Starting a new business can be a daunting task. Ben Teaford knows this firsthand, having spent 16 years owning a major tax preparation franchise. When he was looking to exit that franchise he knew what he was looking to do next. With his mother and co-owner, Bonita, he found Signal, and knew it was exactly what he was looking for.
“I wanted something that wasn’t like a startup but not so established that you were just a number,” he said. “I’ve done that before. I wanted somewhere I could still make an impact on the brand and implement the ideas I have.”
Since opening his franchise in Hampton Roads, Teaford, who also owns Signal of Orlando, has shown himself to be a tremendous leader and brand partner. He’s currently ranked #4 overall for the Signal Key Performance Indicators, including 6th for both Dedicated Shift Completion and Customer Retention and 9th for Employee Retention.
Over the last three months, however, his leadership skills have been put to the test as his franchise faced one of its biggest challenges yet. Days before Thanksgiving 2022, a gunman killed six people inside a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia. Teaford and the Signal Home Office were approached by Walmart corporate a few days later.
“We got a call Saturday from a district manager from Chesapeake who was helping out on the situation,” Teaford said. “He asked me about stores and such and what security was going on. He asked if we could handle things and I said yeah because we have relationships with law enforcement. Probably an hour or two later it came through that they were looking for temporary, 24/7 law enforcement at 15 stores.”
The call came through on a Saturday during a holiday weekend, a time when the decision-makers typically aren’t working. The relationships Teaford had built came in handy and the team was able to service 13 of the 15 stores within 24 hours. Another company was enlisted to staff two Sam’s Clubs in the area but ran into challenges and wasn’t able to produce officers quickly enough. Walmart reached out to Teaford directly and he and his team were able to staff the stores.
Since it was such a large contract, Teaford and his team needed to find a lot of officers to staff it, and quickly. He credits his mother and co-owner, Bonita, and wife, Renee, with the success of that project. Additionally, the admin team was instrumental in the staffing process.
“There’s no franchise system around that could onboard 365 people in a week and pay them every single week,” he said, “It was a 24-hour job, and not just on our side. We worked nonstop to get that stuff done, but Payroll Managers Cally Franklin, Lori Cook, and the Payroll team never yelled at me. I called them and said you guys have to hate me and they’re like no we don’t. They’re always just very nice and I know they wanted to strangle me in the end, but they were always just like we’re going to get through it, we’re going to get through it. We process payroll on Thursday and Director of Cash Management, Mike Sich, would have somebody waiting for us to process the loan request because we were doing half a million dollars in payrolls between that whole group.”
Even outside of his Walmart contracts, Teaford credits much of his success to working closely with the home office.
“I’m on the phone with multiple people from the Home Office daily,” he said. “We just recently hired a COO and an Executive Director and obviously we’re leaning heavily on ops and everybody for trainings for that. I sent emails out at 2am this morning trying to get additional Edge training for these guys and at 8am I get an email, ‘hey I can do it today at this time.’ There’s no ask too big for the Home Office to help us get support, to get what we need done.”
Compared to his previous franchise experience, Teaford said he appreciates the passion and support he sees from the home office.
“My last franchise was great to me,” he said. “It taught me about how to be a business owner, how to be an entrepreneur. It showed me the growing pains. The difference here is the amount of support. We paid a much higher royalty there and we didn’t get near as much support. The people at that home office didn’t have the passion we have, the culture wasn’t there. You were just a number, and that’s what I like here. You’re a part of something and I hope we never go past that.”