Jeff Meyers doesn’t like to take it easy. While far from following the Facebook creed of moving fast and breaking stuff, he’s clearly not one to rest on his laurels. Not only was he one of the first 25 franchisees to join Mr. Electric but Meyers even seems reluctant to waste time catching his nightly Zs. “I usually wake up at five, 5.30am,” he says. “I tend to take about 30 or 40 minutes in the morning reading the news. It’s quite light-hearted though. I’m not a political junkie by any stretch but I do like to know what’s going on.” His “pretty chilled” morning routine highlights how Meyers wants to get things moving. This attitude makes him the perfect fit to serve as the vice president of international operations at Dwyer Group, which means he’s responsible for the multi-brand franchisor’s continuous growth in the UK and the rest of Europe.
This role demands a clear understanding of franchisees’ needs – the same requirement any successful franchisor faces. Luckily, Meyers learned to appreciate the trials and tribulations of small-business owners from a young age. “My dad was an electrician for many years and he started his own business in either 1962, 1963 or 1964,” he remembers. This enabled Meyers to observe as his father successfully scaled from having a man in the van operation to running a solid business with several employees – invaluable lessons for a future franchisor. “It was extremely helpful because I was there and I lived through it with him,” he says.
However, despite his father’s loving tutoring, Meyers initially didn’t follow in his footsteps. “I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be a tradesman,” he says. “Not because I thought it was hard but because I didn’t think it was my thing.” Instead, he enrolled at University of Arizona to do a bachelor degree in electrical and computer engineering in 1982. At the time the nascent technology was just starting to become mainstream – tickling the imagination of cinemagoers with movies like WarGames and Tron. “It was something of a novelty and all that interested me,” Meyers recalls.
Following his university studies, it didn’t take long before he found himself with a job at IBM. Having envisioned himself working for a corporate, it seemed as if Meyers had everything he could ever have hoped for. There was just one slight snag. “I didn’t enjoy it,” he says. “Back in those days, IBM was definitely a white shirt, blue coat and tie company and that was just a bit too stuffy for me.” So despite the possibilities envisioned on the big screen, being stuck in front of a small computer screen left him feeling unfulfilled. “I’d grown up with a blue collar family where you were always out doing stuff,” he says. “You’re getting your hands dirty fixing stuff and I sat in front of a computer terminal for four years between eight to ten hours a day doing design work and I just didn’t enjoy it.” Needless to say, something had to change.
Fortunately, he’d soon be able to escape the tedium by buying his dad’s business. “My father wanted to retire,” says Meyers. “He’d built his empire and made some good money throughout the years.” Now it was essentially running itself. Meyers’ dad wasn’t an absentee leader by any stretch but left most of the day-to-day running of the company in the hands of capable key managers. They, together with the solid customer base and trained employees, were all reasons to why Meyers was excited about the opportunity. “I felt as if I stepped into a pretty stable situation,” he says. What could possibly go wrong?
Quite a lot as it turned out, the realisation of which made for a rather harsh awakening about the realities of business ownership. “The day my father announced to his team that he was selling the business to me, his key person quit,” Meyers laughs. “So I got doused in reality literally from the moment I walked through the door.” He also found out that even though he’d seen his father work, there were still many things he’d missed. “Everything has a flip side and even though you kind of know it, I’m not sure you fully appreciate it until you’re actually doing it,” he says. “It’s like having kids: it’s the greatest thing ever but there are times when it’s extremely hard work.”
Still, Meyers enjoyed the challenge. “I thrive in environments where there’s a lot going on,” he says. He certainly had his fill of excitement. Whether it was fixing flat tyres on company vans, dealing with angry customers or building his network around Tucson, Meyers loved the tests of his skill each day would bring. Even more so as the hard work paid off over the five years he ran the firm. “We tripled the size of the business over that period,” he says.