The question we posed to franchisors was simple: What’s the biggest mistake you see first-time franchisees make, and how can they avoid making it? Their responses:
Don’t Underestimate the Time Commitment
Tom Kasbohm, Snap-on Tools’ director of franchise systems told us that “underestimating the time commitment needed to be the owner and operator of [their] own business” is a common mistake he sees with new franchisees. “A good franchise system has the brand recognition and programs to help you get your business started. But it still requires hard work, dedication and time to learn the business.” To help minimize the growing pains, Kasbohm says that Snap-on Tools Corporate requires candidates to spend a day with a franchisee to observe the business and “understand the time commitment involved.”
Don’t Get Discouraged During Ramp Up
Owning a business of any kind is a marathon, not a sprint. “There’s often a ramp-up time in the beginning months of a franchise before a store begins to hit its stride,” says Cameron Cummins, vice president of marketing and recruiting for Marco’s Pizza. “Sometimes a first-time franchisee thinks that customers will flock to them immediately. Of course, when a [franchise] opens in a town it’s going to attract customers, but the franchisee still has to get out there in the community. They’ll need to keep a laser-focus on customer service and be actively and passionately involved in this business.”
Don't Stray from the System
When recalling a conversation with two Bach to Rock franchisees, franchise president Brian Gross recalled how they said to him that “they wished they had followed our advice, counsel and guidance more closely during the start-up process.” The biggest piece of advice Gross says he can give an incoming franchisee is to trust the lessons the franchisor has learned following countless hours and significant amounts of money spent building the business. “We’ve learned, often the hard way, how to do something right,” he says. “Take our learning and apply it. Don’t make the mistake of repeating our mistakes because you think you can do it better.”
Bonus Advice: Take a Good, Long Look Around Before Choosing
“Purchasing a franchise can be a lifestyle change and it is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. It is important to be 100% sure of your decision and to have all questions answered.”
- Tim Courtney, vice president of franchise development for CruiseOne
Before deciding on a franchise take a look around. There’s a lot of franchises, and you have to find the right one that fits you. Franchise “A” may not be good for everyone that comes into franchising. But for a different person that same franchise could provide a great lifestyle with good earning potential.
“Take the time and learn two or three models,” says Tim Milburn, vice president of franchise development for Nestle Toll House Café by Chip. “Spend the time to really do your research. Don’t dismiss opportunities too quickly. You’ll have something to compare and contrast amongst two or three options, and I think you’ll really find the exploration process to be very rewarding.”
When you’re ready to commit to a franchise, make sure to develop a relationship with the corporate office. This is most often done through what’s called a “Discovery Day.” Discovery Days are events where prospective franchisees are invited to a convention-like gathering to learn about the franchise in-depth, and given a tour of the facilities. Discovery Day is typically held at the franchise’s corporate office. Sometimes, however, it can be held at a designated franchise currently in operation. During the event there is usually ample opportunity to meet and develop relationships with major players in the franchise as well as other franchisees.
“Meeting [franchise representatives] and evaluating the franchise in person is the only way a prospective franchisee could evaluate whether or not the franchise is for them,” remarks Judy Scott, longtime industry executive and franchise sales director for the Zoo Heath Club. “Company and staff experience along with strong ongoing support should be important to a prospective franchisee, and [meeting them in person] is the best way to evaluate the franchise.”