After nearly 20 years in managing a large Photographic processing and printing facility, Paul Kimball became the Chief Executive for Lil' Angels, LLC in early 2015. With a background that covers financial management as well as sales, service, and production he feels uniquely able to assist his franchise owners in helping them to achieve quality growth with sound margins.
His immediate goal is to return Lil' Angels Photography to the ranks of the 500 top franchises, a ranking the company had for several years. Growth projections are on the upswing for 2016 and beyond.
He holds Economics and Finance degrees from the University of Tennessee Knoxville.
FranchiseExpo: Tell us about the Lil' Angels Photography concept.
Paul Kimball: Lil' Angels Photography's business model is a franchise concept built around high-end children's photography - specifically on location at Day cares and preschools throughout the continental United States. We currently have 55 Franchisees that manage their own territories, collectively we photograph over 500,000 children per year.
FE: How and when did you become involved with Lil' Angels Photography?
PK: My initial involvement with Lil' Angels was as a vendor in august of 2010 - specifically as a print provider (CPQ Professional Imaging). We maintained the production output for the entire Franchise network (CPQ still does), and in April of 2015 Jim Palmer appointed me as his CEO. In November of 2015 we acquired majority interest in the company.
FE: What was your background prior to joining Lil' Angels Photography?
PK: I had been at CPQ since 1998 in various capacities, and still serve as their CFO. My career prior to that was all in the Banking/Audit sector.
FE: What are some of the advantages in being a Lil' Angels Photography franchisee?
PK: While you are held to certain standards as a Franchisee, you are your own boss running your own business. Lil' Angels Photography is a recognized national brand in this segment - with an impeccable reputation - so our owners always have that ace up their sleeve when they meet the decision maker at the school.
FE: Who is your ideal franchisee?
PK: The ideal fit is someone who has great interpersonal skills - specifically when dealing with school personnel, parents, and of course the children. First and foremost we are a service business, and the successful franchisee is one that will cultivate that relationship for repeat business. We can teach them photography skills, workflow, etc. - but they must have the people skills to be truly successful.
FE: Tell us a little about the Photography Market?
PK: It is somewhat specialized, we are one of a few players at the national level - so that is a big plus for us. There are still several independent photography outfits that are more locally based, but the market for Daycare and preschool photography is a solid one. Demographically, facility enrollments tend to go up annually - and parents (as well as extended family members) like to purchase quality photos and photo-related items of the children - especially before they reach middle school age.
FE: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
PK: A football coach once said "...It is not about the Xs and Os, but the Jimmies and Joes...". This is a people business, and while my Franchisees have their own relationships out in the field - my customers are the Franchisees themselves. Being a vendor/provider to them has helped me immensely in that aspect, they rely on me but I rely as much on them.
FE: Do you have a mentor and is their someone you use for inspiration?
PK: This may sound a little strange, but my mentors in this company are the Franchisees themselves. I put a lot of stock in their experiences (some are approaching 20 years) and I value their input in developing programs and new products. They are the ones out in the field that have the experience that matters - and while you always have policies and guidelines to adhere to - I am not a believer in a Top-down Management style.
FE: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
PK: Aside from the financial and protected territory aspects, look at your support levels both from home office as well as your peers. Do they have a solid network or is it every man/woman for themselves? Is the product a want or a need, and does it stand the test of time as buying habits change? And does it provide you a method of repeat business based on these factors and your ability to serve the client?
FE: In your opinion, why do you think that Lil' Angels Photography would be a great opportunity for someone?
PK: If you like controlling your own destiny, working with people - and like the style of work AND like to work - Lil' Angels Photography can be a great fit. The financial investment is very reasonable, and I always encourage prospective Franchisees to talk candidly with existing owners about likes/dislikes, and they myriad of challenges that they can encounter. It is not for everyone, but if they meet they criteria mentioned above it can be a great experience and sound business model.