You’re buying the right to a territory and what you do with that territory and how you manage it effectively is up to you.
As franchisees, Fred and Lorraine have learned a considerable amount about real estate and the effect staging has on the buying and selling process. The number one challenge to Showhomes as a business model, according to Fred, is demonstrating the value of a staged home to both the seller and to the realtor. “Showhomes is here to stage, maintain, manage and protect your home. My job is to make someone fall in love with your home; it’s the Realtor’s job to find a buyer”.
With experiencing close to a 70-percent success rate of having homes sell within 90 days of being staged, the Pierson’s feel that the human elements—leaving slippers by the bed, The Wall Street Journal near the coffee maker– clearly make a difference and bring a human touch.
“To be successful it helps to be well-rounded and most people, because of their corporate careers, are specialists in a particular area, like sales, operations, or administrative. For this reason, it works best with a great team, similar to myself and my wife Lorraine.”
“I take great satisfaction in explaining Showhomes to business principals,” says Fred, “Smart people right away say, ‘That’s an amazing business model!’” say, ‘That’s an amazing business model.’”