DeWitt Paul: An Eye for Opportunity
DeWitt Paul has navigated the full spectrum of owning and operating Foot Solutions franchises—from buying, running and selling stores to surviving the nation’s steep economic downturn. He came into the franchise business after a successful career as a managing director for an international company. When considering next steps, “I talked to brokers, looked at customer demographics and growth patterns, and Foot Solutions made sense,” he said. He opened his first store in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2003, with plans to expand to other locations. “Unfortunately, we had the great recession and Las Vegas was the worst hit. It was pretty tough for a while, but we managed to keep going. Then things grew very quickly as the economy started coming back,” he says.
One reason that Foot Solutions weathered the economic storms is that, “For many people our products are a necessity, not a luxury. Many of our customers attribute their ability to walk, work and lead a normal life to our shoes and arch supports,” Paul says. “I think that is one of the reasons that we survived while other businesses disappeared.”
Having experienced the good and the bad of running a franchise in a fluctuating economy, Paul emphasizes that “this is not a simple business. People don’t just walk in the door and buy. If you work hard to grow the business, give fabulous customer service, and are willing to do what it takes to make it strong, this can be very profitable and very successful,” he says.
During the tough times, Paul says that he and his wife “had to really buckle down, just be really frugal, and we worked in the store a lot instead of hiring more employees. We just kind of held on and it got better when the economy got better.”
One key to success is to ensure that employees are trained properly and deliver outstanding customer service, Paul says. That included being prepared to deliver what customers needed. “We were constantly looking for products that were innovative and new and that addressed the customers’ issues. If you don’t have the product to take care of the issues at that time, you don’t get the sale. You’re always diversifying the products to meet their needs.”