Dan Lowe of PayMore: Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Opening a Franchise

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Franchisors get paid off top line sales creating very different points of focus compared to franchisees. Most franchisors focus on sales volume and not profitability. They will run promotions disguised as sales building with steep discounts that decrease profitability but drive topline sales.

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 Dan Lowe of PayMore.

For nearly 30 years, Dan Lowe has been an investor and entrepreneur in franchise businesses. From his high school days working in a restaurant, Lowe always knew he wanted to be a manager of his own business and he found the fastest path to doing so was through franchising. In the course of his franchising journey, Lowe operated nearly 40 combined Domino’s Pizza and Firehouse Subs locations. Spending that much time in the restaurant business, Lowe took what he learned about franchising to invest in PayMore, the nation’s leading franchise retailer for buying, selling, and trading electronics. Now, Lowe is partly responsible for PayMore’s explosive nationwide growth, upgrading his original deal to now owning nearly 40 locations of the fastest-growing electronics franchise.

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?

Back in high school, I worked at a pizza shop. Standard growing up theme: I needed to make some pocket money, but when I saw how much general managers (GMs) were making managing pizza stores, that drove me to become a GM and ultimately an owner. Not a lot of people get to stick with what they wanted to do when they were a kid, but I knew from a young age that working your way up and owning your own business was a path toward success. So, I stayed the course and ended up as a GM and then operator of nearly 40 Domino’s Pizza and Firehouse Subs locations, and now almost 40 PayMore stores.

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

There are a few moments that stand out to me that I’ll never forget. We had a car drive into the lobby of one of our Firehouse locations, thankfully the driver was ok, but our storefront was not. In DC, we delivered subs to Capitol Hill and we had to run every single sandwich through the metal detectors. That was pretty surreal, even lunch has issues with the security line delays. One day I’ll never forget is the one where I met my wife at one of the first pizza stores I worked at. Now we own stores together and I wouldn’t trade my life for the world.

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

“Always do more than is expected of you.” I tell all my new hires that if they hope to get ahead in life, they should always do more than what is expected of them. In a world where the majority of people just look to do the bare minimum and do what they can to just get by, if you live by this advice, you will stick out like a sore thumb. This advice was given to me early on and proved to be spot on as I earned my first GM position by the age of 19. Half my staff at that time was more than twice my age, but I was recognized as a capable leader because I was passionate and went above and beyond. You’ll find yourself in the lull of life if you don’t try to make it better for yourself.

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

There is nothing else like PayMore right now, no national brands do what we do. We’re changing the landscape of not just the technology resale business, but the entire resale business in general. A lot of people become afraid of buying used electronics in fear of getting scammed or receiving a broken item. PayMore is invested in technology and the future of secured transactions. Our founders developed an incredible franchise system that allows us to buy, sell, trade, recycle, and resell anything from computers, laptops, and phones to video game consoles, remotes, and more. Safer than ever before, we’re trained to wipe devices to ensure safe transactions faster than everyone.

While the company’s main goal is to make the resale industry more safe, efficient, and reliable, one of its main tenants that I’m excited about too is its care for recycling. With the partnerships in place, we’re a hub to recycle devices in an environmentally safe way as well. Our founders believe in that, and so do we as franchisees. We can help take thousands of pounds of unused electronic devices out of the ground and the oceans.

I’ve upgraded from 5 units to 35 because of how quickly we’ve found success. Technology isn’t going away any time soon and upgrades are inevitable. PayMore will be a staple in many communities soon and I’m excited to be helping kickstart the business’s growth.

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?

As few employees as possible. In fact, we were looking for businesses that didn’t require any employees at all. We wanted to keep things tight and be as successful as possible with a small circle. Once learning a little more about PayMore, we decided to move forward even though it still require employees. The employee count is still small, the processes allow us to train and turnaround quickly, and the model of the business sticks out for its simplicity and its potential for a quick profit with a minimal cash injection at the start.

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?

With any new brand, real estate can be a challenge. Landlords don’t want to take a chance on an unknown or smaller brand. Thankfully, our prior business experience and the lack of competitors has made this much easier than previous ventures. We watched as it took years for some to find suitable real estate in former concepts.

When it comes to overcoming this, it’s about selling yourself as well as the business you’ve invested in. It might take some time, but when you find a location that you know works best or a location that might take some extra effort to make it be its best, you have to be invested in yourself and your business. To be a successful entrepreneur anyway, you have to be able to work with what you’ve got to succeed. How you treat people, how hard you work, and how confident you are all have a significant impact on how a landlord, and even customers, view you as an owner.

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.

The love our employees have for the job. Most of them seem to truly enjoy their employment and what we do at PayMore. They love playing with all the tech and seeing all the cool devices that come in each day, you truly might find video game relics or the latest and greatest computer that just wasn’t working for someone. They get a kick out of that and I get a kick out of them enjoying what we do. Coming from the restaurant industry where I would say the majority disliked their job and only held on to it because they didn’t have any other choice.

There are always black sheep no matter where you go, but it just seemed like in the restaurant industry, it was a revolving door of employees. PayMore is still young, but the passion and enjoyment are there from the get-go.

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

Pick something you enjoy. The more you enjoy it, the more you will be there ensuring your own success. Don’t pick something you feel you might like or don’t know anything about. Again, some people find their success that way, but from my experience, if you’re not fully invested into something that you enjoy where you can proudly wear your heart on your sleeve about providing stellar service or products for your community, you won’t succeed.

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?

  • Our franchisor is encouraging innovation and new ideas, we are lucky to have such forward thinkers leading the charge. We have already asked for numerous changes that have been implemented by the franchisor, which doesn’t happen in the franchise world. For example, we have an interconnected online inventory with our other stores. We’re able to make money from home as a unified PayMore team if another store is able to help out. The founders are always looking for new ways to connect us and ensure our successes.
  • From my experience, most franchisors are very arrogant and believe they have already found the best way to do things and don’t want to listen to the franchisees, let alone actually implement their ideas. What’s worse is when you make a suggestion and then the franchisor claims it as their own and takes the credit. That doesn’t happen here.
  • I feel PayMore respects me, my opinion, and the opinions of my fellow franchisees. They’re invested in their business and their services, but they’re also invested in us. That’s different.

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

1. Franchisors get paid off top line sales creating very different points of focus compared to franchisees. Most franchisors focus on sales volume and not profitability. They will run promotions disguised as sales building with steep discounts that decrease profitability but drive topline sales.

2. SNO — Sold not open. Franchises with large numbers of SNO are a huge red flag. Do your research, don’t invest your money carelessly in a fad business. Make sure the business has open stores with proven concepts, not inflated numbers about signed deals that lack open stores.

3. Your agreements matter more than you realize. This goes for franchise agreements, lease agreements, organizational documents, really any agreement you sign. You should always have an attorney, and a good one at that, to go through every agreement you sign. As simple as some may be, they can and will come back and bite you if you don’t have a thorough understanding of what you’ve signed. The only thing that matters is what is in the agreement, make sure you and your business partners understand every word of it.

4. How hard it can be to find retail space. In the last franchise I was with, I severely underestimated how difficult it was going to be to find retail space. When you are new coming in you see all these vacant spaces everywhere, you have no idea how exclusivity will keep you out of centers. Do your research, be smart about it, but as I said before, there’s an element of working with what you have and finding the best possible location for your business. It may take a long time or not, but make sure you’re not throwing darts at a map.

5. How landlords and banks will hold you personally liable for your loans and leases. Even though you may form a corporation or an LLC, both will still require you to sign personal guarantees, at least until your business grows to a significant enough size where they can go directly after the company. It’s your signature, how you handle your business, and your ability to pay it back. You can’t go crying to your franchisor every time the landlords and banks get on you. This is extremely important to be on top of.

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?

  • A sound business model that was developed over a decade before the franchisor started franchising. Waiting as long as they did flushed out a lot of issues that they had to deal with and learn from, making our lives easier by the time they did open up for franchising.
  • I want to keep evolving and finding new paths of growth for buying and selling as our founders are already doing. Like I said before, technology isn’t going away and neither are our old devices. It’ll be important to have PayMore stores as long as there’s technology in this world.

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?

We try to do business in states favorable to businesses. Being your own boss and in business for yourself in my opinion is what makes this country the best in the world. The more government tries to involve itself in the day-to-day business of everyone is a fear of mine. I want to be my own boss; this is my way of doing it. The freedom of owning a business shouldn’t change when new people get elected every few years.

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. 🙂

Stop working for other people. The societal plan of graduate high school, go to college, work 9 to 5 for 40–50 years, invest in IRAs and 401ks is broken; it doesn’t work. Look within your own family and I am sure you will find plenty of examples: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. How many have retired with enough money to do all things they have been dreaming of? Even though they followed the societal plan, I would bet there are a lot more stories of just scraping by then living comfortably throughout their golden years. If you truly want to retire one day and have enough money to do all the things you never had time for while working, you have to get out on your own and build businesses. Not just one business, but several. Business for cashflow, real estate for growth.

How can our readers further follow you online?

I’m not a social media guy myself, but if you wanted to help grow PayMore, it would be great if you followed their social media and website to learn more about the business. It might even inspire you to open your own PayMore store in your community. You can find all of that at paymore.com.

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.