Across the UK, franchising is growing at an astronomical rate. From fast food outlets to dog grooming services, it seems just about any business is available as a franchise nowadays. The appeal of franchising is obvious. You have the autonomy of an entrepreneur but the safety and structure of a successful brand behind you.
However, franchising isn’t for everybody and knowing whether you’re suited to it before you take the plunge can save you a lot of money and stress. Over the past 20 something years, I’ve come to know a thing or two about what it takes to be a top franchisee. Below are some of the key characteristics necessary for ensuring success as a franchisee.
It sounds cliché but this is absolutely key to running your own franchise. Many people see themselves in this category automatically - franchise candidates invariably are able to talk about themselves and their accomplishments, their background, their ambitions, and so on without hesitation and sometimes without limitation. Most individuals naturally fail to realise that this ability ‘to talk’ is not what classifies them as a good communicator. The ability to listen and absorb information is of equal, if not greater, importance to that of just talking.
This is crucial to franchisors when selecting and recruiting franchisees, because it means the candidates can be trained and fundamentally left to their own devices. By definition, if they are self-disciplined they do not need a lot of ‘franchisor’ input and support. Unfortunately there are few people that are truly self-disciplined when it comes to running a business. This is in part because a business is a multi-faceted operation requiring multi-faceted skills and knowledge. It is unlikely that one person will be a provider of such a range of skills and, therefore, they will need help, guidance and support throughout their business life.
The other problem with too much self-discipline is that it sometimes creates a lack of output - the franchisee is caught up in their own world of organization and is not getting the big picture information. Self-discipline is good but is not the total picture - we need self-disciplined individuals that recognise they are part of a bigger system and, therefore, need the ability to work within that framework.
Ability and eagerness to learn the system
A franchise is a system, invariably one that is proven, written down and has been in existence for a long time. Because franchisees all work within the same system, they all need to be trained in the same way. Most people will admit that they are trainable, especially at the point when they are seeking a franchise award.
Often, however, that proves not to be the case, and while they can sit through hours of training sessions and extensive PowerPoint presentations it seems very little of the information takes root. As a potential franchisee, you must look at this aspect and determine if you are trainable and, if so, can you then put that training into practice. Maybe the question is also, do I want to be trained? Some franchisees enter a franchise system with little intention of absorbing the training sessions.
Ability to work smart
As with many other traits, real or imagined, potential franchisees will all attest to their extensive work ethic and their ability to make things work. Hard work is second nature to many ‘corporate refugees’ transitioning from major corporate employment into the realm of self-employment and entrepreneurship. They are used to working a staggering number of hours every week. Now, in their new environment, they are probably not faced with the same challenge. Working ‘smart’ as opposed to working hard and long is the preferred way to go. Because, as we have stated, a franchise is a well-tested and proven system, the franchisee should expect to work smart rather than hard, and needs to have the internal ability to make such a transition. That transition aspect often shows that some people are not perhaps as self-disciplined at they thought they were.
Consider a senior executive working in a multi-national corporation, hundreds of employees, many of whom report to the individual - a very structured environment with many ‘safety nets’ and procedures for everything. Now take that same individual and place him or her in a franchise environment - maybe even in a home-based, one-person franchise. This represents not just a leap into entrepreneurship, but rather a quantum leap. The franchisee will indeed have to muster all of their self-discipline qualities to make things work.
An entrepreneurial side
In our search for the perfect franchisee we often use terms such as entrepreneur, entrepreneurial outlook, etc. implying that we would like to recruit entrepreneurs as franchisees. I question if that is really the case. By definition an entrepreneur is a person who organises and manages a business, usually with some capital involvement. On the face of it the definition seems to fit our search pattern. In reality, however, a true entrepreneur is unlikely to be satisfied with a franchise environment. Entrepreneurs by nature are creative individuals that constantly want to re-invent the wheel and find a better way to do everything. This is not a set of circumstances that a franchisor wishes to encounter - they need someone who will accept their already-proven system and work within that, notwithstanding the occasional suggestion for minor improvement.
Maybe as a franchisor we are really looking for people that may have some entrepreneurial aspirations that have yet to come to maturity.
By David Banfield, President of the Interface Financial Group