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Originally published in the Florida Times-Union at http://jacksonville.com/ on Feb. 10, 2008
By Ashley Beland, The Times-Union
Sheri Mullane, 54, worked as a corporate attorney for Bank of America for more than 10 years. She survived five mergers, maintaining her position in either the mortgage or credit card sectors of the company. She was laid off after the sixth merger with MBNA Corp. and set her sights on opening her own small business. She became a franchisee of PostNet and opened a store in the OakLeaf Plantation community of Clay County.
PostNet offers shipping, digital copy and document services, printing, finishing, and various other services to its wide array of consumers.
The Times-Union sat down with Mullane to discuss how her life has changed since becoming a small-business owner.
After keeping your employment with Bank of America through five mergers, what ultimately led to you losing your position? I started out by supporting the mortgage department, and in the last two years I was switched to credit cards. I was the legal liaison between the credit card servicing and collections area. When we merged with MBNA, Bank of America decided it would keep all the attorneys from MBNA and lay off the attorneys from Bank of America in the credit cards legal department.
What influenced you to change your career path and take the small business venture? Two things: I’m not licensed in Florida, and I didn’t want to take another Bar exam. I was only permitted to work in-house in Florida because I had a Bar certificate. I had a difficult time trying to find an in-house position, and I refused to move from Florida. Also, my late husband’s dog, Max, was 15 years old, and I didn’t think he could survive a move or commute. I was not willing to lose Max. I asked myself what else I could do with my life. I started looking at franchises online because it would give me the option of being my own boss while having the backing of the franchiser.
How does your workday differ today in contrast to your work with Bank of America? It’s a totally different career. Although you don’t need a college degree to own a franchise, you need an engineering degree to understand the copy machines and equipment. It’s a learning experience because I’ve never done this before. It’s a different skill set, but my experience with management and budgeting has helped.
How do you cope with any challenges that arise from being a first-time business owner? I fortunately have the support of my brother, his family, friends and PostNet headquarters. The PostNet headquarters and its support staff really do everything they can to be helpful to new store owners because the more successful we are, the more successful they are.
Why did you choose PostNet instead of another franchise opportunity? I’d heard of the other competitors, but not PostNet. I went to a Web site that had information on a variety of franchises. What stood out for me was how the founders of PostNet, Steven Greenbaum and Brian Spindel, took a very active part and interest in the franchisees. When a person is interested in a franchise of PostNet, they assign a mentor to teach you about the company. My mentor was Rick Greenbaum, whom I found to be very knowledgeable, interested in what I wanted to get out of being a franchisee, and informative about the opportunities PostNet offered.
How does PostNet set itself apart from other businesses that offer similar goods and services? I think store owners for PostNet are much more customer-oriented. We do things on a much more individual basis and take an interest in our customers. Also, when you have a store like our competitors, they only offer one shipping option. For example a UPS store will only ship UPS. PostNet offers customers the ability to ship DHL, UPS, FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service. More importantly, I think PostNet offers convenience with a smile and professional attitude.
How do you plan to make your business stand out in the Orange Park community? I intend to do that by making sure I listen to my customers and supplying the business needs and consumer needs they tell me they want. Also, by providing the services the community needs in a professional and friendly manner.
What strategies are you using to build a client base? Headquarters has a marketing department that supports franchisees in their first year. Additionally, the three stores around the Orange Park area form a co-op, where we combine marketing campaigns. These other stores are like a family. Their assistance and guidance has been invaluable. Individually, I joined Business Networking International, the Chamber of Commerce and put advertisements in local newspapers.
What does being a small-business owner offer you that being a corporate attorney did not? The ability to make my own decisions and be the master of my own destiny. Whether I succeed or not is up to my own perseverance, determination and abilities. It’s hard work and long hours, but it’s more meaningful because it is my livelihood. I’m making the decisions.