September 27, 2006 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News

(San Antonio, TX)—-In boxing, it’s called “learning to take a punch.” It’s about taking your opponent’s best shot without flinching or losing your resolve. While Greg Mangiaracina isn’t a boxer, he has taken two resounding shots during the last 15 years – including the wrath of Hurricane Katrina – and never even blinked in proving how steely determination can make a difference in one’s personal and professional life.

The 46-year-old Mangiaracina is president and founder of A-Pro Home Inspection Services, the nation’s fastest-growing, franchised network of home inspection professionals. New Orleans was home to A-Pro’s corporate headquarters for 11 years until August 2005 when Katrina – one of the costliest and deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history – forced Mangiaracina to relocate to San Antonio.

Not only did Mangiaracina start a new life with his wife and two sons 550 miles away from New Orleans, but A-Pro never even hiccupped along the way. While many displaced by Katrina struggled simply for some semblance of order in their lives, Mangiaracina bulled ahead undeterred.

On Sept. 28, 2005 – almost a month to the day that Katrina struck New Orleans – Mangiaracina greeted a training group of new franchisees in the company’s new headquarters in San Antonio that had been outfitted in only 10 days through a collective effort on the part of many in the A-Pro family. That same month, A-Pro granted 12 franchises, the largest number since it began franchising in August 2004.

Relocating A-Pro had been difficult enough, but Katrina had dealt Mangiaracina a double blow. He had been forced to shut down his own network of home inspectors he oversaw in New Orleans along with a home-warranty business that had collectively brought in $1.5 million in annual sales. So there was never any doubt that Mangiaracina would be ready to greet that first group of trainees in San Antonio, regardless of what Katrina had thrown at him less than a month earlier.

“There was nothing that was going to keep me from that not happening,” said Mangiaracina, his voice cracking with emotion. “That was all I had. I didn’t have anything else. My other businesses were gone. I would not let Katrina stop me. I had to survive.”

Mangiaracina and A-Pro have not only survived, they have prospered. Mangiaracina expects to sell 48 franchises in 2006 by the time the company’s fiscal year closes on Oct. 30. A-Pro already has 120 locations in more than 30 states and expects to grant 65 new franchises in 2007 toward its long-term goal of having 1,000 locations throughout the United States.

“You have to be resilient and fight,” Mangiaracina said. “It showed our business owners and prospective franchisees that we could get through anything. People were just astounded by it.”

Strange as it might seem, Mangiaracina’s founding of A-Pro in 1994 was the result of another body blow that he never saw coming. In 1991, Mangiaracina was running a successful direct marketing agency that promoted various products through a consumer membership base. National Consumers Agency had 225 employees with a call center that processed 10,000 orders each month and annual sales of $15 million. Sixteen members of Mangiaracina’s family were involved in the business, including his father, mother, uncles, aunts and cousins.

However, when the bank that processed all of the company’s phone orders withdrew its services and Mangiaracina was unable to find another bank that could handle such volume on short notice, the business was forced to shut down.

“After six years of building the business, everything I had put into it was gone,” Mangiaracina said. “We had to start our life over. That’s what trained me to handle any type of adversity.”

Mangiaracina chose to enter the home inspection industry after several periodicals touted it as a burgeoning industry with low capital start-up costs and high-income potential. Mangiaracina’s intent from the start was to develop his business into a franchise system. When A-Pro was launched in 1994, he was down to a few thousand dollars in savings.

A-Pro quickly established a niche by offering an innovative 90-day inspection guarantee for homebuyers and a 120-day warranty program for home sellers. Always on the cutting edge, A-Pro is now rolling out new and improved offerings: never-before-seen 90-, 120- and 360-day guarantee programs that are unique in the home inspection industry and offer both buyers and sellers the very best defense against costly repairs.

Between 1997 and 2004 Mangiaracina sold 65 distributorships as a prelude to franchising. And in August 2005, things were never looking better. Mangiaracina had sold 36 franchises in A-Pro’s first year of franchising.