By Deanna C. White
Jeffrey Davidson’s Jackson Hewitt franchise may not have been the biggest tax service business among the 700 nominees for this year’s Jackson Hewitt Franchisee of the Year Award.
But according to the judges, it was the best.
Jackson Hewitt bestowed its highest honor on Davidson, whose franchise extends throughout Central Mississippi, at its 2011 Jackson Hewitt Annual Convention, held recently in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Franchisee of the Year Award is given each year to the franchisee who exhibits the highest level of performance in terms of growth, territory and employee development, customer service and community involvement. The award also recognizes franchise owners who uphold the standards that are at the core of the Jackson Hewitt experience – quality, professionalism and entrepreneurship.
Unlike past winners, who have been characteristically larger by the number of locations, Davidson's recognition was a result of doing the right thing for his customers, and being smart in taking advantage of Jackson Hewitt’s franchise system and its tools.
Davidson, who founded his franchise operation in 1996 after he left the U.S. Air Force after 12 years of service, has grown from two locations preparing 800 tax returns, to 26 locations across Central Mississippi preparing more than 8,500 tax returns this past tax season.
It’s a far cry from what Davidson originally envisioned when he started his small tax service business, with little to no tax preparation experience, simply because he wanted "greater control" over his own employment.
Davidson said the Jackson Hewitt franchise base gave him the tools he needed to hit the ground running, and grow the franchise from its humble beginnings to the thriving organization that now encompasses a geographic area stretching all the way from Jackson, Mississippi to the Tennessee border.
"The franchise system gave us a frame of reference and the tools we needed to grow the business," Davidson said. "They give you the framework and you pick it up from there."
Davidson said winning the Franchisee of the Year Award was both an incredible honor and a complete surprise.
"Really, I was sitting at the awards ceremony thinking ‘what large entity is going to win the award this year’ because historically, the award his gone to larger groups spread out across several states,” Davidson said. “But when the announcer said the winning firm prepares an average of 8,500 returns a year the light started to go on. I began to think we might have a chance here.”
Davidson says a win by a relatively smaller franchise proves that people who focus on their business and do the right thing by their customers will be rewarded.
He attributes his personal success to two key factors: embracing the franchise system and continually looking for ways to improve customer service.
Davidson said the franchise system provides business owners the tools they need to get ahead including the ability to manage payroll and hours, customer service training, report monitoring, and marketing resources.
He encourages fellow franchise owners to take full advantage of those tools and the opportunities to network with fellow franchise owners to learn about best practices and share new ideas.
Davidson also credits Jackson Hewitt’s customer service training programs with teaching employees how to best keep and retain customers, and says he wouldn’t have been able to access other markets, like the 12 Walmart stores where he currently operates seasonal tax locations, if he wasn’t operating within the franchise framework.
“I wouldn’t possibly have been able to do that on my own,” he said.
Davidson said he hopes to continue to grow his franchise over the next few years through additional acquisitions, a plan, his colleagues at Jackson Hewitt say, they have no doubt he will achieve.
“Jeff’s success is due to his friendly demeanor, the rapport he has built with his neighboring franchises, and to his taking advantage of all available resources to maximize the performance of his overall operation,” said Philip H. Sanford, president and CEO of Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc.
Sanford said “as an extremely hands on operator,” Davidson made client service and taking care of his team a top priority, achieving a 61 percent client retention rate and 21 percent growth in tax returns prepared in this past tax season.
Based in Parsippany, NJ, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. is a provider of full service individual federal and state income tax preparation, with franchised and company-owned office locations throughout the United States.