From 1980 to 2018, This Franchise’s Keyword is “Growth”: With Mark J. Bollman
By Yitzi Weiner and Casmin Wisner
I had the great pleasure to interview Mark Bollman. Creative Colors International was birthed in 1980 as J&J’s Creative Colors, founded by Jim and JoAnn Foster; the name Creative Colors International, Inc. came on the scene in July of 1991, and Bollman joined the company in May 2000. CCI has become a huge success by providing a niche service, specializing in repairing vinyl, leather, and plastic in countless industries. There are currently 79 locations in 28 states with over 140 mobile units in service.
Thanks for doing this with us. What is your backstory?
There’s not much of a backstory. I got involved with the company by dating my wife back in high school in the 80s, and happened to be around the business. The business was started by her parents — my in-laws. By hanging around their house, I was able to watch them grow and develop their business, and I saw good things happening. It piqued my interest. I had multiple summer jobs in high school and college, and most of the work involved a lot of physical labor, like being a busboy at a restaurant, doing landscape work, and delivering beer for Budweiser.
I knew that all of these were good jobs, and they helped me learn and grow as an individual, but they demanded a lot of physical skills. These were great jobs in the short term, but I wanted to work smarter and create something better for myself and my future. I started out working part-time with the Fosters at Creative Colors as a service technician. I ran a route that serviced car dealers and fixed cars while one of the lead technicians had some time off for knee surgery. I immediately fell in love with what I was doing—offering repairs to their customers. It was work but didn’t feel like work. The money was awesome, and it was one of the best jobs I ever had because my earnings
were based on the effort I put forth. The job was commission-based, so the more I generated in gross sales for the company, the more money I made for myself. It truly was a win-win situation, and I felt like an important part of their team as I was directly bringing income into the company. None of my other jobs offered me that type of reward. They all simply paid me for the job I performed and that was it.
That being said, I loved the concept and the workflow of their business model. So, when the Fosters decided to franchise their business in 1991, I knew I wanted to be a part of it in some fashion and I felt that I could help develop, support, and grow the brand. I loved the notion of being able to take one business and replicate it so that others could benefit from as well. Franchising is truly a great business model as long as it is developed and run correctly.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’ve had way too many funny moments and interesting stories since joining the company. I can’t say that I have one that is a favorite, but it all revolves around franchising trials and tribulations. I have met many great people through the years and have built some great friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime.
So what exactly does your company do?
We grant franchises throughout the U.S. and Canada. Creative Colors International is the leader in the on-site mobile repair, reconditioning, protection, and color restoration of leather, vinyl, fabric, plastic, and carpeting in the automotive, furniture, commercial, and residential markets. We currently have 79 locations in 28 states, with over 140 mobile units in
service, handling all sorts of repair and restoration to damaged car seats, leather furniture, restaurant booths, airplane seating, medical offices and countless other markets. We are a green alternative by offering repairs versus replacing.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
It’s all about the quality of our products and customer service experience that we try and deliver to our customers. I know it might sound cliché, but it’s the truth. There are significant and apparent differences. Our competitors say they deliver on these things, but they simply don’t. I see it every time CCI enters a new market. We see what services or lack thereof are being offered in the marketplace, and we’re taken aback by how many customers are being shorted or cheated. I know that a company like CCI can deliver much better results, with better quality, service, and generally at a better price point. I think it comes down to education. Many customers don’t know any better and don’t realize that there are other (better) choices available to them. Our goal is to make this happen through continued marketing and education to consumers and business owners.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?
There are many people that I have met through the years that have helped me throughout my career, including business colleagues, friends, family, and my wife.
However, I would have to say that the people who gave me the greatest opportunity were the Fosters. By bringing me into CCI and seeing my potential 25 years ago they changed my life.
I’m also grateful for everyone who surrounds me at the office, as we
all share the same goal of wanting to grow the CCI brand. Everyone’s collective efforts make it easier and seamless for me to help lead the company and continue its growth. In short, it’s not just about me. It’s like our mission statement says: “The realization of leadership comes from having good people around you; if not, we have nothing in the end.”
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I like to think that we are continually creating opportunities for people in our franchise. We are sharing our knowledge of a proven business model with others, and we are helping people achieve their financial goals by being a part of CCI and helping them build their businesses. Seeing an owner go from $100,000 in sales to 1, 2, 3, 4, and even 5 million in revenue is very rewarding. To me, that is one of the greatest rewards. I know it’s not all about the money, but being able to help change lives is very satisfying.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I became president,” and why?
- Plan for future growth on day one!
- Keep an eye on your finances to accommodate future growth.
- Don’t make it about you. Make it about the people around you.
- Take the time to hire the right people because they will affect your brand.
- Plan to work and work to plan.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
There are several business leaders who have helped develop and grow successful multi-billion-dollar businesses that come to mind. In no particular order or preference they would include Mark Cuban, Marcus Lemonis, Donald J. Trump, Ross Perot, and Bill Gates.
There are plenty more top-level executives and CEOs who I could add to the list. Some of these folks started with nothing and built empires, while some had a small base to work with and then built and expanded from there. I would look to them for insight and reflection on things that they did that were major turning points in their careers—things that their peers may not have agreed with them on. I’d ask them about the challenges and obstacles they faced, how they overcome them, and how they continually work to innovate and lead without getting burnt out.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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