Do Your Homework BEFORE Buying a Franchise!

The dream of owning your own business is alive and well for most Americans. The only problem is that many people don’t know where to start on the journey to becoming self-sufficient. There are a million different options, but first and foremost each potential entrepreneur must decide if he or she wants to become a franchisee or start a business independently.

Each route has its benefits; therefore, it’s critical to take the time to consider both options before making a decision. What it initially comes down to is asking yourself the following questions:

1. Do you understand every aspect of the business, or do you thrive in one area?

When starting a business from scratch, entrepreneurs should be well versed in every single element of the enterprise. They need to create systems and procedures and test whether these work for that particular business. This process of ironing out the details deters some from choosing to own an independent business but excites and challenges others.

Conversely someone who buys a franchise knows that someone else has already done the “dirty work” and found the most effective systems for that particular business. A franchisee must simply thrive at correctly running the system while adding their own personal management touch. 

2. Are you an expert at making a name for yourself or would you like to be associated with an already strong brand?

When purchasing a franchise, you are also inheriting the reputation of that brand. For example, if you open your own Dunkin’ Donuts shop, you will encounter customers who already recognize the pink and orange logo. Many people will know whether they like the brand and will expect speedy service providing them doughnuts and steaming hot coffee.

On the other hand, those starting a business from scratch have a chance to create a unique brand identity. But consumer trust and awareness don’t come easily; they need to be earned through time, consistency and excellence.

3. Are you the kind of person who likes to go it alone or do you appreciate a sense of community?

Owning a business — whether it’s a franchise or not — can be risky. Some people prefer to be self-reliant and want to manage potential problems using past experiences and premonitions as guides. An entrepreneur must solve the issues that arise.

Others prefer enlisting the support and help of others to ensure that their business runs smoothly. A franchisee has many built-in allies, including the franchisor and other franchisees within the system.

The most important factor for success is making sure that problems are identified, and steps are taken in the right direction.

Is Owning a Franchise in Your Future?

For many individuals that explore franchising as the next step in their career, as a way to control their own destiny or as a way to create a family business understanding the process can be quite overwhelming. Below are several articles by franchise experts I shared on my blog in 2018. Still relevant today, I believe it will help interested parties diligently navigate the process to help create a playing field that is best for them as opposed to seeing themselves aimlessly tiptoe through a minefield consisting of franchising’s good, bad and ugly.

If you’re thinking of becoming a franchisee, how should you prepare yourself?

Buying a franchise can be a great move for a would-be entrepreneur who doesn’t want to create a new business from scratch. In theory, franchisees acquire a model that already works on every level, from branding to pricing to marketing. A ready clientele eagerly spends on Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s and 7-11. The market has tested the best recipes for glazed crullers, Egg McMuffins and the right combo of energy drinks to stock next to the register. But making a go as a successful franchisee can be a lot more complicated than simply finding an appealing brand and plunking down some cash. For a taste of what can go wrong, see Forbes’ piece about the past problems at sandwich franchise Quiznos, which paid $206 million to settle a suit brought by franchisees who claimed the chain had oversold its markets and excessively marked up supplies. Read more.

How to Buy a Franchise

Contrary to popular belief, the process of buying a franchise isn’t really difficult-but it is a process. I’ve found, (through working one-on-one with thousands of potential franchise owners) that it’s really important to tackle a major life decision like the purchase of a franchise business-or any type of business, in a very methodical way. (Even if you’re not a methodical person!)

But you need to realize that buying a franchise is a big deal. It could potentially be life changing. That’s what you want, isn’t it?

After all, you probably wouldn’t be reading this if you wanted to just go out and find a new job -or keep the one you have.

With that in mind, kick off your shoes and grab your favorite beverage. In this article, Joel Libava, The Franchise King shows exactly how to buy a franchise. Read more.

Owning a Franchise Business is Good for Your Family

Many entrepreneurs choose to become small-business owners with an exit strategy of turning over the business to their children one day — a strategy that takes on more importance in an era where young people are struggling to find gainful employment. Children who begin working in the family business at a young age will typically start an ascension into management after college, with an eye on purchasing some or all of the family business as their parents head into retirement. Often, the parents will retain a percentage of the business as a revenue stream in retirement, adding an extra level of responsibility for the child as a steward of their parents’ nest egg.

Even if they don’t stay in the family business, studies show that parental entrepreneurship increases the probability of children’s entrepreneurship by about 60%. Children of entrepreneurial parents have already experienced many of the ebbs and flows of small-business ownership, which helps to mitigate their fears and raise their risk tolerance. Read more

Learning About Franchising

During research for Franchise Bible, 8th Edition, author, Rick Grossman found that the franchise industry had changed in many ways over the years. Technology has had the biggest impact by modifying buying behaviors. Not too many years ago, franchise buyers would find an opportunity in Entrepreneur magazine or by attending a franchise expo in-person. They would then go through the franchisor’s respective step-by-step process to qualify, purchase and launch their franchises. But today, buyers can find a plethora of information online about nearly any franchise they want to learn about. This has leveled the playing field for new innovative companies to compete favorably with the “big boys” in the marketplace. Read more

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Have a great day. Make it happen. Make it count!

Ask Franchisees, “Would you do it all over again?”

Validation and multi-unit ownership are strong indicators that positively memorable experiences exist within your franchise system. Another way to confirm the existence of these experiences is simply to ask your franchisees: would you do it all over again? However, as a franchisor you must first earn the right to even be taken seriously if you ask this question.

As you head down the path of creating positively memorable experiences with each and every franchisee, be sure to consider ALL touch points – even those beyond the obvious mediums of in-person, by phone and via email. Think digitally!

How do you interact with franchisees on Facebook? How do you come across to your franchisees in LinkedIn discussion groups? Is there common courtesy? Are you proud of each other’s actions within these platforms?

Many will refer to all of this as being great in theory, and not really practical. But just think what could happen if every touch point were seen as another opportunity to create or enhance positively memorable experiences. How would that change the culture of your system? How would that lend towards growing your brand? Think of the ripple effect.

Here are six key points to creating positively memorable experiences in a franchise organization:

  1. Understanding the true meaning AND spirit of interdependent franchise relationships. This must be shared and exemplified at every point of contact with franchisees.
  2. Developing the right culture at all levels. Be careful- culture is also defined as bacteria! This takes time and commitment, and is a reflection of how people, whether franchisees, employees, suppliers or others, are treated at all times.
  3. Creating an environment of truth, trust and transparency based upon open, two-way communications – the cornerstone of creating the right culture. Think of a three-legged stool that could hold a great deal of weight when fully intact yet would immediately fall under its own weight if one leg was compromised.
  4. Establishing your franchise system as family. Treat them as such but understand that this is not the typical type of family of yesteryear with subservience to the head of the household. Mutual respect is paramount!
  5. Building an environment of bottom-up profitability and growth with ALL parties to the franchise agreement and other related agreements focused on mutual goals and objectives. All must sing out of the same hymnal, and not just for dress rehearsal – so be sure to give them the hymn book.
  6. Positively Memorable Experiences – Live it and breathe it every day for optimum results!

As National Small Business Week comes to an end, I’d like to give a shout out to small business owners – entrepreneurs, moms & pops, franchisees, sole proprietors – for paving the way for future generations by keeping the American Dream alive. It’s through your hard work, persistence, dedication and commitment that you continue to improve business at the local level.

With your own money and time, you’re actually field-testing new ways of doing business – marketing, technology and other – continuing to innovate and explore across many industry segments.

Taking risks, you continue to invest in growing areas while also helping to revitalize once great areas. And, whether you know it or not because you’re often in the shadow of big business and Corporate America, you are the backbone of this great nation.

You, all of you, each of you are the spirit of Entrepreneurship and free enterprise that has made this country great and will continue to keep it great for decades to come. For all of that, and for all that you do, I thank you!

And as Mental Health Awareness Month continues, I’ll leave you this week with the following:

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. There are plenty of people willing to do that for you. Do your best and surrender the rest. Tell yourself, “I am doing the best I can with what I have in this moment. That is all I can ever expect of anyone, including me.” Love yourself and be proud of everything you do, even your mistakes, because your mistakes mean you’re trying.

If you feel like others are not treating you with love and respect, check your price tag. Perhaps you subconsciously marked yourself down. Because it’s YOU who tells others what you’re worth by showing them what you are willing to accept for your time and attention. So, get off the clearance rack. If you don’t value and respect yourself, wholeheartedly, no one else will either.”

– Unknown

Exploring a Franchise Opportunity: Do your due diligence… and then some!

Potential franchise buyers know before making a final decision, they need to obtain information from other franchisees and also, their possible franchisors. But what information do they need to get?

Generally, I recommend using the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) as a guide. Read through it and ask a potential franchisor very specific questions about each item listed. It’s a can’t miss road map. Here’s a start.

What is the history of the franchise concept?

What is the founder’s vision? Who is on the executive and support teams? What experience do they bring to the table? If members of the franchisor team haven’t worked at a location, how have they learned about daily operations? Have any of them owned a business before? It’s important to understand how these individuals relate to franchisees.

How high could expenses go?

All expenses should be clearly defined. It’s imperative to gain a complete understanding of the range of expenses – and why they are what they are. Inquire about assistance for everything from advertising to site selection to your grand opening.

Know what’s going on at the front line.

What is the temperament of the franchise group nationally and within your market or region? Of course, I highly recommend speaking with franchisees, too. Make sure to ask them about costs, problems, profits, and trends. Discuss competition with both the franchisor and franchisees.

Ask about exit strategies.

At some point, you may want to exit the system, or you may have to exit. If you have to exit, is there support if you’re in trouble? Ask about transfer fees and the process of selling your business. Understand the franchisor’s approval process. What happened to each franchisee listed under terminated or closed franchisees on the FDD? What happened to their locations? Have they continued operation under a new franchisee or corporate? Is the location still available? Ask yourself if you would consider a long-term relationship with this brand and its leadership.

Before making your final decision.

After this process is complete and you’ve reviewed your notes, trust your gut instinct! Take your time and think things through until you’re 100% sure of your decision. Make sure you have all your support mechanisms in place, including friends and family. Do not kid yourself. Do not lie to yourself. And do not justify any negatives. Being honest with yourself will help you make the right decision.

Get your financial house in order.

Lenders (and franchisors) have certain minimum criteria when it comes to approving franchisee candidates. Some may require a minimum net worth and a certain amount in liquid assets. It would benefit you to set yourself up financially – for example: find out your credit score, calculate your debt-to-income ratio, and even update your resume.

Get pre-qualified.

You do this with a home, why not a business? By getting pre-qualified through a funding provider, you can better identify what you can afford.

Don’t underestimate how much funding you will need.

One of the leading causes of small business failure is undercapitalization or insufficient funding. Make sure you have enough of a buffer to help with any unexpected operating costs.

Are you ready to own a business?

Talk to a franchise funding professional.

Securing funding can be challenging but is one of the most important steps in starting a business. Knowing your options and ensuring you have a solid funding plan in place is often the key to long-term success and profitability.

Benetrends Financial has been funding America’s most popular brands for over 35 years. Their innovative, fast and economical suite of funding solutions is designed to help franchisees secure the capital needed to successfully launch their dreams. Contact them for a complimentary funding consultation or find out your fundability with their free pre-qualification funding calculator.

A quote from Ray Kroc.

There are many quotes from arguably the most successful fast-food retailer, Ray Kroc that reveal what he was thinking and learning about the business as he was building the McDonald’s chain in the U.S. and ultimately around the world. I believe I like this one best:

“It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun. Yet is it any more unusual to find grace in the texture and softly curved silhouette of a bun than to reflect lovingly on the hackles of a favorite fishing fly? Or the arrangement of textures and colors in a butterfly’s wing? Not if you’re a McDonald’s man. Not if you view the bun as an essential material in the art of serving a great many meals fast.”

5 Considerations for Millennials & Generation Z Open to Franchising and Business Ownership

Franchising is not often considered by the approximately 139 million Millennials and Generation Z population (as of 2020). But, with so many qualified people looking to start or extend their careers, and on their own terms, every job option merits consideration.

First things first. Let’s understand who makes up this segment of the U.S. population that will make up the majority of the workforce for the next 30-40 years:

Millennials were the largest generation group in the U.S. in 2019, with an estimated population of 72.1 million. Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials recently surpassed Baby Boomers as the biggest group, and they will continue to be a major part of the population for many years.

Generation Z is the most recent to have been named, and many group members will not be able to remember a time before smartphones and social media. However, the group already makes up around 20.35 percent of the U.S. population, and they are said to be the most racially and ethnically diverse of all the generation groups. 

The number of Baby Boomers, whose generation was defined by the boom in births following the Second World War, has fallen by nearly six million since 2010. However, they remain the second-largest generation group, and aging Boomers are contributing to steady increases in the median age of the population. Meanwhile, the Millennial and Gen Z generations continue to grow, and a big reason for this is the increasing number of young immigrants and refugees arriving in the United States.

Thanks to Adecco’s ‘Way to Work’ survey, which surveyed 1,001 Americans who are mostly currently in college or recently graduated and in their late teens to mid-20s, the primary differences between the two generations and how these differences might play out in the workplace have been identified. Three key takeaways, or differences between Millennials and Gen Z regarding work include:

  • Members of Gen Z are more concerned about the cost of education (21% of respondents), compared to Millennials (13% of respondents).
  • Millennials value stability (34%), while Gen Z puts more of an emphasis on finding their dream job (32%).
  • More Gen Zers follow their parents’ influence (42%), compared to their Millennial counterparts (36%).

So, what about business ownership and franchising, once the American Dream of Baby Boomers?

Here are five important considerations for Millennials and Gen Z open to this path of entrepreneurship:

Affordability. Most people between the ages of 18 and 35 cannot afford $800,000 for a brick-and-mortar business but a home-based business might cost between $40,000 and $60,000. There are a vast variety of franchises. Millennials and Gen Z can find one that fits their budget as well as their ideal income, lifestyle, wealth and equity.

Digital Minds. Both groups are digital natives who can capitalize on the Internet to grow their business. Every type of franchise can benefit from someone proficient in the cyber realm, whether that be growing an at-home business in pajamas, creating a digital work force or driving business with a creative social media campaign.  

Control. Some franchises have a web presence that is systemized from the top. If that’s the case, Millennial and Gen Z candidates need to decide if controlling the social presence is important to them or not, then choose a franchise accordingly.

Do Good. Many young people are as concerned their life work be meaningful and socially responsible as they are with money. A franchise allows Millennial and Gen Z candidates the opportunity to “do good” while being their own boss. Franchises exist for dog sitting, tutoring and healthy food, among countless options available for those looking align livelihood with their social mission. 

Difficulties. Both generations like their own voice on social media, their own marketing plan and are generally excited to execute their next big idea. Franchisors offer a replicable model so customers know what to expect. A Millennial or Gen Z candidates who decide to become a franchisee must be sure they completely support the system they choose.

21 Tips for Young and Aspiring Entrepreneurs

As the future of works rests on the shoulders of Millennials and Generation Z, changes to the work force will continue and most likely, not return to any semblance of what was common pre-pandemic. I guess the most important questions (concerns) for me are, Will Millennials and Gen Zers pull professional culture in opposite directions, or do both generations have common ambitions? After all, the workplace structure cannot be a work in progress forever.

Opinions, Insights & Perspectives on Franchising

Social Media has certainly proven to be a fantastic medium to cross-reference opinions, insight and perspectives. I often utilize social media to gain varying thoughts from both within and outside the franchise community. From the personal side of Facebook to the simplicity of messages on Twitter, to the business focus on LinkedIn, social media is truly a cornucopia of perspectives to tap.

Recently, I posted a question within various LinkedIn discussion groups that sought out the primary reasons to explore franchising. Below please find several of the responses from a cross-section of industry and non-industry professionals.

What is your opinion of franchising as a business model, business expansion strategy and as a career alternative?

An SAP Consultant with some franchising experience obviously has done his homework and offered valuable advice as well as sharing some real-life experiences.

“I have studied business and many individual businesses personally. I read many business cases and books and have a deep interest in business models and how they work in the current market.

First of all, check out the book ‘The E-myth Revisited?’ It is a very interesting way of viewing a business model. It describes the benefits of the franchise way of doing business.

I also have been involved in a few franchise opportunities; most recently, I was looking to purchase a tanning franchise. The business model was highly tuned; the computer system was revolutionary and perfectly adapted to the business through many years of iterations. The computer system alone would allow you to manage multiple stores with very little hands on control. The power of the franchise itself brought purchasing power and brand recognition which would have been difficult to build independently. The small percentage of revenues to fund regional advertising brought in enough business that I could have been almost completely hands off while still turning a sizable profit.

In short, most entrepreneurs work IN their business, but at a point you need to delegate so you can work ON your business. And franchising is a marvelous way (for most businesses) to grow exponentially.”

This next response if from a business coach that specializes in guerilla marketing strategies. Before I even read her response i knew I would agree with her perspective of franchisees needing to be prepared to work hard despite buying into a system. How true, indeed.

“I think that Franchises represent a great opportunity for some people. They can provide an excellent template for success, as well as resources and support as you are growing your business. That said, opening a franchise is just like starting any other business from the standpoint that you must have a clear idea as to how you will drive customers to your product/service. A franchisor will provide you with the tools and a blueprint, but you are going to have to do a lot of the heavy-lifting yourself. Make sure you are prepared!

Before committing to any franchise, talk to some of their current (and former!) franchisees. Don’t just call the people the franchisor tells you to call; reach deeper into their list of franchisees. Develop a list of questions that you can ask that help you to understand whether this particular franchise is going to be a good fit for you.

Lastly, if you are someone who doesn’t really like “rules”, you may want to think twice about franchising. What makes franchises work is that things are delivered consistently. That can be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on how well you follow rules!”

An entrepreneur who previously founded a small franchise company offered his view which it appears may have been formed by some entrepreneurial types that entered into a franchise agreement with his franchise company. Personally, I do not believe true entrepreneurs make very good franchisees. On the flip-side, is he referring to true entrepreneurs or franchisees that just had buyer’s remorse and had to blame someone for their poor performance and/or failure?

“I could wax on for hours on the subject and don’t have the finger skills to type it all!

First, my qualifications: I founded/own a successful retail business for over 15 years. I have created multiple businesses, some successful, some not, but all independent. I also created a retail concept that I franchised. So I have the unique view of being an independent and a franchisor.

Here are some quotes:

  • A franchise is like a bicycle with training wheels. Once you learn how to ride, you won’t want training wheels anymore.
  • Franchising is for those who want you to help them but then to leave them alone. In other words, they want to be indies, but in a community.
  • A franchise is only as good as its support.
  • If a franchise operation doesn’t give back in value more than royalties paid in, the franchisee will eventually resent writing a check to “the mother ship”.
  • A franchise is a business model that people expect to have it all figured out – no one has it all figured out.”

A very well-respected and experienced franchise consultant offered his perspective from having worked with individuals explores franchising as a career alternative. I agree that many explore business ownership options because they cannot find a career position that will compensate them as they have grown accustomed to in the past. The choice between franchise and startup often comes down to risk.

“As a business model I think that franchising is or has taken the place of corporate expansion in a lot of cases. Especially in the startup sector. I don’t know how many times recently I have been contacted from a startup that wants to expand via franchising.

I am talking to a lot of people that are looking at franchising as an alternative career path. Most of them are coming to me because they can’t find a job, it isn’t that they don’t want one, but they can’t find one making the money they were making before.

So they turn to owning a business and a logical choice for some of them is a franchise. For others it is starting their own business.

I think it comes down to personal preference and ability to cope with risk factors. I think most of the people that buy a franchise do so to help reduce their risk, so if they were really looking for a job and then had to buy a business, a franchise is probably a one choice.

About 1/3 of my clients are people in this situation that were looking for a new career, due to recent economic conditions, and they couldn’t find what they were looking for.”

An upstart franchise founder offers her views from the perspective of being new to franchising but quite experienced in running her own business. She appears to be spot on about ideal franchise relationships but I look forward to discussing her thoughts after she awards her first four or five franchises.

“As a career alternative, franchises are not for entrepreneurs, whose M.O. is ‘anything you can do, I can do better’. As an expansion strategy, it depends on the industry, product, service and system. For those that rely heavily on outside sales, for instance, hiring salespeople is more risky and time consuming than offering the opportunity for ownership.

I agree that franchising is a great way to grow by working on your business instead of in it.

Franchises offer franchisees:

  • Self direction (while some do, many don’t have too-stringent rules)
  • Higher income potential than a fixed salary or most sales positions, and often even more than business ownership because growth may be better supported
  • Proven solutions to problems that exists in the market, the basis for any startup
  • Elimination or reduction of what can often be years or decades of research, development, relationship building and trial and error and financial investment
  • SUPPORT

This article was originally published on Franchising.com.

Domino Effect of a Customer Experience

Here’s a story that was shared with me during our last recession. I recently thought about how such an experience can ultimately affect a franchise brand (or any brand, business or organization) today. So, franchisors, and anyone else that may want to chime in, please keep the following questions in mind:

  • How would you handle this situation if you became aware of it through a customer complaint?
  • If asked by a franchisee about what to do in a situation like this or how to avoid it completely, how would you respond?
  • Are scenarios like this covered in initial and ongoing franchisee training?
  • Ultimately, if similar situations are repeated, how could it affect the franchisee’s bottom line and how could it affect the franchisors’ bottom line?
  • How should a franchise organization go the extra mile in working and communicating with its franchisees about customers, ultimately, the brand’s customers?

When the story was shared with me, I immediately thought about a question that had been posted on a discussion board about what companies were prepared to do in order to retain customers during a recession or time of economic uncertainty.

Domino Effect

Late one morning, a client of mine was told by his boss to purchase gift cards to be given as prizes for that afternoon’s golf tournament. The company had decided to increase the number of prizes as the response to participate by local businesses was overwhelming. The tournament was to start at 12:30PM and my client was playing in the event and also had several of his clients playing with him. Therefore, it was imperative he make it to the golf course by noon at the very latest.

At 10:35AM he went to a national chain restaurant location and found it closed but saw a lot of activity inside by the front desk. He knocked on the door and explained his need to purchase $1000 in gift cards. He was rudely told the restaurant didn’t open until 11:00AM. My client explained his circumstances and the need to get across town to the golf course and not having to wait 25 minutes would really help him. He asked to speak with a manager. He was told the manager was not available and emphatically told once again, we don’t open until 11:00AM. The door was abruptly slammed shut before he could utter another word.

Instead of waiting, my client went across the street to another national restaurant chain location and found it also didn’t open until 11AM. However, as he was looking in, a cook noticed him from the back, hurriedly walked up front and opened the door. Upon listening to my client’s request, the cook cleaned his hands and with the help of two other staff members in the restaurant, they were able to put together enough gift cards to make up the desired amount and complete the transaction. All within a matter of minutes!

Here are a few thoughts to consider:

My client frequently takes clients out for lunch. Do you think he’ll frequent the first restaurant in the future? Do you believe he would go out of his way to dine at the second location?

The gift cards were given to ten participants at the golf tournament. Do you think they may spend above the gift card denomination when they redeem the cards? And is there a possibility their experience at the restaurant may be their first to the restaurant and if they enjoy the experience, they may visit in the future?

How many people will my client inform about his bad experience at the first restaurant and with how many people will he share his great experience?

The list of questions could easily go on with respect to my client’s boss, others in their organization, participants at the tournament, etc.

Yes, there’s a domino effect with a bad customer experience. However, the same is true with a great customer experience. Maybe even more so when the experience is positively memorable.

But the most important questions to ponder are, how much does a negative domino effect hurt a business or brand during a recession or time of economic uncertainty and conversely, how much does a business or brand benefit from a positive domino effect during that same period of economic challenges. And especially in an era of review sites, social media and influencers?

Franchise Candidates: An Evolving Mindset

This article was originally published in 2009, as Franchise Candidates: A Changing Mindset and then revised in 2014 as, Franchise Candidates: A Changed Mindset.

Now, revised today under its current title, the article may be more relevant as franchising continues to evolve AND rebound from the pandemic and its unprecedented challenges. Compounding these challenges include the necessity of developing and implementing plans to address the looming recession and how the same could potentially hinder recovery plans and squash growth initiatives.

Franchise brands will continue to explore and invest in more viable, effective lead generation strategies in order to stand out in an increase in industrywide efforts to attract franchise candidates. Think of the increasing number of franchise expos & shows and franchise broker (consultant, coach) networks as cases in point along with the proliferation of new franchise portals and lead generation companies. And let’s not forget the influx of ways to distribute content including podcasts, video, blogs and now, the metaverse!

Further, franchise brands are continuing with their commitment to social media and digital marketing having [finally] realized their positions as integral and effective components of these strategies. Sadly, but not surprisingly, a significant number of brands still have not realized the potential of doing so according to an evolving integrated plan thinking these marketing efforts are solely line-item costs as opposed to an investment/expense hybrid.

Today’s Candidates

A look at today’s franchise candidates will reveal they are more sophisticated, better educated (academically & professionally, as well as self-educated), and more technologically advanced than ever before. Demographically as well with more females and minorities (including a growing number of immigrants and refugees) seeking business ownership as a way toward self-independence. Multi-generational partnerships are adding to the mix.

In addition, and possibly even more so due to current economic uncertainty and challenges, including world events, the mindset of today’s candidates, regardless of background tends to be somewhat unsettled or uncertain in thought. Ultimately, this creates a sense of uncertainty and hesitancy in moving forward. Caution is a common thought expressed by today’s candidates.

To that end, today’s candidates are spending more time researching options and opportunities and doing so at a much slower, deliberate pace. In order to be diligent in the process, more time is being spent online reviewing page after page of information, constantly bookmarking, and moving back and forth from new information to saved information. They’re comparing notes for consistency across one platform to another as well as with other franchise candidates on social networking sites. As well, they’re gaining invaluable insight monitoring online discussion groups and forums.

Ultimately, today’s franchise candidates desire and need to be certain the franchise opportunity is as close to perfect for his or her (or their) situation, and as humanly and practically possible.

Especially after previous recessions, franchise candidates have used their capital gains to invest in franchise opportunities, often being able to leave their principal investment untouched. There was a sense of throwing caution to the wind because they were investing profits, often considered as found money from ungodly profits, at least by today’s standards. Does anyone remember when money markets kicked out 17% returns?

Unfortunately for the typical franchise brand but possibly and rightly so for the future of franchising, a multitude of individuals looking at franchise opportunities today are looking at things differently. They have to. They must.

Many are transitioning corporate executives and mid-level managers staring at the back end of what were previously described as great career paths, now trying to squeak out just five or ten more years before they actually retire, or when they could afford to retire. Facing the challenge of younger talent, new technology, a rapidly changing business environment, along with living longer lives many opt to “buy” another job and explore franchising and small business ownership.

What has Changed?

Here’s the difference between today’s recession, and of those in the past. As huge fortunes have been lost, and large gains have not been realized in current financial markets, today’s candidates are forced to invest all or part of their remaining nest eggs in order to enter the world of business ownership. Of course, most everyone knows and somewhat understands the risks (or that there is risk) involved in owning a business. But in yesterday’s business environment, many franchisees and business owners were “gambling” with profits.

Certainly, no one wanted to lose money in a business venture. But many had fallback positions with funds still in retirement accounts and if they had to, continued employment including second and third jobs.

For many of today’s candidates, failure is not an option because fallback opportunities are fast becoming more challenging. Maybe even more so due to recent views and actions against side-gigs & freelancing and monitoring of Venmo & Pay Pal transactions. Actually, I believe many of today’s candidates might not have even considered franchise or small business ownership in the past. For tomorrow’s candidates that may be even more the case.

So, as many individuals explore their options, they will focus more and more of their efforts online. Franchisors must embrace this fact and continue to dedicate more resources to the internet and expand their efforts within social media to complement and enhance their traditional franchise marketing strategies. They must focus more and more on bringing their messages directly to their audience as opposed to just relying on attracting them, and in an interactive way. By doing so, they’ll realize multiple benefits for their entire system including:

– Developing and strengthening brand awareness with franchise candidates and consumers alike – including those who may not know much, or anything about franchising, or quite frankly about the brand itself.

– Generating franchise leads that are genuinely interested in exploring entrepreneurship and to that end what franchising and small business ownership have to offer.

– Introducing particularly new industry segments that may include opportunities that could be the right fit for candidates to achieve their goals and objectives.

– Establishing an interactive environment of information sharing, communications and education that will become the backbone of future franchise relationships throughout emerging and legacy franchise systems alike.

– Creating positively memorable experiences and the right culture for franchisees (as well as for all brand stakeholders) the foundation for future growth fostered by excellent validation and multi-unit development.

Last, many franchise candidates previously viewed franchising and small business ownership as a way of achieving their wishes, hopes and dreams, regardless of what those may have been. Today, it’s more about goals and objectives, AND necessities. All within franchising must fully realize this and understand the evolving mindset of today’s franchise candidates in order to survive and grow today, and tomorrow.

8 Key Focus Areas of Successful Franchise Leadership

From professional athletes to high-tech programmers, every career requires different talents. However, what makes a career as a leader of a franchise system different are skills that do not have to be acquired through rigorous training or years of schooling.

Instead, success in franchise leadership can come to anyone who is determined, dedicated and willing to invest in their personal development—and will pay off tremendously by developing a network of franchisees who respect your leadership traits. Below are key focus areas for individuals to become successful brand executives and great well-respected leaders:

  1. Consistency: As the franchisor, your franchisees will be looking up to you. Being consistent and following through on your word will let them know that they have a leader they can count on.
  2. Planning: Your franchisees are invested in the business, so it’s natural that they will want to know where it is headed and the steps necessary to get there.
  3. Communications: Make certain to share your vision with franchisees as well as with your team in an open, transparent manner to ensure confidence at all levels.
  4. Support: As a franchisor, everyone in the organization is your team member—meaning you have a vital role as a pillar of support and encouragement.
  5. Positivity: Focus on creating a positive space for your franchisees. This will help strengthen your bond and let them know you have their back.
  6. Respect: Every franchisee makes mistakes—it’s just a part of the business. Making sure your franchisees know you still respect them even when they slip up will go a long way. The same will be true for franchisor mistakes, but only if earned through mutual respect.
  7. Face Time: You can’t be expected to visit every franchise location every day. However, the occasional impromptu visit will help you learn more about the day-to-day operations and struggles of each individual location—and let them know you’re invested in solving their problems.
  8. Passion: Franchising means getting to work with talented, passionate colleagues who love what they do. Believe in the brand and believe in your franchisees—your passion will shine through and inspire them, as well.

Fear And Consequences of Failure: A True Story Retold Once Again

I’ve been asked time and again to post the following article that I’ve written about in 2011 regarding my own personal experience as a multi-unit franchisee where I succeeded at first, only to crash and burn later on. Over the years, this article has been posted on several of my blogs, picked up by numerous other blogs & online publications, and discussed on various podcasts. I have received numerous comments and inquiries about the article and my experience as well as individuals sharing their own personal experiences and requests for assistance. Although I cringe at the thought of any business failing, I admire and respect the fact that franchisees and franchisors alike (small business owners and individuals & teams running larger organizations as well) know when to put their pride aside and ask for assistance, and I always look forward to providing my experience and expertise to help determine a practical resolve to their problems. 

I’m proud to say this article has been instrumental in helping a number of businesses keep their doors open and work towards recovery. On the other hand, I’m also sad to say several businesses were not as fortunate, but at least the owners were able to exit with dignity and in few cases, with less liability than they previously thought possible. And, in one case, the business owner actually exited in the black when we were able to facilitate the sale of her business when she previously thought about just walking away. Considering the difficulties many small business owners, restaurant operators, franchisees, entrepreneurs and organizations have experienced over the past two years and with challenges continuing, I’m sharing this article once again.

Fear and Consequences of Failure (unedited from 2011)

I can personally relate to the trials and tribulations of owning franchise businesses as I have “been there and done that” and have experiences on both ends of the spectrum from achieving overwhelming success to dealing with bitter failure. I have definitely come to understand the fine line between success and failure in trying to nail down the American Dream.

I know it is sometimes counterproductive to even mention failure which is why the subject is always avoided and never discussed. Yet, it’s out there and it’s real. Once franchisees face the possibility of failure and its very real consequences, they can be motivated to understand that failure is not an option and commit 100% to a plan that addresses immediate problems and provides solutions accordingly. Even if it’s necessary for the plan to be quite drastic or aggressive due to prevailing circumstances, franchisees that unequivocally realize that failure is not an option are prepared for immediate action.

Let me emphasize one point. Franchisees should not view poor sales and disappointing profits as either potential or immediate failure and stick their heads in the sand. I made that mistake in the past and suffered the consequences. Instead, franchisees should build upon the courage it took to become a franchise business owner and recommit to success as they did when they first took the entrepreneurial plunge.

They need to remember their wishes, hopes and dreams that prompted the decision to own their own business. They need to remember the admiration of family and friends when they heard about the new venture. They need to remember the excitement when they actually signed the franchise agreement.

Unfortunately, there’s a very distinct possibility the root of the problem is embedded in the franchisee’s actions, non-conformity to the franchise system and unwillingness to face reality. However, as there was some shining light evident during the franchise award process, it may not be a totally lost cause if the franchisee is made to completely understand the implications and consequences of failure.

As franchisors are faced with the potential of closed units [during this recession] that may be the result of things out of their control, it’s imperative they don’t lose even a single unit just because a franchisee just flat out needs a snap back to reality. It’s worth the effort.

Let me clarify something. I failed as a franchisee. Not because of anything the franchisor did or didn’t do but because I put and kept my head in the sand and did not face reality. I could go on and make excuses about things that happened around me but at the end of the day I could have turned things around if I got my own head out of the sand, made some difficult decisions and took full, immediate responsibility.

Unfortunately, I was scared of failing. I was afraid of what people would think. I was ashamed at what other franchisees, ones I put in business, would think of me. I couldn’t even think of facing my family. All lame excuses for not taking responsibility. Maybe a hard swift kick you-know-where would have helped.

Did I mention that I previously ran the franchise company where I failed as a franchisee? Did I mention I was elected by fellow franchisees, President of the National Advisory Council? Did I mention that I owned and operated five franchise units?

If I had clearly understood the implications and consequences that were looming on the horizon and if I was able to get my big ego out of the way and address things head on, maybe I could have survived. Maybe I could have at least implemented an exit strategy that would have, in some small way, paid back the loyalty and support of my employees, family and friends.

In the end, I may not have survived because it may very well have been too late when and if I finally took action and responsibility. But maybe I could have at least exited with some dignity. Also, I could have saved many innocent people a great deal of hardship, embarrassment, wasted effort and ill-spent resources if I did face reality. This includes my family, my employees and yes, my franchisor; all who believed in me.

Yes, it was a tremendous learning experience but not one I would bestow or wish on anyone. Now, all I can do is to offer my experience to anyone in the franchise industry that needs assistance. As we [prepare to enter 2012] in the realms of economic uncertainty, I’m certain already difficult situations have been compounded but I’m confident a snap back to reality could only help. If just one franchise business is saved from the consequences of failure, then we’ve made progress. Progress we’ll continue to build upon.

Strengthen Franchise Relationships by Saying “Thank You”​

To celebrate Franchisees, I cite the lyrics to the Alabama hit song, “Forty Hour Week”. It’s my way of expressing gratitude for the many, many franchisees and their employees that do their parts every day to make, not only their franchise brands run each and every day, but also our great country. We often take so much for granted when things run smoothly, almost seamlessly. Of course, during COVID there were challenges, but many franchisees did what they had to do, and persevered.

And then, it hit me as I reread the last verse of the song…

There are people in this country who work hard every day. Not for fame or fortune do they strive. But the fruits of their labor are worth more than their pay. And it’s time a few of them were recognized.

Wow, how could I miss something that should be standing out front and center? Is it obvious? Do you see it yet?

Okay, let me make it easier to spot. In the verse above, change “people” to “franchisees” – Ah, there it is! There are franchisees in this country…

At times, there is some discourse (maybe more than we’ll admit) today around the franchise relationship and it really doesn’t need to be the case if the focus is clearly on relationship basics, and that starts with appreciation. Remember, many franchise organizations refer to their system as a family. Isn’t being family enough to expect appreciation?

Think about when a franchisee signs their franchise agreement and remits the franchise fee – they’re quickly told, “thank you” and they’re even recognized in the brand’s newsletter and also in press releases announcing them as a new franchisee. Yes, that’s awesome.

Now, ask yourself, is that the last time franchisees are actually thanked or recognized? Most likely that is often the case. But I’m not just referring to systemwide accolades. I’m talking about someone from the brand’s leadership team picking up the phone for a quick call or planning to visit when in the franchisee’s area. Or at the very least sending a hand-written note just to say, “thank you” and that they’re appreciated for their investment in the brand, for how they represent the brand, and for how they’re committed to protecting the brand.

So, why not jumpstart an improvement in your franchise brand’s culture by starting with “thank you” as the norm, rather than as the exception?

There are franchisees in this country who work hard every day. Not for fame or fortune do they strive. But the fruits of their labor are worth more than their pay. And it’s time a few of them were recognized.