Casey Furtado Of Apex Leadership: Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Opening a Franchise

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Be willing to see losses as growth opportunities. I still take loss of customers hard, but much less these days as I try to see it as a growth opportunity in a growth mindset.

The world of franchising offers a unique blend of entrepreneurship and established business models. However, navigating the franchise landscape can be daunting, especially for those embarking on this journey for the first time. There are lessons to be learned, pitfalls to avoid, and success stories to be inspired by. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Casey Furtado.

Casey is a former elementary and middle school teacher that had no plans of ever becoming a business owner. But that all changed when a friend of his introduced him to Apex Leadership Company and invited him out to one of the brand’s school fundraiser events. Casey was blown away about the unique fundraising program Apex brings to schools that also teaches leadership lessons to students as well as the business opportunity it presented. He made the move to leave his profession of teaching and become a full-time owner of Apex Leadership Company in San Diego in 2013. Since then, he’s expanded ownership to 5 more Apex territories in California and has helped over 150 schools raise thousands of dollars.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about succession, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

As I am sure all of us can relate, my journey has been interesting and fun. After graduating from Point Loma Nazarene University, I traveled abroad to Taiwan to teach English as a Second Language. After an amazing year and a new inspiration to teach, I returned to California and found my way into teaching. I was at the K-8th level for several years before Apex finding me! One of my best buddies and life champions, Tim Kruge, met the owner of Apex at a Leadership Event (networking is key) and introduced me shortly thereafter. After a long due diligence period, I took on the journey with my Partner’s Kim and Jason Freid. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life and I am so thankful for life leading me correctly into my passion.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

We work with schools and young kids teaching them leadership lessons and putting on a fitness day! You can only imagine all the heartwarming stories we’ve had over the years. The one that sticks out from a few years back was a young girl in 3rd grade who unfortunately had to miss the main event due to series health treatments. This was shortly thereafter Covid, so we were getting back to Live/In person Running Events. Our amazing Team Lead, Round Off Rachel, coordinated with her mom to meet them at the hospital to teach the leadership lesson to her live while her classmates got to watch the lesson via zoom. The young girl was overjoyed to be a part of the program and our Team Lead was so encouraged to be a part of her healing journey.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

The four agreements has been an annual read for the last number of years, and I adore all of the concepts in that book. The one that sticks out the most now is “Don’t take anything personally”!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Aside from the Loud Orange & Blue Colors (haha), it’s always been about our people! We have a very interesting job offering that speaks to a small, amazing group of individuals. We ask them to be coaches, teachers, mentors and counselors! And they show up and change lives. They carry a heavy burden of raising over $100,000 (at some schools) all while teaching lessons from their heart on character development.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What factors did you consider when selecting your franchise, and how did you determine it was the right fit for you?

Due Diligence on cash flow, growth potential, and the cost of client acquisition are several factors in my line of work that matter in determining the right fit. Outside of those traditional items, I think it’s important to “know thyself”! Passions and motivations increase and decrease over time, but it you have a solid belief and core value setup, it’s easier to push through the tough times. I’d highly recommend having or finding an initial passion for your business.

Can you share a significant challenge you faced while establishing your franchise? How did you overcome this obstacle, and what did this experience teach you about running a successful franchise?

Yes! I wasn’t going to jump in based on my lack of sales experience. With Apex, we have a high focus on Leadership Development, Student Character Courses and Fundraising. All of those I knew I could be successful at! However, as a new owner you have to sell, market and book programs, and I was lacking in that experience, and the most likely situation played itself out, I found an amazing partner that had different skillsets that I.

Looking back to when you first started your franchise, what was one aspect that completely took you by surprise? This could be related to the franchising process, customer interactions, or day-to-day management that you hadn’t anticipated.

Referencing the above answer, one of the most surprising parts of my journey has been my desire to continue the partnership. As most do, we planned an exit plan for the partnership, thinking we wouldn’t want to be anchored forever as we grow as a company. The exact opposite happened! We “broke up amicable” for one year and quickly decided that we are better together. It’s been 12 years now of great co-ownership.

In hindsight, what advice would you give to potential franchisees about selecting a franchise that aligns with their personal and professional goals?

Yah, I’d be aware of two items. How long and how much effort does it take to start hitting your financial goals and do you have that runway? Second, have an exit plan or at least have an ending strategy. Even if it changes, that seems to set the course well.

How do you balance adhering to the established systems of your franchise with the need to innovate and adapt to your local market? Can you provide an example of a successful adaptation or innovation you implemented in your franchise?

Powerful question and kudos to our owners. They provide the basic system to perform well while giving us a long leash on adaptation and innovation (that leash gets longer with success). For those who are producing a healthy return, our company is willing to allow creative innovation. For us in San Diego and the Bay Area, we’ve molded to our client base with how we teach our lesson (virtually, video or live) based on what communities are desiring.

What are your “Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Opening a Franchise”?

1 . People are everything! Be very careful who you hire. Hiring and firing has been one of the hardest parts of our business and one of the most rewarding as well. We’ve hired folks and watch them grow into leaders with passion, grace and respect for their co-workers, our employees and our business. At some point, you will have to be creative with how you get them to stay. We used profit sharing.

2 . Be willing to see losses as growth opportunities. I still take loss of customers hard, but much less these days as I try to see it as a growth opportunity in a growth mindset.

3 . Exit Plan! As I mentioned above, developing your exit plan will guide your ship. If you want to sell after 5 years, knowing that will help you build in a way that get’s you to that point. If you want to keep your business and have a different succession plan, building the framework for that early on can be very effective.

4 . Be mindful of unforeseen fees. My partners, Jason and Kim, and I seem to be more conservative about finances and always plan to have extra in case of unforeseen issues. It’s been extremely helpful to have cash when needed. Cash flow is king.

5 . Remember you are most likely better working on your business, not IN your business. Getting myself out of the day-to-day service grind of my business and into a more visionary role has been a massive lifestyle improvement. The only caveat is you need growth and scale to afford managers, so have a growth mindset.

As your franchise has grown, what have been the key drivers of its success? Looking forward, what strategies do you plan to implement to ensure continued growth and sustainability in an ever-evolving market?

Good question! I am repeating myself now but hiring is my #1! If you hire well, you tend to have less issues. If you hire well, you have people who want more responsibility. If you hire well, you have people who care about your success as it impacts them. If you hire well, arguments/hard conversations are peaceful and mutually beneficial. I highly recommend spending extra time on finding the best person available.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

Cash, personnel issues and angry customers are my stressors!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think more small loans for budding entrepreneurs! Get these young minds into financing that can help them grow.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Instagram @ caseyfurtado and LinkedIn @caseyfurtado

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.