Mike Lutey was our very first Special Strong franchisee. His long history with the special needs community and desire to be doing more rewarding work made him a natural fit to join our team. You can find him at Special Strong of Southeast Houston.
Tell me a bit about yourself – what does your background look like?
I had been in the corporate world for a while. Most recently, I was the VP of a company where I managed sales teams, did marketing, oversaw accounting meetings, and did that type of work.
How did you end up here? Why did you pick Special Strong?
I have a sister with Down syndrome, so I grew up seeing a lot of the challenges that she experienced. My mom worked with kids who had all kinds of different challenges. Growing up I was around that a lot. She worked with parents and caseworkers to help them find different programs, so I kind of had an inside look at the special needs community from a young age.
I was working many long hours at a great paying job, but what was lacking was a rewarding feeling. As a job, yes you want to be financially stable, but you also want it to be rewarding – and that was a big factor for me.
From start to finish, what was the process like of becoming a franchisee?
My first introduction to Special Strong was on LinkedIn. I saw Daniel’s videos and started interacting with him there, liking his content for probably a year or so before I reached out. I eventually told him I’d like to be involved in some capacity because I enjoy volunteering within my community.
He mentioned that they were thinking about franchising so that conversation opened up. One thing led to another and Daniel offered me the first franchise in Special Strong history.
What would you tell someone else who is considering becoming a franchisee?
I’d love to talk to potential franchisees and help in whatever way I can. There are a few things I would say are necessary for a franchisee to think about. The first is finding your “why.” What’s your motivation? Beyond that, you need to be someone with a positive attitude; a team player who is teachable and coachable. You need to be willing to absorb, learn, and take constructive criticism while at the same time having a strong sense of leadership as well. If you have those, I think you’d be a good candidate.
Experience comes with time. You can be taught that. You’ll get certified in how to train people with special needs. Those things can be learned. What can’t be learned is your “why” and those key traits.
What were some of the most attractive components of the business model?
Any time you are looking into a franchise, you want to know what the support system looks like. Does the company have the same values as you do? One thing I’ve always pushed is that in a company it’s all about the people. Whether it’s personality, work ethic, or values. If you have the right people it’s really easy to create a team where everyone is working together and toward the same goals.
One thing I can’t emphasize enough is the leadership of the company, starting with Daniel. You just can’t be part of a better group of people, both personally and professionally. The way he has things set up and the way he’s always looking to improve the support you receive, it’s almost like you can’t fail. After spending many, many hours with Daniel, I really admire how selective he’s been. He’s really trying to build a culture. He’s working to build a strong company.
What was your biggest fear about saying YES to Special Strong?
I had a great stable job, so there was some of that fear of the unknown of taking a leap of faith, but that was more of a fleeting thought than anything.
What made you overcome your fears and say YES to Special Strong?
I made a list of pros and cons, and it was an overwhelming yes. I took that leap of faith and it was one of the best decisions of my life.
Any time you’re making a big life decision, you take time to yourself and think about where you’re at in life, where you want to be, and who you are as a person. Special Strong has helped me become the person I want to become. I have all the skills and personality traits and now I can actually use them.
What did you think about the start-up costs and fees with Special Strong?
After I did my break-even analysis, I realized I could be there after a year. And that’s hard to beat in any kind of business or franchise model with a relatively low cost of entry. The initial investment is low out of pocket, and there weren’t any surprises that showed up throughout the process – things were very transparent from the beginning.
If you would like to learn more about owning a rewarding Special Strong franchise, we encourage you to reach out to us today for more information.