"The selection and retention of franchisees, illustrated by the B1 concept from Bang & Olufsen" was the title of my diploma thesis, which I completed on December 28, 1998. Before that, I had done a bank apprenticeship after graduating from high school. Finally, in 1999, I landed as a Westphalian in beautiful Munich and went to the Private Banking of Commerzbank, where mainly McDonalds franchisees were among my customers, to return after almost 2 years to the place of my studies, Essen.
Here, in 2001, the decision matured to become a franchise partner of one of the largest fast food chains in the world. On May 2, 2002, the time had come - I opened number 21 in Germany of the Subway system, which was largely unknown in Germany at the time. I still remember very clearly that in my business plan I gave the worldwide number of restaurants as 15,268. That was in the fall of 2001. There are currently around 700 restaurants in Germany and around 43,000 worldwide (March 2020) - what a difference.
In the meantime my friend and fellow student Armin joined us. At the same time, the requests for our expertise regarding finances and planning grew. Apparently, it didn't escape anyone's notice that I was a banker and Armin was an excellent numbers person. So we started writing business plans for Subway franchisees in the evenings after "Subway work hours". Then came a very drastic experience, which made us very thoughtful and led to a significant change in our employment biography. We could no longer get a loan for our second restaurant. That was frightening. We were both very well educated, in our early 30s, and we couldn't get 80,000 euros for our second restaurant. We financed it through leasing within 48 hours(!) after we had gone through an insanely long bank process. In this way, we quickly became Subway's largest franchise partner with noteworthy sales in the seven-digit euro range and over 100 employees at seven locations in North Rhine-Westphalia.
And we founded our own leasing company in Essen with the support of our professors. A leasing company that specialized exclusively in financing franchise systems. In the course of this very intensive phase of life (being Germany's largest Subway franchisee - and at the same time establishing a leasing company for franchise systems), we tested dozens of franchise systems for their profitability and sustainability. We worked with the F&C in Münster and the German Franchise Association. The leasing company was established in the form of a joint stock company and our chairman of the supervisory board was Dr. Fröhlich, the president of the German Franchise Association. So - everything was great? - Almost... - there was a franchise system, it wasn't Subway that we misjudged and lost so much money on financing that we had to wind up our leasing company. That was in 2010/2011. After that, I spent almost 10 years in various functions helping to shape the digitization of the leasing industry in Germany at locations such as Berlin, Hanover, and Cologne.
One of the dozens of franchises that we tested for profitability and financed was System Badtechnik. So I've known Constantin Zugmayer, the owner, for a very long time. In 2018, we met again in Vienna; the sympathy was still there and the spirit that Constantin exuded was just as strong as it had been 10 years earlier.
I realized that the financial world should not be my last stop and so we agreed on a, hopefully long-lasting, collaboration.