From Founder to Franchisee: Keith Barnhardt’s Story
When it comes to 101 Mobility’s history, there are few that know the story better than Keith Barnhardt. Founding the business alongside Luke Sampson in 2008, Keith still remembers every step he and his team had to take along the way to build a company from scratch.
“Luke and I enjoyed working with each other and we were looking for something new to do,” Keith rehashed with a laugh. “We were looking at opening a Curves gym and several other businesses before the idea for 101 Mobility came about.”
The idea first “came about” when Keith heard his father, Royce Barnhardt, had started working for a DME (durable medical equipment) company in Salisbury, helping load wheelchair lifts into a vehicle. “After I heard that, I knew I wanted to duplicate the business in Wilmington (North Carolina).”
Although Keith and Luke had their share of hiccups getting the business off the ground, 101 Mobility soon became a success, and grew into a thriving franchise system. Today, the company stands as one of the top mobility and accessibility equipment providers throughout the nation.
“The rest is kind of history,” Keith added.
When asked why he chose to take on the role of a franchisee, Keith is adamant he made the right choice for himself.
“I’m best at developing relationships and trust with my clients. I like being out with the people. This position gives me the opportunity to get my hands dirty again.”
Keith said whenever his franchise provides an on-site evaluation for one of his products he jumps at the chance to take it on himself. It’s an opportunity to build lasting relationships with his clients – which, according to him, is his greatest strength.
During his last years as the Executive President for 101 Mobility, Keith says that he wasn’t able to build many of these customer relationships. He was too busy in the office to be out in the field; too busy being stuck in meetings, working on budgets, and handling the corporate day-to-day tasks.
However, with his new role as franchisee, Keith is excited about starting and developing his own business again. Building up the Fayetteville and Virginia Beach markets has given him the drive and energy he hasn’t felt since his first years with the company – and he’s feeling as motivated as ever.
“I think that 101 Mobility has developed a good business model. People who are high executers, who are passionate about what they do, and who care about doing the right thing are going to be successful in this business.”
After being asked whether or not being the founder of 101 Mobility would grant him and his team an advantage out in the field, Keith responded that his prior role wouldn’t give him an upper hand. He claimed what would help him succeed is his ability to execute a business strategy, be passionate about what he’s selling, and to care for his customers.
He went on to emphasize that these are qualities any potential franchise owner could have. He said that learning the ins and outs of the mobility industry is easy; it just takes time. What’s more crucial to success, Keith says, is being willing to take action when it’s required and always remembering to remain enthusiastic.
“What does give me the upper hand is my ability to execute, assemble a team of great people, get them on board in a direction that I want to go in, and then get them to win.”
Building up the right team for the job is important, according to Keith. He said that becoming a franchise owner has allowed him to handpick who he wants to work beside of. Yet, it’s just as important for him to be a leader and choose the direction his team should move in.
“My staff energizes me and hopefully I energize my whole staff,” he explained.
“I have a passion for serving the people that served us.”
Keith said that helping veterans is/has always been a major goal of his. Benefiting those who served his country with the mobility and accessibility devices needed to live a better life has been a principal focus of the business since the very beginning.
Keith remembers the early days of 101 Mobility, where his team would experience difficulty just getting in the door of a local VA. Today, his two 101 Mobility franchises will potentially be able to reach thousands of veterans with the services and equipment they rely on to live their lives independently.
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