Robin Buckson / The Detroit News
Ex-sales chief's franchise buys 'quality of life'
A former Compuware boss starts battery shops that eliminate his worry about being laid off.
Brian O'Connor / The Detroit News
Why would a successful business executive up and quit to take on the uncertainty and risk that comes with owning and running his own business?
For the security.
"Wanting to run my own show wasn't about ego as much as financial security," says Rob Brunhild, who left a job as a technology sales director to run a franchised battery store with his brother.
"Working in corporate America I had seen over and over that there's no loyalty anymore," the 45-year-old West Bloomfield man says.
"It doesn't matter how good you are, you can be downsized, outsourced and laid off, and as you get older that becomes a more frightening prospect."
"It was right in the middle of the 'star wars' programs and the aerospace companies were offering a ton of money for electrical engineers," he recalls.
He went to Hughes Aircraft, which soon was acquired by General Motors Corp., and Brunhild did some work on GM anti-lock braking systems. After getting married, he and his wife, a Michigan native, were in Florida for several years, where he worked on early Internet start-ups.
After working his way up through the project management ranks, Brunhild moved into sales and eventually became a sales director, overseeing about 150 employees at the firm.
"I've seen people at 50 whose divisions were sold off or cut, and at that age it was hard for them to find something, especially at the salary they were looking for," Brunhild says. "I thought, 'I'm in my mid-40s, so if I'm going to do it, I have to do it now."
Brunhild also wanted to get out of the technology field, so he decided to look at franchise opportunities. After reviewing several, he was surprised to find his brother was considering the same move and was interested in the same franchise -- BatteriesPlus, which sells more than 12,000 types of batteries and related products, both in stores and on a commercial basis.
"I decided that if I'm going into a business that I don't really know, I needed a franchise," he says.
Brunhild left Compuware in February. The brothers have opened a Farmington Hills store, have business-to-business distribution going and signed a lease for a Plymouth store.
"The biggest stumbling block is money and how to live without income," he says. "Our revenue is right on track with our projections, but our costs are higher."
Another focus is on learning all aspects of the new business.
"You don't know what you don't know," he says. "You've got to learn fast, especially on the commercial side."
"Make sure you're well-capitalized," he says. "This takes two or three hundred thousand per store to open, and if you want to do a multistore deal you have to have real good sources of capital."
Another point he stresses is that a franchise business is more about security than huge financial gains.
"I'm not going to become a real rich man doing this, but at the same time, my risk is significantly lower," Brunhild says. "I know this is a model that works."
Another plus is the independence that comes from owning your own operations, he adds.
"You don't do this just for financial gain. It's the quality of life. It's the ability to figure out what I want to do when I hit 60 and 65 and not have someone else tell me what I'm going to do when I hit 60 and 65," Brunhild says. "That's what I'm buying in this."
You can reach Brian O'Connor at (313) 222-2145 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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