Understanding your competitors is one key to success

Before moving to the United States, I spent nearly three decades working in sales and marketing for the Venezuelan chemical and logistics industry. As the economic and political turmoil in this country grew worse, my business partner, Ramon Heredia,  and I left our jobs and relocated to South Florida.

With experience only in the chemical world, I hit the pavement looking for entrepreneurial ventures, exploring restaurants, retail and a variety of B2B brands before discovering PostNet, which appealed most to me because of my business background.

PostNet is a national franchise with nearly 700 locations across 10 countries, with 15 locations across Florida, and provides a range of services: graphic design, full-service digital printing, direct mail, signage, document binding and finishing and ancillary business services, like private mailbox rental.

With Ramon, I decided to buy an existing PostNet center in Coral Springs, Florida, in February 2016. The store was struggling and sales were down, and many people advised us not to take the risk.

To us, it wasn’t a risk, it was a challenge — a way for us to understand and train the staff to do whatever was needed for the store succeed, and to position us for future growth.

So, I spent the first several days sitting in the store’s parking lot, observing the type of clientele that were walking around. I watched how the previous owners worked, how the staff was trained and studied what the community demographics were like.

I strategically approached both the B2C and the B2B aspects of the business and began proactively managing clients, offering suggestions or additional services that would exceed their expectations. We found success through email marketing, networking, getting involved with the community, and most importantly, understanding the competitive landscape.

The first day we opened our doors, a customer came in with a request that we had no idea how to fulfill. We immediately turned to PostNet headquarters for help. That is one of the benefits of being a franchise owner is you have strong support and resources from the franchisor and fellow franchisees. So, while you do have to have some understanding of the business world, you have help.

You also have to create a welcoming environment for the consumers. My trick? A cinnamon and spice air freshener. It reminds people of Christmas. Everyone loves Christmas.

The improvements we brought to their PostNet center in Coral Springs resulted in the best sales numbers that location had seen in six years. We just recently opened a second PostNet center in Lauderhill in August, and have plans to open two more PostNet franchises in the region.

“Apolonio and Ramon’s combined experience and unwavering work ethic, coupled with the strong operational team they have assembled, has been instrumental to their success,” said Steve Greenbaum, co-founder and CEO of PostNet. “Not to mention, they have a strong passion for the brand and its purpose – to help others succeed. The sky is the limit for these two. We look forward to seeing great things from them in the future.”

Apolonio Cedeno is the PostNet franchise co-owner with Ramon Heredia. Visit www.postnetfranchise.com.