Veteran Frank Earnest, a Creative Colors International franchisee, relies on lessons learned navigating war zones during his successful military career to help his Oklahoma-based business thrive.
“Owning my own business lets me be in charge of my own success,” Earnest said. “Each job is unique and requires us to think creatively to get the job done. In the military, quitting was not an option and I have the same view as a CCI franchisee.”
Attention to detail, dedication and leadership skills enabled Earnest to rise in the ranks of the military. Earnest enlisted in the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 1981 to help pay for college. After graduation, Earnest was commissioned as a second lieutenant and retired as a full colonel after 30 years of service. Early in his career, Earnest traveled to Germany with his young family, where he served as an infantry officer while his wife, Lena, taught classes in the Department of Defense Education Activity school system. Once he returned stateside, Earnest attended the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and his wife continued her career teaching children with special needs. With each promotion, Earnest was consistently tapped for posts in dangerous locations, including Bosnia, Iraq, Columbia and numerous stints in Central America. Earnest’s leadership skills were put to the test when he coordinated land operations with FEMA to evacuate civilians during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in Louisiana.
During his military career, Earnest spent more than 14 years deployed away from his family in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones. After his retirement, he searched for an opportunity that would keep him close to home. “Seeing utter poverty, slavery and lack of freedoms people have in other countries really makes you appreciate how lucky we are in America,” he said.
A CCI franchisee from Texas inspired Earnest to look at the mobile, on-site leather and vinyl repair service as an option for business ownership. “I grew up on a farm and was used to doing things myself and working with my hands. As you get promoted in the military you do less and less hands-on work and more paperwork. I thought working as a technician to make repairs sounded fun,” Earnest said.
CCI is the leader in the leather, vinyl and fabric repair business. Certified technicians come to your location and use proprietary tools and techniques to repair, restore or replace damaged vinyl, leather, fabric or plastic goods. They can make your furniture, car, RV or office look brand new. Hiring CCI’s mobile restoration service can save customers up to 90 percent in expenses by salvaging damaged items.
Currently, Earnest and Lena operate four CCI vans and have five employees. They own exclusive rights to the area north of Oklahoma City, but their vans operate throughout the state and also provide services in nearby Arkansas and Missouri. Earnest fills in as a technician when his employees take vacations and Lena does the company’s books. Placing a special focus on RVs has been a big money-maker for his company, Earnest said. “The military instilled discipline and focus in me,” Earnest added. “It teaches you to look at different options other people might not have considered, which is a great asset for a business owner.”
Owning his own business puts him in the driver’s seat but having the support of CCI’s corporate office has been invaluable to his success, according to Earnest. One day during a difficult job, Earnest called the company’s support line for advice. When they couldn’t find someone to help solve his problem, Mark J. Bollman, CCI’s president and co-owner came on the line to help out. “Nobody at headquarters has the attitude that they are too important to help you. Everyone gives you advice,” Earnest said. “The support they offer to new franchises is absolutely fantastic.”
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