Editor’s Note: Jim Westover, vice president of operations at Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc. which franchises Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, spoke with Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) about the franchises recent recognition by business-focused magazines Franchise Business Review and Entrepreneur. The 83-park system appeared for the first time on Franchise Business Review’s Top 200 list of award-winning franchise opportunities, and moved up 207 spots to No. 265 on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list for 2018. WCM is sister publication to RVBusiness.
WCM: What does this kind of recognition mean for Jellystone? Being viewed as one of the top 200 franchises?
Westover: I think what it’s really done for us is bring a different set of eyeballs to our industry, a different type of investor. It’s really exposed us to a different clientele if you will. Just a lot of entrepreneurs out there that are looking for different businesses and this is certainly another avenue for those people.
Some of the franchisees we have currently have diverse backgrounds. They have owned something prior, like we’ve had some of them put that they have owned auto body shops on our forms, and they’re just kind of looking to diversify their portfolio and get into something new. This is obviously a fun industry to be involved in.
WCM: What was your initial reaction to seeing that you guys had made Franchise Business Review’s Top 200?
Westover: I was surprised. I mean, I know for Franchise Business Review we scored really, really well. I think the best part about it and the thing we’re probably the proudest about is when they ask guest, ‘Would you do it again?’ And they all resoundingly answered yes. Like 89% to 95% of the time.
So that is a big relief, and with Entrepreneur, we kind of just slid in there last year in the top 500. So I was not anticipating us moving up more than 200 spots to No. 265. That one was quite a surprise to me. We also were the No. 1 franchise in the campground category, so we’re really excited to be number No. 1 in campgrounds, and we’re going to keep pushing, but there was 1,000 entries more than in the previous year, so I wasn’t anticipating that large of a jump. But we did have a heck of a year and we seem to have the needle going the right direction.
WCM: What are some of the things you can pinpoint that the company is doing that’s driving Jellystone’s success?
Westover: I think we are taking a lot of the feedback that franchisees give us to heart. It’s not always an easy conversation, but we’re taking a look at some of the tools we’ve used in the past. We’ve implemented a new survey program, we’ve implemented a secret shop program and a texting program. So, just a lot of things that complement our business and help our franchisees do their jobs better, as far as supporting their guests.
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