Why Community Service is at the Heart of this Franchise Brand

Welcome to another episode of Atlanta Franchise Today with host Leslie Kuban, expert franchise consultant and owner of FranNet Atlanta. Atlanta Franchise Today is dedicated to bringing entrepreneurs and business owners the best practices and tips for their franchise goals. On today’s episode, Leslie is joined by Clarissa Bradstock, CEO of Any Lab Test Now. She’s been with the brand since its inception, starting as the COO and eventually moving to CEO in 2014. She is also very involved in the franchise community and was awarded the 2021 Crystal Compass Award by the International Franchise Association’s Women’s Franchise Committee.

Transcription: 

Leslie Kuban:
Hi, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Atlanta Franchise Today. I’m your host, Clarissa, welcome to the show.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Thank you so much. It’s wonderful to be here, I appreciate it.

Leslie Kuban:
It’s great to have you. Well, for our viewers who are not familiar with you and your background, tell us a little bit about how you found yourself in a franchising career.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Well, yes, Any Lab Test Now is the first experience in franchising. I started as the Chief Operating Officer of the brand when we started franchising back in 2007, and again became the CEO in 2014. And it has just been a fantastic experience.

Leslie Kuban:
And tell us about the brand, just a little bit about the brand history, how it got started and where the brand is today.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yeah. Any Lab Test Now started in the Atlanta area back in 1992 by Dr. David Perlow, he’s a practicing urologist. And he saw a need for consumers to be able to walk in and order their own lab test and the doctor’s order is included. And then we took that and then started to franchise the concept again, back in 2007. And we now have about 195 locations and expect to be at about 210 by the end of the year.

Leslie Kuban:
You guys are going at a great clip.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yes, we are.

Leslie Kuban:
As we talked about.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yes, absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
And of course COVID is on everybody’s mind, and that’s impacted businesses quite differently. What are you seeing in your industry and in your brand with what’s happening to the pandemic?

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yes. Yeah, what was really interesting is back in March, 2020, we were an essential business. Most of our locations were open throughout the entire time, starting in mid-March. And then we saw a deep dive in revenues because people just weren’t going out, and they definitely weren’t going out and doing things that were healthcare related. They were just too afraid to get out.

Clarissa Bradstock:
But then as people started opening up, we started to see an increase in people coming back and doing the routine lab testing, and then consumers asked us to do COVID testing. We really, especially around the fourth quarter of last year, we had a lot of holiday travel, and we’ve just continued to see a lot of growth in that particular area with the COVID testing.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, it’s interesting how new lines of business open up from necessity. It’s good to see your franchisees being able to benefit their community and benefit their businesses-

Clarissa Bradstock:
Oh, absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
… at the same time.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yes.

Leslie Kuban:
Tell us a little bit about the setup of Any Lab Test Now. The role of the owner in the business, what kind of employees they have? Just what does a day in the life look like for a franchisee?

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yeah. Yeah, for us, the franchisees actually have very little overhead when it comes to the employees. When they first open, they typically have one full-time person and a part-time. They have medical assistants that take care of the customers, day in and day out. And of course they add more staff as they grow.

Clarissa Bradstock:
The human resources need is pretty light, but their day in and day out is they’re going out and working with the community. We get a lot of referrals from physicians who are sending us their uninsured and underinsured, high deductible patients, as well as working with employers and attorneys. So the franchisees are out there knocking on doors and getting the name out in the community. And their staff is in the store providing that excellent service to the customers who come in each and every day.

Leslie Kuban:
So it’s a B2C and B2B model?

Clarissa Bradstock:
Correct. Yeah, yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
Talk about the B2B side of the business.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yeah. Yeah, we do a lot of employer testing, so employers need drug testing. And now we’re rolling out a program, due to the new potential OSHA mandates that Biden announced, for employer testing for COVID for those who are unvaccinated.

Clarissa Bradstock:
So we work with employers. We also with, like I said, physicians who are referring their uninsured, high deductible patients to us. And as well as, for example, one target market is attorneys. They have a lot of their clients that need work for domestic legal issues, divorces and so forth, as well as we’ve actually worked with law firms to do class action lawsuits. Just a lot of different opportunities, but those are some of the most prominent.

Leslie Kuban:
And that’s attractive, that franchisees have multiple channels of business that they can cultivate.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yeah, absolutely. And then on top of that, the B2C component, where it’s a lot of marketing and we’re really happy that we have excellent customer retention. Once they find out about us, they become lifelong customers.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know something you’re very passionate about is community service. And we have a lot of candidates interested in getting into their own business for that reason. They want to, as I said, do well and do good. And that’s something you’re very passionate about. Tell us how your business is in involved in community impact?

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yes. Yeah, at the home office level, to give you an example of one program that we’re doing now. We just walked 7,500 miles with a program called Charity Miles. And we’re taking that money, it’s a dollar per mile, and we’re actually donating it to the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic. And so they’re helping the talent in New Orleans, because a lot of them don’t have insurance. We’re really, really honored to be able to do that. So that’s something that we’ve done at the corporate level, and also involving our franchisees and their staff members to be involved.

Clarissa Bradstock:
And then also at the home office level, we do a lot of community based things here in Atlanta. Some of it was pre-pandemic, of working at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, sorting food at charitable organizations too, thrift stores and so forth, where the money goes back to charity, like different church organization. So excited about that.

Clarissa Bradstock:
And then our franchisees are involved in the passions that are close to them. We work with a domestic violence shelter in Houston, but a lot of other local opportunities for the franchisees. And that’s what I love so much about franchising, is the franchisees make it special to them and their community in what makes a difference.

Leslie Kuban:
And that’s, like I said, a big draw to business ownership is to have some time control-

Clarissa Bradstock:
Right.

Leslie Kuban:
… and ability to put time where it’s most important to you.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Right.

Leslie Kuban:
Be it the community, your family. That’s fantastic. And part of how I introduced you was your involvement in the International Franchise Association. If it’s okay, let’s talk brought the IFA a little bit. And a lot of our viewers are entrepreneurs, interested in franchising as a way of scaling their business. And the IFA is a great organization to be involved with. You’ve been very involved. Let’s talk a little bit about that resource for franchise owners.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yes. Yes, I have been very involved. I was on the Women’s Franchise Committee. And then at a local level, I’m on the leadership group for the Women’s Franchise Network here in the Atlanta area. And that has been really good at building relationships, again at that local level, I was also the chair of the Southeast Franchise Forum, which is another networking group here, based out of Atlanta, so real important.

Clarissa Bradstock:
But the key thing is working with the IFA and these other organizations that are at the very local level, is to get involved. And take advantage of the resources. I will tell you, the franchising community is extremely open. They will tell you about their brands, the mistakes they made, the challenges they’ve had and the successes they’ve had. So if you are interested in becoming a franchisee, get very involved and get to know franchising really well. And if you’re interested in taking your brand and franchising it, really strongly advise for you to really network and get involved in the franchise community.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Especially the IFA.

Leslie Kuban:
And you get exposed to lots of brands.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
And you see some brands do it really well and some less so.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Right.

Leslie Kuban:
Meaning, being a franchisor. And I’m hoping to pick your brain a little bit about good franchising here for a second. Again, for those viewers who are entrepreneurs thinking about scaling, maybe becoming a franchise, what do they really need to think about terms of being prepared to become a franchisor? As the CEO and seeing what you see, you don’t take franchising lightly-

Clarissa Bradstock:
Right.

Leslie Kuban:
… stepping into that responsibility of franchising.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yes.

Leslie Kuban:
So what were your advice tips?

Clarissa Bradstock:
It’s interesting, it seems like just yesterday we were an emerging brand. And I remember how challenging that was at the time, because you’re trying to put together all of the systems. The number one thing is make sure you have all your ducks in a row. Make sure that your operating units are working with a process. Because what somebody’s buying in a franchise system is a process.

Clarissa Bradstock:
And make sure that you have all of the marketing engine working. That you’ve got a solid website, you have marketing manuals, you understand the basics of marketing. And get all of that ready. Then when you start franchising, get new franchisees coming in the system and be extremely selective. Make sure they’re engaged, make sure they’re passionate about the brand, and they’re going to provide you with constructive feedback.

Clarissa Bradstock:
And then grow slowly. I think one of the challenges a lot of emerging brands have is that sometimes they hit the ground running and get a lot of units. And all of a sudden they’ve learned, I know that was one challenge we had, that they’ve over extended their ability to effectively support franchisees. So make sure that you can scale at the right pace.

Leslie Kuban:
And support what you are committing to.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yes, exactly. It’s a big commitment, especially in the beginning.

Leslie Kuban:
And you’ve really hit the nail on the head with qualification of franchisees, which is very much a two-way street.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Right.

Leslie Kuban:
And I think that’s the hallmark of a good franchise brand is they’re not afraid to tell a person who may be interested, if you’re seeing that they’re just not set up to succeed in your particular business, then it’s better to let them know that.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Right, right.

Leslie Kuban:
Than for them to take a risk. And for you, as a franchisor, to take a risk.

Leslie Kuban:
And another segment of our viewership are people thinking about going into their own business for the first time, and they’re thinking about franchising maybe as a way to do that. What thoughts would you give that person? Questions they need to ask themselves or … I like to use the question, things they need to be honest with themselves about stepping into business ownership. What would your advice be for those folks?

Clarissa Bradstock:
Find something that you’re passionate about, and then decide and work with a brand that … Making the decision, is this a brand in which you have to work day in and day out with the franchisor and in the community? Or are you really buying a business where you plan on hiring a lot of people to execute?

Clarissa Bradstock:
Because if you like the financials and you want to be hands off, then you probably don’t want to be a part of a brand where … I have a good example. Someone was telling me that he had high school students, children, that age. And he said, “I knew I didn’t want to buy a brand in which I was going to have to manage high school students.” So that took out the immediate sector of different concepts.

Clarissa Bradstock:
That’s the kind of thing you have to think about. What’s your day going to look like? What kind of people do you want to work with? And what are you looking for, and that are you going to find joy out of what you’re doing and the difference you make in people’s lives.

Leslie Kuban:
So focusing on, well, what’s the actual role of the owner-

Clarissa Bradstock:
Right, exactly. Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
… of the business. And validating that that’s something that you want to do, and that you can do successfully.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Right, and that you can do.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah.

Clarissa Bradstock:
And like you said, being honest with yourself. I think one of the many things that’s fantastic about franchising is you’re starting a business and you’re an independent owner-operator, but you’re not by yourself. If you ever get in a little bit of the dumps, so to speak, you go, “Oh my gosh, I really just don’t want to go do it today. I’d really rather sleep in.”

Clarissa Bradstock:
You’ve got a whole set of peers that are lifting you up through those times and helping you. And then the franchisor, of course, providing the feedback, the resources, the support, so that you don’t have to start from scratch.

Leslie Kuban:
And you’re touching on what is sometimes an overlooked, intangible value of business ownership through a brand, which is the community aspect, which we did touch on. But we focus on the support and the financials and the runway and all the things that are very important, but also having other people wearing the same jersey who are not your competitors, but really your teammates. And that you can share best practices with and go on vacation with.

Leslie Kuban:
I’ve become really good friends with some of my fellow franchisees and friends that I’ve met in franchising. It can be lonely being a business owner, but then you can pick up the phone and go next door to your fellow franchisee and work it all out. Yeah.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yeah. It’s interesting you bring that up because when you have franchise conferences, there’s a lot of content that we all work hard to provide and it’s excellent information. But hands down, what people enjoy the most about the conferences, is getting to see each other and learning from their first-hand experiences and that connecting. And that’s what’s so important in franchising.

Clarissa Bradstock:
And again, that small business operator, like you said, is wearing the same jersey, they’re going to share best practices. And you’ll get little bits of nuggets that, “Boy, I could do it just this much more efficiently and look how much money I could save. Look how much I could make it a better work experience for my employees.” And that’s what they learn from each other.

Leslie Kuban:
And sometimes it’s small. I have gleaned some nugget from every franchise conference I’ve been to, of, “That idea was worth the trip.”

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yes. Absolutely. Yep.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, I like to wrap up with success stories. Tell us about a franchisee. Their story that comes to mind that sticks out as inspiration for viewers.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yeah. Well, I think one … We have several franchise owners that actually became franchisees. They started with us working for a franchisee and became … As medical assistants, and now have become operators. And we have Scott and Kelly Hammock out of Lubbock, Texas. They are just signed today a franchise agreement for their third location in the Texas market.

Clarissa Bradstock:
We are so excited to see that growth from somebody who came to work for us as a frontline employee, and now as a multiunit operator with a brand. And that could not be more rewarding as a CEO of a franchise brand.

Leslie Kuban:
Makes it worth it.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yes, absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, that’s great. Congratulations.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Well, thank you.

Leslie Kuban:
And I look forward to seeing you. Speaking of conferences, we’ve got one coming up in Atlanta in a couple of weeks, and I will see you there.

Clarissa Bradstock:
Yes, I’m looking forward to it.

Leslie Kuban:
And really appreciate you coming on the show. Clarissa, thanks very much.

Clarissa Bradstock:
All right. Thank you so much, Leslie. It was my pleasure.

Leslie Kuban:
And folks, thanks for joining us for another episode of Atlanta franchise today. And I look forward to seeing you next week.

Speaker 1


The Atlanta Small Business Network, from start-up to success, we are your go-to resource for small business news, expert advice, information, and event coverage.

While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for all the latest business news know-how from Atlanta Small Business Network.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here