Bill Allen joined the military straight out of high school at 19 years old when many jobs would not provide him with enough money to support his wife and child. After serving for four years as an avionics instrumentation systems specialist, Bill entered civilian life with the hopes of becoming a commercial airline technician, but ended up holding various technical and sales positions instead. Like many military men and women, Bill craved something more, something he could have more control over. He decided he wanted to own his own business – and, with the management skills and attention to detail he learned while serving, he knew he could make it happen.
Instant Imprints helps businesses, schools, organizations, groups, and individuals promote themselves. The company has revolutionized the promotional products industry by combining multiple businesses (screen printing, embroidery, wide format printing, heat transfers, and promotional products) into one efficient business model.
MO: What inspired you to purchase and Instant Imprints franchise?
Bill: After 11 years as a director of sales for a software company, I was told my job my end 18 months down the road. Frankly, I had been spoiled. I had a great job that allowed me to work from home, travel to work with my sales team basically when and where I wanted to travel, and had most weekends free. If that job was going to end, I did not want to go back into the corporate world where I would have to go into an office every day so we decided to look into opening our own business.
MO: Can you talk about the process of combining multiple businesses into one business model? What did your development process look like?
Bill: Well, this is actually a franchise model that was created by the franchisor. It does allow us to service all small business marketing needs from business cards, to corporate apparel, signs, banners and promotional products. The goal was to be able to provide local small and medium size businesses, schools, organizations and individual consumers with the ability to order everything they need to market themselves, from one supplier.
MO: What skills did you acquire in the military that were most transferrable to developing your own business?
Bill: A great work ethic and self- discipline! Owning a small business is hard work. The success or failure is all on you. No one else is going to step in and open the doors every day, greet the customers, fill the orders and make sure the customers are 100% satisfied. You can hire great people, and we do, however, it still falls on your shoulders to make sure everything goes well.
MO: Have you always had an entrepreneurial streak?
Bill: I think so. One of my earliest jobs was as a retail clerk in a men’s tie shop. I was 17 at the time and really enjoyed working with the public.
MO: Did you start the company with the intention of franchising it or did the idea evolve after you had launched Instant Imprints?
Bill: Again, I did not develop this franchise model. I merely bought into it as a franchise owner and Area Developer (I own the rights to sell the franchises to other potential franchisees in Missouri and Illinois).
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Bill: Professionally speaking, I currently own 2 Instant Imprints franchises and sales are on the increase. 2011 sales were up 52% at one store and 22% at my other store over 2010. So far this year, we are up 28% at one and 5% at the other. I also have a couple people very interested in purchasing Instant Imprints franchises in Missouri. Those are both very exciting to me.
Personally, we have 3 daughters and 5 grandchildren. Watching them grow up and make their own career decisions, decisions on where to go to school and what sports or activities to participate in keeps us running and excited.
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