Most people would love getting paid to sit around all day in a cushy office drinking coffee while they worked.
Mario Alcorta couldn't stand it.
So he traded his comfortable corporate job at a San Antonio lighting fixture company for the frenzied, physically demanding pace of a Church's Chicken franchise in an Oklahoma City suburb.
"You might think it's all right," says Mr. Alcorta, referring to his more sedentary job, "but it's not healthy. I used to have three phones, two secretaries, and three coffeepots. It gets to you because you spend eight hours sitting down."
So in 1978, Mr. Alcorta took a job as a manager trainee at a Church's Chicken in San Antonio, eventually taking control of a high-volume store with 22 employees. One day a man from Church's corporate headquarters told him about a program to help managers purchase franchises.
Mr. Alcorta, who grew up in Texas 90 miles from the Mexico border, couldn't believe that someone from a poor family would be given an opportunity to own a store affiliated with a large corporation.
It took six years for Mr. Alcorta to save the $30,000 needed to buy a franchise. He decided on a store in The Village, population 8,500, because it had a drive-through window and was near an affluent Oklahoma City neighborhood. He signed the papers to purchase the store in 1988.
Gross sales have since tripled, climbing from $14,000 for a four-week period in 1988 to $42,000 in 1999. The difference? Efficiency and personal attention. Before he took over, customers often had to wait while employees dawdled, and the manager who preceded him often hid behind his office door. Mr. Alcorta had the door removed and went to work serving customers as quickly as possible.
"They laugh at me when I say I represent three employees," says the 62-year-old, who claims to be able to outwork any of his eight employees. "If you show that you can outwork them, then they respect that."
They also feel better having a manager on-site. "When you're here they feel safe," he says. "They feel as if their dad's there."
The same could be said for franchise owners, who benefit from Church's name, advertising, and expertise, Mr. Alcorta says. "It's a lot easier to do it this way than on your own, because if you run into trouble you can always ask for help and they're right there."
Mr. Alcorta says the hardest part of the business is losing someone you've trained. Selling chicken is the best part.
"My drive-through fits five cars, and when they're moving and when you see them driving out with those big bags in the car, it makes you feel good," he says.
– Scott Williams
Business: Quick-service restaurants featuring fried chicken and related foods
Date established: 1952
Number of franchises: 1003 (687 in the United States, 316 internationally) along with 489 company-owned restaurants
Total annual revenues: $815 million
Requirements: $400,000 net worth; $200,000 liquid assets
Where available: Across the United States and internationally
Contact: New Business Development Division
Web site: www.churchs.com
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