After seeing the benefit an athletic social life had on his son’s happiness and success at work, Ron Janowczyk wanted to share that opportunity with other families. He and his wife Gloria came out of retirement to open Special Strong of Northeast Tarrant County.
Tell me a bit about yourself – what does your background look like?
I was in the wine business for almost 40 years and I retired in November of 2019, with the express purpose of putting together the bucket list and hammering away at it!
From start to finish, what was the process like of becoming a franchisee?
I was sitting at a church service and they showed a vignette of Daniel Stein and how he developed the company. My son Jake was born with Williams syndrome. He’s 26 now and lives with us and there was enough in the video that resonated with us that my wife and I gave each other one of those “Hmm, well that’s interesting..” looks.
We didn’t do much with it in the weeks following, but I went to a business leaders conference where they played the same video. At that point, I got into my car, went home, and made one of the toughest pitches of my life to my wife about us “unretiring.” She immediately thought I’d been offered another wine job somewhere, but I explained that I’d seen the video again and that I felt this was as close to being called as I’ve ever been in my life. We discussed it, and two weeks later I was in front of Daniel at a restaurant. I’m a fairly analytical guy, so I showed up with a page and a half of questions, and he walked me through the process.
How did you end up here? Why did you pick Special Strong?
Our own son, Jake, is pretty coordinated so he’s always been fairly athletic. There’s no question in our minds that his level of fitness and ability to be on a little league team or shoot basketball in the gym with other kids expanded his relationships and, later on, was one of the reasons he was hired on the spot at a local grocery store, where he’s worked for eight years. Jake has such a big personality that meeting a new person every ten minutes is the perfect scenario, and I can’t think of a better job for him.
That was one of the things that we looked at. We’d like that for other young adults. Is this a way that we could make that happen? We’re blessed with the resources to do it, is this the right opportunity for us?
I was also looking at it as a way that my wife and I could model behavior for our own kids that would allow them to become interested enough that when we really want to retire they’d have enough interest to want to take it over. We wanted them to have a heart for this community of people with special needs like we do because they’re very close with their brother. That’s been on our minds during this process – could this become a legacy business?
Were there any concerns that you had going into this process?
I was remarkably blessed in my previous career, but the way I am able to think about it now is that the real reason for me doing those things was that He was providing me with a toolbox of skills for this next phase. I was able to take everything that I learned and bring it to this business.
I don’t know much about the fitness industry but from a business aspect, there isn’t a lot I haven’t seen so I felt fairly comfortable that I could roll into this new business without a whole lot of anxiety. Where that anxiety did come in was wondering if I could actually add some value to the lives of these people, and if so what would that look like? That part was intimidating. Do I have that? Can I be that? In that sense, I don’t think I picked Special Strong, it kind of picked us.
During the process, what did you learn from talking with other franchisees?
I met Mike Lutey early on, and the time that we spent with Mike convinced us that we were thinking about it the right way. Mike has a sister with Down syndrome and a mom who was very involved with people with special needs. Through everything that he told us about the technical questions that I asked, what really came through was his real commitment to the community of folks with disabilities and special needs. Daniel was also there every step of the way to answer any questions I had.
What would you tell someone else who is considering becoming a franchisee?
It absolutely has to be a family decision – it has to be something that you and your partner are both on board with.
The financial part of it, although I’m sure it will be rewarding, is secondary to the “why.” If your “why” is as strong as you think it is, moving into a franchise with Special Strong is easy. Hang the “why” on your wall, look at it every day, and talk about it with your family to ease any of the obstacles that come up. Your commitment to the “why” has to transcend those bumps in the road.
What were some of the most attractive components of the business model?
It wasn’t going to be a lifestyle change for our family due to financial burden. That part of our lifestyle didn’t have to change.
Yes, we’ll be improving their fitness levels but it’s more than that. Daniel and Special Strong have real relationships with their clients. They know a lot about their lives, and they light up when they see each other. There’s an opportunity to expand a relationship for somebody who by nature of their disability has a limited number of people in their relationship circle.
What made Special Strong different from other opportunities you were looking into?
Shortly after I retired I was thinking of owning a business where I could employ a number of people with special needs. I saw how well my son was doing at his job and wanted to extend that opportunity to others.
I came across another franchise that made a lot of sense – someone with a disability could be taught to do a lot of the regular tasks of the job. It checked a lot of boxes, then Covid hit. It was shortly after that that I saw Daniel’s video and everything fell into place.
What was your biggest fear about saying YES to Special Strong?
Can I really give them what they need? I knew my son, did I know about cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, autism, and other disabilities? Could I be taught enough about it to communicate, work with someone, and make their life better? That was the great unknown. For someone like me who has no shortage of self-confidence in how I do business, here was something I knew nothing about.
What made you overcome your fears and say YES to Special Strong?
I’ve raised a son with special needs and I believe that puts me way ahead of the game.
Daniel told me I needed to tell potential clients about Jake. The minute you’re able to connect with someone on that level, you can almost see their shoulders relax, see them breathe a sigh of relief. They understand that you get it. Immediately you get certain equity or certain trust at that point and I do think that that will be a huge advantage for us.
What did you think about the start-up costs and fees associated with Special Strong?
I did a small amount of research, so I had a certain idea in my mind of what the budget would be to get involved in something like this. We established our own budget and this fit well within that.
If you actually go out and look at other franchises and what it costs to become a part of them, the price of admission to be fortunate enough to have a Special Strong franchise is remarkably affordable by comparison. The amount of money that I had to invest in the business, both short term and long term to retain clients, I don’t consider to be overly burdensome.
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.