Jerry Thissen has his funeral planned—the Vietnam War veteran will be buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota, the state where he was born, with arrangements already made for first-class plane tickets for his daughter to fly his remains home.
But most important, “I already know the music,” he declares at the end of a lunch and interview where he showed up driving a rented red Ford Mustang convertible, top down.
“Jackson Browne, ‘Running on Empty.’ I want to spend it all” before then, physically speaking at least.
Meanwhile, the 70-year-old Thissen has work to do, specifically selling more restaurants to franchisees after founding his firm, National Franchise Sales, 40 years ago this coming February when a neighbor asked for his help.
At the time he was a marketing exec for Northwest Airlines, but he took out an ad in the L.A. Times to sell a Pioneer Chicken franchise. With an accounting degree obtained from the University of Minnesota on the G.I. Bill, he cleaned up the numbers and sold the unit, then started getting phone calls.
Pretty soon, “I had six in the bank and I had eight more lined up,” he recalls about restaurants to sell. “We had a brand new house, a brand new baby and another on the way,” and he told his wife, “I’m quitting my job.” She was concerned they would lose the privilege of flying around the world for free, a perk with his airline job. “I said sweetheart, we can pay for it now,” he recalled.
Year in and year out
Today, National Franchise Sales is the largest franchise resale company, with headquarters in Newport Beach, California, and 26 employees, including 18 advisers and eight support staff, who work from all over the United States. Michael Ingram is vice president and joined 20 years ago as a full equity partner at a time when only four or five people worked there.
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