A Day in the Life of... Richard Franco

Have you ever wondered how a College of Technology degree could take one into the world of real estate? Richard Franco, an entrepreneur who has served as president of Richard Francothe Technology Alumni Association, answers questions about the road to business ownership and gives great advice to students considering a similar path.

What degree did you earn, and when did you graduate?

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Technology, class of 1979. The funny thing is that I started out in the College of Business majoring in accounting, and I soon learned that accounting wasn't for me. I switched to business management and figured out that I didn't like that either. So I decided to go into marketing, which was better, but I still wasn't happy with it. Something was missing. A friend told me the College of Technology was offering salesmanship classes. I signed up for a couple of classes taught by Andy Thacker ... he made such a positive impression I determined that the College of Technology was where I needed to be.

What was your first job after graduation from UH?

Three months after graduation, with the help of the University of Houston Career Placement Center, I got a job with a Fortune 200 hundred company which at that time was the world's largest connector company. As a sales engineer, I was selling electrical and electronic connectors, calling on all the refineries, chemical and petrochemical plants in the Gulf Coast region.

How did you progress to your current position?

I had been in industrial sales for more than 20 years ... although I was successful and had accomplished much, I always knew that I wanted to start my own business. I had to decide whether to offer a service or a product. If I offered a product, I would need a manufacturing facility to support me, and that would take a lot of capital ... so I decided on real estate. It took several years of preparation before opening up the doors to West Star Financial, a commercial and residential lender, and West Star Realty. I did not have any previous experience in the mortgage and real estate business and was not licensed. I took the necessary classes on the weekends and worked full-time during the week.

What are the primary responsibilities of your current position?

In my current position as general manager of West Star Financial and West Star Realty, I am reasonable for planning, organizing, and directing all necessary activities that will help attain the desired future business growth for the companies.

What is a typical workday for you?

In this business, we don't have a typical work day. Every day is a challenge. First, I prioritize tasks at the start of my work day. It is important that I review what needs to be done. I have to wear many hats – overseeing all operations; focusing on marketing activities and promotional strategies to attract new loan business to builders, developers, financial planners, accountants, attorneys and other referral sources; reviewing credit reports, financial documents, and tax returns; meeting with loan clients; and approving loans.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy going to work each morning. I like the challenge each day brings. I enjoy the people that I meet and help, plus it gives me a great sense of personal satisfaction.

What advice would you give to students considering a career in your field?

My advice applies to all students, regardless of the field of work a he or she wishes to enter. At the end of every school year, graduates are looking for jobs and new careers. The time to start thinking about it is before they graduate. The earlier they start the better. Network and start making connections as early as you can. Join professional organizations, attend conferences, and join or create groups on campus devoted to topics that interest you. In most cases you'll find people willing to lend a hand.

The College of Technology offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a variety of majors suited to students wishing to become entrepreneurs in the field of their choice. For information about academic programs, contact the Academic Service Center at 713-743-4100 or visit online at www.tech.uh.edu/college/academic-services-center.