Sitting in a finance seminar class at the University of Illinois listening to a speaker, Ben Boncosky fell in love with what would soon become his career: franchise real estate.
It was his favorite class. There were no tests, no homework. Just show up, listen to speakers, take in what he could to learn, and he’d pass.
So, it hit him like a freight train when a speaker from Jimmy John’s® was there to discuss their real estate business. It wasn’t a career option he had contemplated. However, it was one that would suit him well.
“I learned a ton,” he says. “We had different guest speakers in every week, all having to do with real estate investment. Some speakers would evaluate different apartment buildings to purchase. Some would talk about new building developments, new retail developments. The one I didn’t expect, from the opposite side of the equation, was a person from Jimmy John’s, which was locally based, talking about franchising, how they found locations to build their restaurants in and that whole world, which was new to me at the time.”
Boncosky found out the speaker was poised to hire a summer intern and he decided to apply. That was more than a decade ago, without the aid of computer-assisted technology to evaluate properties, so he spent his fair share of time in rental cars, scouting new locations the hard way – manually. Boncosky is now the senior director of real estate for WellBiz Brands Inc. and is looking forward to the future of the brands in its portfolio.
Poised for Growth
Boncosky, who has both domestic and international experience with other franchise brands, including Domino’s Pizza®, is understandably excited to be part of WellBiz Brands at a time when the company is experiencing extensive growth.
However, the industry is facing several challenges in the current market, namely a demand for commercial space and premium rental rates. While every industry faces various challenges through its development, Boncosky thinks the way the company is structured offers a market advantage that current and future franchisees will find attractive.
“Whether you’re talking about the individual brands or the company as a whole, it’s kind of at this tip-of-the-iceberg moment,” he says. “It’s not in its infancy anymore, but it also isn’t fully developed. I just saw a huge runway for growth and organic growth across the country. For me, something like that is super exciting.”
When Boncosky first meets potential franchisees at their Confirmation Day, he’s already looking ahead to how he and his team can help them begin the process of finding their ideal location when they sign their paperwork. Unlike his past employers, which had saturated markets, Boncosky essentially has a clean slate to work from in terms of finding untapped market locations.
“To look at a market that doesn’t have a store in it yet, and instead of thinking, ‘OK, where can I fit one more store where we already have 15,’ to wondering, ‘How would we build this out in a perfect world?’ That’s my dream because I’ve never had that scenario before and I really enjoy thinking about markets in that way,” he says.
While he’s only been on the job for several months, Boncosky has already been approached by existing owners who want to expand this year. He knows they are excited and eager to build the brands they are a part of, because he is, too.
“I’ve had a lot of conversations recently as we are engaging with franchisees who want to build this year asking, ‘Where do I start? What do I do?’” he says.
That’s where his team’s extensive knowledge and a network of national brokers with local knowledge of the company’s markets and brands are so valuable.
“One of the things I’ve loved learning about is our existing network of national brokers who are willing to go the extra mile for WellBiz,” he says. “Many are customers themselves and passionate about what we are doing. I’ve loved experiencing that.”
Real estate brokers have talked to him about their experiences with the brands and there’s something about them that’s more passionate than in positions he has held at other companies.
“Those conversations are different,” he says. “It’s hard to explain if you’ve never had the experience with the brand. But you can see it in their faces. They believe in this and that’s something we want to lean on.”
The brokers used by WellBiz Brands are tied into commercial real estate networks and often have specific knowledge that isn’t necessarily publicly known about properties coming up for rent. It gives the company a competitive edge that other brands lack. Those are the strong local connections that Boncosky wants to leverage to grow the brands and possibly expand into new and innovative real estate strategies. However, he doesn’t want to tip his hand just yet, he says. “Right now, it’s still too early to get into that.”
©2023 WellBiz Brands, Inc. (“WBB”). Each franchisee location of a WBB portfolio brand is independently owned and operated. Franchise owners (or their designated hiring managers) are solely responsible for all employment and personnel decisions and matters regarding their independently owned and operated locations, including hiring, direction, training, supervision, discipline, discharge, compensation and termination of employment. WBB is not involved in, and is not responsible for, employment and personnel matters and decisions made by any franchise owner. All individuals hired by franchise owners’ studios are their employees, not those of WBB. Benefits vary by independently owned and operated studios. Jimmy John’s is a trademark owned by its respective company.