Russel Crary: Taking the Lead
Following his freshman year at UND, Russel Crary began a typical summer job painting houses around Grand Forks and the surrounding area for College Pro Painters. He got the job through his friend, Eric Eickhof, a College Pro Painters franchisee. Although unknown to Russel in the beginning, this typical summer job would eventually bring about extraordinary opportunities. Over three summers, Russel grew as a leader, became a College Pro Painters franchisee and achieved great entrepreneurial success. Russel credits his experiences at the College of Business and Public Administration for helping him accomplish his goals.
As a new painter, Russel enjoyed learning from his boss, Eric, about how the business was run. He became interested in taking more of a leadership role and was moved to the position of a job site manager almost immediately. Eric explained, "I knew right away I was going to recruit Russel to be a College Pro franchisee. He was the most positive person I had ever hired and was always having fun, but he always took his role seriously." College Pro Painters' main motto is "together, realizing potentials." This held true for Russel and Eric, as Eric became a great mentor to Russel. After having great success this first summer, Russel became a College Pro Painters franchisee. He has now successfully run his franchise during the summers of 2011 and 2012.
Before starting his business, Russel went through intense training and learned about the different aspects of running a business. He was expected to cover all grounds of his business, including marketing, sales, customer relations, employee relations and financials. College Pro Painters provided excellent tools and resources for its franchisees. However, Russel says, "Ultimately, every decision is your own, and as the leader, everyone looks to you for answers." Russel relied on tools he had learned in CoBPA courses to make many of his decisions, especially in relation to financial decisions. "Things I have learned in my classes at the College of Business played a major part in helping me through the learning curve of running a business," Russel says.
During his first few days running the franchise, Russel admits it was stressful as all aspects of the business were in his hands. He knew his employees had to believe in him, so he had to be confident right away. Russel stuck to his strategy and values, and he emphasized how he had to hold onto those tightly. "Things could get so busy and making decisions quickly becomes easier when you are confident and know your strategy," says Russel. "You also have to learn how to delegate tasks and responsibilities to others." Over time, managing the business became second nature and Russel's leadership became extremely efficient. He received 100% customer satisfaction throughout both summers and was College Pro Painters' second highest net promoter in the United States in 2011. College Pro Painters has many incentives and contests for its franchisees, and the competitive nature was something Russel enjoyed. He found it reassuring that others were in the same situations as him and that they could learn and share ideas with one another. Russel says his marketing and management courses helped him in discovering different ideas on how to market his services.
Russel hopes to find an internship next summer, but he would like to become a mentor for another person interested in the business. As an accounting and investments major, Russel found it extremely beneficial to apply concepts he has learned in school. "It was exciting to take that step into the business world while going to college," explains Russel. "I learned about so much that will help me in the future." An average summer job turned out to be a world of opportunities and growth for Russel.