On this week's episode of the Mobile AL Business Podcast, we're sitting down with Gail Yongue. Gail is the owner and operator of Mosquito Joe on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Check out this week's episode to hear about the high's and lows of running a franchise and about how your user experience needs to be top priority.
Produced by Blue Fish in Mobile, Alabama
Gail Yongue: My name is Gail Yongue and I am the owner of Mosquito Joe of Gulf Coast Alabama.
Marcus Neto: Yay. Well, Gail, it's good to have you on the podcast. Welcome.
Gail Yongue: Thank you for having me.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. Well, so we were in Emerging Leaders last year.
Gail Yongue: Right.
Marcus Neto: Right? we've known each other for a while now mostly because I totally screwed up the relationship in the beginning, but we're going to move beyond that because I've already asked for forgiveness like 15 million times.
Gail Yongue: I don't think it was you.
Marcus Neto: It was just a miscommunication. Let's just leave that one lie, but I'm glad to finally have you here. I think you are a very interesting person, and so I'm excited to hear what you have to say as far as the... Because I know you've prepared too, right?
Gail Yongue: Right.
Marcus Neto: You're the most prepared person that we've ever had on the podcast from what I hear so. Well, to get us started, normally we like to hear some of the backstories. Tell us the story of Gail. Where are you from? Where'd you go to high school? Did you go to college? What'd you study if you did? Did you graduate? Are you married? So on and so forth.
Gail Yongue: Okay. I've kind of morphed myself a couple times, but I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee. I am a tried and true Tennessee Volunteer fan no matter...
Marcus Neto: Gosh. We just lost our whole audience, but okay.
Gail Yongue: No matter how bad our football team is. I went to the University of Tennessee. I got a degree in Exercise Science. I followed my then boyfriend to Atlanta and worked in the fitness industry, and I actually worked for two tech companies while we were down there. I have a little bit of techie background. We moved here to the area. He worked. He used to work at Kimberly-Clark, so I just kind of followed him around. We lived here. I had a hard time finding a job in the fitness industry, so I went back to school and became a nurse. Did that and was a hospice nurse for awhile.
Marcus Neto: That's no fun.
Gail Yongue: It's actually one of the most rewarding jobs I've ever had.
Marcus Neto: I can imagine that, but I just don't deal well with seeing people in that...
Gail Yongue: It was very rewarding, but at some point I just was kind of burnout. We knew the person that was hired to franchise out Mosquito Joe. He talked to me about it, and I decided to make a leap. I always had wanted to own a business, and we knew we weren't going to move anymore. That's what I did.
Marcus Neto: Here you are.
Gail Yongue: Yup.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, that's awesome. Now, it's interesting because I didn't know that about your background, exercise science and stuff. I mean, what kind of stuff have you done? There's more like personal training type stuff or is it...
Gail Yongue: I did personal training in Atlanta, and then the company I was working for got bought out. I knew my husband, or boyfriend at the time, will be transferred. I just ended up working as an office manager in a tech recruiting firm. Then we ended up here and that's where I couldn't... I tried to get back into it and I just decided... Yeah, because it was... That was back in like 2002 when we moved here. The area's grown a lot. I didn't say this, but we actually moved up to Illinois for a period and then came back.
Marcus Neto: Nice.
Gail Yongue: Yeah.
Marcus Neto: Very cool. Well, what was your first job? Not first job post-college. What was your first first job?
Gail Yongue: Subway.
Marcus Neto: Okay. She knows what I'm getting right at. I mean, are there any lessons that you learned from your time at Subway?
Gail Yongue: I think that my parents instilled in me to never give up. Don't quit something. But I feel that job taught me to work hard. I actually picked that specific Subway because I thought they were the slowest one.
Marcus Neto: Oh gosh.
Gail Yongue: They ended up being the most busy one in the area.
Marcus Neto: That's funny.
Gail Yongue: I think it just taught me to work efficiently and work hard. I think that was good.
Marcus Neto: Somebody else mentioned Subway and I can't remember who it was off the top of my head, but they made the comment that being able to carry on a conversation with somebody and kind of build a rapport with that person while assembling the sandwich, there's kind of a multitasking kind of thing that goes along with that. I get it. I mean, anytime you work in food service, it's speed and efficiency and all those things kind of go hand in hand. There's definitely some good lessons because food service was my first job as well.
Marcus Neto: It's not often that we have somebody that has gone the route of franchise, so I find it very interesting because I know it's a little bit different than if you're starting a business without that kind of structure. But how did you get... What was your process for purchasing the franchise? Did you have to do any research beforehand to figure all that stuff out? How did you actually start the franchise?
Gail Yongue: Since I knew the guy that was hired to franchise it out and I knew he's a very smart business person, I felt comfortable with the franchise itself. But I looked a lot into the average royalties because you have to pay royalties, what the franchise should give back to you. All franchises are going to be different. Some of them do a really good job at delivering services to their franchisees. As the years have gone on, I've learned that some of them do not such a great job. Obviously if you're paying 10%, some a little more, some a little less, to the your franchisor, you're going to want to get, value from them. I did research from that perspective. One reason I think it was good for me is because the jobs that I've had, there were things that I didn't know about.
Gail Yongue: Like I didn't know about marketing. I knew they would bring that to me. It was amazing to me when we were doing Emerging Leaders. Of course, you knew about marketing, but to listen to everybody else in there, I was like, "Oh my gosh, I've learned so much from my franchisor about marketing." I felt like the second person in there in the room that really knew about this stuff compared to everybody.
Marcus Neto: Well, it is. It's very surprising to me. In this area, it's very surprising to me how many people that own businesses that don't know anything about marketing or advertising.
Gail Yongue: Right.
Marcus Neto: The thing that we kind of harp on is that in order to be found, in order to overcome obscurity, which is our tagline, then you have to be active. You have to spend some money. You have to take a role in the business community. You have to do something because otherwise people can't purchase from you. That's the whole purpose of advertising and marketing, but it's just amazing to me how many companies in this area just don't. It makes you wonder how much bigger or more successful they could be and maybe they're satisfied with that. I always laugh because when somebody says like, "Who's your ideal customer," and I'm like... Well, client. I say, "Well, you know, my ideal client is somebody who wants to grow their business because if they don't, then they're going to fight me tooth and nail all along the way."
Marcus Neto: It is this is very interesting thing. Speaking of Emerging Leaders, what was the one or two things that you took away from that that you've kind of implemented that have made a difference in the business? Well, you know what? Pause for just a second. For those of you that aren't familiar, Emerging Leaders is a program that's done by the Small Business Administration and was hosted by the Mobile Chamber. They've done one I think every year for the last three years. You have to fit certain qualifications and stuff like that. Wonderful program, but okay. I'm sorry.
Gail Yongue: Yes, I totally agree with Marcus. Wonderful program. Apply for it coming up next year. They don't even know they're getting a plug. But I think the biggest thing for me was that I was ready to grow and hand the keys off so that I could work on working on the business rather than in the business, but I needed the confidence to do that. By the end of the class, I had found that confidence. I did hire an operations manager. We had a little bit of a rocky start. Just how to do that transition is hard to figure out, but we figured it out. She's doing a wonderful job. There's things that she excels way better than I am. She's a much better sales person than I am. It's a really good fit for us.
Marcus Neto: Wow. Yeah. I think as business owners we think oftentimes that we have to be all things, but the reality is the more that we can kind of just focus in on our strengths and like hand all that other stuff off to others. The one thing that I took away because we're on that topic and I don't know that I've ever shared this before is I was trying to put together my five year plan and I was really struggling with it. I talked to Ave Harper, who's been on the podcast before.
Marcus Neto: He said, "Well, what do you want your life to be like in five years? If you envision that, whether it's the salary that you want or what you're doing day to day or the people that you work with or the companies that you work with or whatever the case may be," he said, "dream as big and as crazy as you can about what it looks like five years from now, and then work back from that." Because if you say that you want to make... Say you want to make $500,000 a year. Well, then how many people are you going to need in order to generate a revenue that allows you that? Because you can't have one person and make $500,000 a year. You have to spread your costs across a staff of much bigger.
Marcus Neto: It was very interesting because even as a creative person, imagining life five years from now was... It was just an insane exercise for me. Like it really kind of threw me for a loop. It was good stuff. Do you remember once purchasing the franchise, do you remember the first client or the first sale or the first testimonial that you got where you thought, "Hey, there might be something to this?"
Gail Yongue: I remember my first customer, real customer. We had customers that were friends and stuff and were letting us test on them. But I remember the first real customer. They're still a customer today. She called. Her granddaughter was having a birthday party with farm animals in the backyard. She really wanted it to be special. She's been a really good promoter of Mosquito Joe, and so that I think has really helped us. I always wanted to focus on the customer service and providing a really good customer experience. I feel like we're doing that and we just always have to just strive to do it better.
Marcus Neto: Stopping the term because keeping a client is a hell of a lot easier than finding a new one, right?
Gail Yongue: Yes, it is.
Marcus Neto: Now, if you were talking to someone that wanted to get started in running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Gail Yongue: I kind of just spoke to that actually is to focus on creating an excellent customer experience. A lot of people say, "We're really good at customer service." Well, customer service is actually when you've already made somebody mad and you gain them back or resolve things. Well, the customer experience is actually from the beginning of them knowing about your brand, so your marketing, and you have to be smart about it because how are they going to feel when they see your marketing, all the way through their whole process. That can be as small as how you answer the phone to how you build, to how communicate with them.
Gail Yongue: I think that if you focus on those things and how you're interacting with your customer and providing what they care about, that everything else will fall into place.
Marcus Neto: When we talk, we actually roll all that stuff into the brand because all the customer experience and all that stuff is part of your brand. You can have a great logo, but if you have crap customer service or customer experience or whatever, then you're sinking your brand. If you look to the business world, not just Mobile, and don't use your husband or your daddy or any of these kinds of answers because we get it. Family members are all a part of your success. But if you look to the business world, is there one person that motivates you?
Gail Yongue: Motivates me?
Marcus Neto: Yeah. You go through the grocery store checkout line and you see this person on Ink or Fortune or whatever and you're like, "Yeah, I need to get that magazine and read what they have to say."
Gail Yongue: I don't know if there's any one person that motivates me because I think it depends what it is at that time. Not all business leaders are going to be good at everything.
Marcus Neto: Sure.
Gail Yongue: Somebody I look up to locally would be Ralph Hargrove. My husband works for Hargrove. I think the reason being is that he really cares. I don't know if a lot of people know his story, but he started... He saw a need. He started in his house with a couple of other guys.
Marcus Neto: It's insane to think.
Gail Yongue: Yes.
Marcus Neto: People don't realize just how big Hargrove is. It's a huge companies.
Gail Yongue: It's a huge company. The thing is is I can still go talk to him. He shows up to things. He's very personable.
Marcus Neto: He's a huge giver to the community as well.
Gail Yongue: He cares about his employees. He shows up. We went to a wake the other day and he showed up to it. He's still very humble and giving. I think that's amazing. As far as somebody that like I would want to kind of strive to be and that would be somebody locally, you'll think this is funny because I was talking to Jim last night. Somebody on a bigger level.
Marcus Neto: Sure.
Gail Yongue: I love Rob Dyrdek.
Marcus Neto: He's amazing. The reason why she's saying that, and I've mentioned this on podcast, it's because I love Ridiculousness. People don't realize what an astute businessman he is.
Gail Yongue: He is very smart businessman. If I wanted to sit down and eat with any one person for dinner, it would be him.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. You'd laugh and you'd be blown away by his knowledge all at the same time.
Gail Yongue: I think he too... I love that he's helped other people build their brand or do what they wanted to do.
Marcus Neto: With their businesses and stuff like that. You know, it's funny because everybody thinks of him as Rob & Big or the Fantasy Factory or Ridiculousness, but home slices had like more shoe designs in production than probably anybody. He has like all these different deals that he's done, and he's purchased other businesses and stuff like that. I mean, he's a massive businessman and people just don't realize how big he is, but that's cool. I love that you said that. That's perfect. I'm all about the Rob Dyrdek. Ralph, if you're listening, "Hey, man, just give us a call. We'd love to get you on the podcast." But when you think about things that have helped you move forward, specifically like books or podcasts, people or organizations, is there anything that comes to mind?
Gail Yongue: One thing I love is that our franchise system brings in some really good speakers. Every year we have a convention. One speaker that I still follow on LinkedIn is Scott Stratton, UnMarketing.
Marcus Neto: I'm not familiar with that name for whatever reason. I feel like I should. The way you're looking at me is like...
Gail Yongue: You actually said something that I was like, "Oh, he must listen to him."
Marcus Neto: Scott Stratton.
Gail Yongue: Stratton.
Marcus Neto: Stratton.
Gail Yongue: UnMarketing, but he's a speaker. It was the logo. That's what you said is that you can have the nicest logo, but if you don't do all the other stuff, it doesn't matter how nice your logo is.
Marcus Neto: Oh, UnMarketing. I did read that book a long time ago.
Gail Yongue: They brought him in. That was very motivating and just a lot of ideas. There's a lot of books I love. There's one by I think it's Laszlo Bock or Brock. He used work for Google HR. It's called Work Rules! What I love about it is Google is so huge and so you'd never think in a million years you could take something they do and give it to your employees as a perk for a small business. But he took their ideas and showed you how as a small business you could implement ideas to give perks to your employees.
Marcus Neto: Really? Interesting.
Gail Yongue: That was a really good book.
Marcus Neto: What did you implement? Just out of curiosity.
Gail Yongue: Oh, goodness. We do like snacks in the office, but some of the things are... They have like haircuts. They don't pay for the employees to have haircuts. I don't do this because my techs are on the field, but you could have a hair person come to your office and give this is haircut day once a month or whatever. Their whole concept is to make things easier for their staff. Some of the stuff they do is...
Marcus Neto: It's funny, I'm looking at... Because oftentimes I'll pull up Amazon and like add stuff to a list. I looked up Laszlo Bock and Work Rules! and I've actually purchased this book. It's sitting on my shelf in there.
Gail Yongue: Oh, you haven't already?
Marcus Neto: I just haven't read it yet. It's hilarious.
Gail Yongue: It's a good one. I do PTO. I don't know if that's in there, but that's kind of from the nursing field rather than do vacation days.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, we do the same thing.
Gail Yongue: It always irritated me that... I don't call in sick.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. What do you care whether I'm sick or whether I'm not?
Gail Yongue: Right. I don't get my five days of sick day. I just said I'm never going to do that as a business owner. You earn your days like everybody else. If you want to call in sick, call in sick. If you want to go on vacation, go on vacation. We do little things like that. We do employee stuff that's fun. One of the most fun things we did is there's an app we downloaded and we did a scavenger hunt as a team.
Marcus Neto: That's fun.
Gail Yongue: That was literally like one of the cheapest things I ever did for them, but they had the most fun. We do stuff like that a couple of times a year.
Marcus Neto: That's really cool.
Gail Yongue: Yeah.
Marcus Neto: What's the most important thing that you've learned about running a business?
Gail Yongue: It takes a lot of grit. When you're down, you just have to let yourself be mad or upset or depressed for a moment and say, "That's okay. Now, I'm going to get back up and keep moving and figure it out." You'll have those highs and lows and that's okay. I think just accepting that all of us have gone through that.
Marcus Neto: That's life though, isn't it?
Gail Yongue: Yeah, it is, but I think...
Marcus Neto: It seems more acute.
Gail Yongue: Yeah, it's more...
Marcus Neto: Because there other people that their lives are dependent on our mental stability.
Gail Yongue: Right. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Marcus Neto: Yeah, no, I get that. How do you like to unwind?
Gail Yongue: I very much enjoy running, cycling, but I think the number one thing would be going to the mountains and hike. That's the biggest thing I miss from Knoxville. If I could have some mountains here, that'd be great.
Marcus Neto: You're a mountain girl, not a beach girl.
Gail Yongue: Yeah, not so much into the beach.
Marcus Neto: No? I moved down here. One of the reasons that I was drawn to this area is just the water, being close to the beach, being close to Mobile Bay. I mean, not that I'm necessarily going to go swimming in the bay, but having the ability to just be close to water was just very important to me.
Gail Yongue: Well, we did just buy a boat. I love to fish, and my husband really tried hard to get me into sailing. It just would never take. I don't mind being on the boat, but it's what work, but I absolutely... Put a fishing pole in my hand and I'm happy. We bought a boat this summer and we've...
Marcus Neto: In shore or off shore?
Gail Yongue: We can take it off shore. It's a 22 foot. Yeah. But you know, not one that's super...
Marcus Neto: Yeah, no, you're not going to go out when it's crazy for sure. Nobody wants to be out there in three or four foots... Well, there are some people I guess that do, but there are four foot swells and you're just kind of like ugh.
Gail Yongue: We can do the four. If it gets higher than that, we need to come back in I think.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, come back in.
Gail Yongue: Yeah.
Marcus Neto: Tell people where they can find you.
Gail Yongue: Mosquitojoe.com. I'm on LinkedIn and Facebook. Both pretty much.
Marcus Neto: Okay. Just search in Mosquito Joe Daphne or something along those lines?
Gail Yongue: They have like where you can put in your zip code.
Marcus Neto: Okay.
Gail Yongue: It's really long.
Marcus Neto: Okay.
Gail Yongue: But our phone number's (251) 272-4950. If I'm not there, they can get you connected to me.
Marcus Neto: Nice. Well, I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Gail Yongue: Nope. Just really thank you for having me. I was glad to have been invited, and it's been fun.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, absolutely. No, I enjoyed it too. If you're out there and you're interested in the Emerging Leaders program, because I think there's definitely some value to folks. It is a commitment though, let me just say that. It's seven months?
Gail Yongue: Yeah, seven months.
Marcus Neto: Seven months, every other week or something like that. You're only allowed to miss like two or three classes. There's a lot of really good information. But anyway, if you have any interest, just drop us an email. We'll get you connected with Janette over at the Chamber. Anyway, well, Gail, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking with you.
Gail Yongue: Thank you. You too.