One local franchise—The UPS Store—is an exemplary model of how a customer-focused business should run.
The UPS Store on Patteson Drive is a well-oiled machine, a fact that anyone who’s done business there can attest to. Most customers are in and out of the place in under a minute. And it’s all because Mark Yost runs the place with an efficiency and responsiveness that few businesses achieve. But, it’s been a long road to get to this place, Yost says.
He opened the business—Mailboxes Etc., at the time—more than 20 years ago with his business partner, Marca Paparozzi. The pair were struggling in the jewelry business and, after “some hasty research,” decided to jump into the shipping game. In 2003, UPS bought the Mailboxes Etc. franchise, and the sign above the front door changed. Yost says the transition began with a two-week education at a training center in San Diego, then back to a regional training center for another two weeks. UPS employs local coordinators who help complete the build-out of any new store. They’re also there for questions and support. Yost and Paparozzi were so good at operating their store early on that they even served as local coordinators for several years.
The UPS Store in Morgantown was the first UPS franchise location in the state, and Yost and Paparozzi tried to do things right from the start. “Both of our backgrounds were totally in retail,” he says. “That has helped tremendously. We’ve developed a good, veteran staff that I try my best to take exceptional care of. Over the years, they’ve learned what I expect and deliver on a daily basis.”
It’s been an interesting ride so far, he says, and no two days are the same. When the store first opened in 2003, Yost says there was the occasional L.L. Bean or Lands End catalog order that came through. Today, e-commerce makes up two-thirds of the store’s total volume. They’ve also shipped some strange things over the years—like animals for testing from the local health department, artificial limbs, and even an original Matisse, once. Yost says he didn’t get much sleep until that particular shipment arrived safe and sound.
Although there have been many challenges over the years, the biggest test that this small business has faced arrived in 2020: COVID-19. The UPS Store is only about 800 square feet and, when the state and county implemented customer number restrictions by square footage, The UPS Store was allowed only one customer at a time. The restrictions threatened to bring business to a blistering halt. Yost and his staff shined anyway.
“We had an open discussion about how we could make this better for our customers and protect ourselves,” he says. “In the early days, a lot of it was really trial and error. We implemented a doorman system for 18 months, and I think it worked really well.” Even during those early days of the pandemic restrictions, The UPS Store ran 200 people a day through the store. They simply didn’t miss a beat, and customers didn’t spend much more time waiting than they do now.
If Yost has any advice for others considering franchise ownerships, it’s this: “If you’re not the kind of person that likes to play within the rules, franchising is probably not for you. A lot of people get into it ill-advised and have great difficulty with this concept.” He also suggests that you resist the urge to “go cheap.” The cheaper a franchise is, the fewer national marketing dollars go into making the business a success. “If the name doesn’t have recognition, it just might not get that far. So, be careful what you shop for.”