In 1955, multi-mixer salesman Ray Kroc saw the future in hamburgers and opened the first McDonald’s franchise location in Des Plaines, Illinois. Today, more than 80% of the 36 000 worldwide McDonald’s locations are franchises.
Every superstar franchise starts as a new brand. Entrepreneurs who get in on the ground floor can potentially reap great rewards.
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“Think of it like the stock market, where early investors can score big,” says Brent Dowling, chief operating officer at RainTree, a franchise consulting company.
“Imagine being one of the first 20 McDonald’s franchise owners. When the smaller franchises become big, that’s where we see 1 000% returns.”
Beyond the money: Input and influence
An often-cited benefit of early ownership is the chance to influence the franchise systems. “Established brands just want you to follow the programme,” says Terry Powell, whose company, The Entrepreneur’s Source, helps individuals find the right franchise concept for themselves. “Early franchisees get to be part of the development and have their ideas listened to.”
Serial entrepreneur Amy Lewallen has more than ten years’ experience as an early owner in three different emerging wellness and fitness brands: Fitness Together, Elements Therapeutic Massage and her current Iron Tribe Fitness centre in Washington in the US. She’s drawn by the opportunity to influence the rollout of new concepts as the franchise grows.
“I saw the chance to help steer the brand,” she says. “You just have to know there will be growing pains.”
Franchisors know how important this input and influence can be. Anna Phillips, CEO and founder of emerging brand Lash Lounge, actively looks for franchisees who are ‘team players, flexible with change and able to help provide solutions to gaps that will improve the overall franchise organisation.’
She views her franchisees as ‘contributing pioneers’ who benefit from prime territory selection and lower franchise fees. RainTree’s Dowling notes that early owners also receive direct support from founders eager to prove success in new markets, along with the chance to be involved in “decision-making for the entire franchise brand, from new products or services to systems and processes.”
Mitigating the risks
As with any investment, there are liabilities to being an early adopter. “Without a track record of success in different markets, there is the risk that the brand just isn’t as replicable as predicted,” says Dowling.
Success may not be immediately apparent either. It can take a while for emerging brands to reach what Terry Powell calls the stage of critical mass, when growth begins to happen more rapidly and exponentially — from his perspective, that’s around 75 units.
And franchisor Phillips is frank that emerging franchises are still building brand recognition and growing their internal team with systems that don’t always provide the support owners expect from more established franchises.
Powell’s 32 years’ experience in matching entrepreneurs with franchise opportunities has also taught him that prospective franchisees can sometimes be their own greatest danger.
“People think it’ll be like falling in love, but it’s better not to think of a right fit in purely emotional terms. A franchise is a vehicle to accomplish your lifestyle, wealth and equity goals.”
How do you decide if an emerging franchise is right for you?
In the absence of an extensive track record of financial performance, entrepreneurs need to dig deeper and research creatively. Focus on the business model, the direct experience of owners already in the system and the values and culture of the franchise.
Business considerations include:
- Is there a clear demand for the product or service offered by the emerging franchise?
- What key differentiators does the franchise bring to the market?
- Is the franchisor team professional and experienced?
- What is the performance track record within existing units?
- How many units have closed and why?
Are the current operations, marketing and training systems understandable, usable and streamlined? Lash Lounge CEO Phillips says, “If the early systems look organised and well-developed, it is a fair assessment that they will continue to grow and provide great support as the franchise becomes more established.”
- Does the business model meet your income and lifestyle goals?
- Do you have the marketing and sales skills to help build brand awareness?
- If the emerging brand is a new concept, how comfortable are you with being a pioneer?
Make sure you talk to as many current owners as possible. Amy Lewallen advises that you insist on being put in contact with struggling owners as well as successful ones, so you can gain insight into the real challenges of the business and evaluate your own ability to respond to them.
“This is likely to be the most important part of your research process,” says Brent Dowling. “In addition to asking existing owners about their profits and losses, timeframes and milestones, the most important question is, ‘Would you do it all again?’”
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Finally, it’s vital that you’re comfortable with, and excited by, the vision, values and culture of the franchise. Your success depends on your long-term engagement with the brand. Amy Lewallen’s approach is to ask herself, “Is there anything about this brand that I wonder if I can live with that or not? Because when you buy in, you’re married to that brand, and what they believe in, you have to believe in.”
Maximise Your Social Media Reach This Holiday Season
Quick and cost-effective, social media is your best tool to reach target markets when it matters most – during the holidays.
It’s not just the end of the year that can be lucrative for businesses. School holidays and other major breaks during the year present consumers with more time to spend shopping. Why not ensure money is spent at your franchise by capitalising on the minimal cost and maximum exposure of social media?
You don’t have to create entirely new deals or promotions from what you may already have running on your store, but find a way to make it special for your social media followers, suggests Kelly Mason, marketer at Customer Paradigm.
Holiday campaigns on Twitter, benefitting from popular hashtags, streaming live content, and receiving information instead of just distributing it via social media are just some of the ways to stay ahead of the competition.
Know your customers well
The first step to attracting customers and getting them to complete a sale is understanding their customer journey.
“Being able to document where they spend their time online, which social channels they use most, and what they’re reading or watching on those channels is a huge plus. Finding that crucial information is fairly easy to do, thanks to modern-day marketing tools and resources,” advises Paul Herman, VP: Product and Solutions Enablement Group, at Sprinklr, a unified customer experience management platform for enterprises.
The better you understand your customers, the easier it is to reach them through a campaign optimised for their interests.
Master social listening
You could be using social media all wrong in the run up to all your holiday campaigns. Perhaps it’s time you used this platform to listen to your customers?
“Through social listening, marketers can identify major trends and product keywords in their industries,” says Herman. “For instance, knowing those keywords can help marketers identify which social platforms are more popular for a target audience. With that information, they can make smarter decisions about where to spend their money and which products or services to promote on each platform.”
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Use the information gathered to determine what customers like about your product, what they dislike about it, and how you can improve upon it so they can buy more of it. The more of this data you collect, the better and more effective your interactions with customers will be.
Try something new
50% of consumers look for a video of the product they want to buy before going to an ecommerce store to buy it, according to a 2016 Google survey. “Video can be an extremely effective way to get your customers to take action – in this case, to make a purchase with your store,” adds Mason.
Video adverts are often used as an experimental tool in social marketing and switching it up on platforms such as Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Instagram Stories, or Snapchat – depending on your brand’s activity and your audiences’ interests – can help attract customers during seasonal periods.
Selling Your First Franchise? Consider These Key Pointers
You’re ready to franchise your business, but who do you sell to and how? Your first few franchisees may be the hardest to acquire, but the process will be smoother if you get some basics right.
Business experience gained running your independent brand will come in handy, but looking for franchisees is a different ballgame. “We have to attract the right people in enough numbers to make the difference; and, the key to more leads is to have a multi-prong strategy to marketing,” says franchise strategist and expansion expert Lizette Pirtle.
Using media (social, or otherwise), trained experts in franchise sales, and keeping in mind that whoever you sell to will become an extension of your brand, are important considerations before selling your to first franchisee:
1. Use (all) media wisely
Website marketing, print advertising and social media are just some of the many different ways to attract potential owners to your franchise. But the most cost-effect of the three may be a ‘tweet’ or ‘post’ away, says former Director of Marketing at the International Franchise Association and owner of Burris Branding and Marketing, Jack Burris.
“Three out of four people using the Internet are either on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter or all of them. Take advantage of social media,” he says.
“There’s typically no cost to play in the space except for the time that you need to invest to build your brand with a social media presence.”
2. Seek out franchise coaches or brokers
While this is a more traditional method of making reliable franchise sales, it’s a great way to form lasting associations that will take you beyond your first few sales. “Using broker networks is a great way to supplement your own efforts. However, you must spend time developing relationships with these people if you want to get results,” advises Pirtle. “Don’t think that just listing your opportunity with them is sufficient.”
Franchise coaches and brokers have multiple options for potential franchisees, so to put yourself high on their list of consideration when prospects enquire, you have to form memorable relationships.
3. Always consider the bigger picture
Out of all the people your marketing efforts attract, always keep in mind that few will check all the boxes and compromising could cost you in the long run.
“The franchise relationship is a long-term one. If you’re going to be successful as a franchisor, you should start with the attitude that every franchisee will be someone who you’ll have to live with for years to come. And nowhere is this philosophy more important than when awarding your first franchise,” says Mark Siebert, CEO of the iFranchise Group, a franchise consulting organisation.
3 Factors To Focus On When Opening Your First Franchise
To become a successful franchisee, there’s lots more to learn. Take notes and this will be an adventure still with its challenges, but less stress.
Experts and those who’ve gone through the launching, managing and successful running of a franchise will tell you that owning a franchise can be just as risky as owning an independent small business – and it doesn’t get easier after signing on the dotted line. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth giving franchising a shot.
“The hardest part of being a franchisee is learning and adopting all the processes that exist in the brand you’re buying into. But it’s important that a customer can walk into any franchisee’s property across the country and have the exact same experience,” says Jeff Chew, Pizza Factory franchisee.
With that in mind, remember the financial, emotional and physical investment you’ve made in this new venture and let it fuel your success, from before you even serve your first customer
1. Financial and intellectual wealth
Don’t buy into a franchise where you might be undercapitalised, advises Paul Durant, a Junk King franchisee.
Keep in mind that running a new business isn’t challenging only mentally strenuous, but financially too, because you’re not always immediately profitable. Ensure you have enough runway for a few years at a loss or minimal profit.
“I did not do a thorough job in my initial research and discovery calls. I used a lot of my own assumptions and luckily they were fairly close,” recalls Durant.
“I would, however, suggest that you ask very detailed questions during the discovery process and listen carefully to the responses. Often what is not said is equally as important as what is said.”
2. Remember the purpose of the manual
The point of buying into the concept you’ve chosen is to ensure success based on a roadmap that’s already been drawn out for you. Straying from this plan unnecessarily is a shortcut to failure. This doesn’t mean you cannot make changes, but always ensure your growth is where it needs to be by following the system completely.
Franchisee Mark Arduino thought he was taking the advice he’d been given countless times: Just follow the system. But he quickly realised he wasn’t when all the franchise-specific training he’d been through was forgotten in favour of easier shortcuts.
“Then I realised my mistake. I came to see that it’s very user friendly. I’m sorry I didn’t use it from the start!” he says.
If you think you have a better way of doing something detailed in the franchisee manual, do your research. Your decision should follow a discussion with your franchisor, then align to the business plan.
3. Learn at every opportunity
It’s great that you have previous experience in business. It’s a huge bonus that could put you ahead of other franchisees in your network. But, always be willing to learn and put your hand up or open a book if you’re not sure. A vast business background doesn’t guarantee automatic success as a franchisee, so be open to learning from others.
“I have learned more from two of the franchisees in my area than I could ever have imagined and I owe my early success in large part to their willingness to help,” says Jeff Steele, a CMIT Solutions franchisee.
It may sometimes seem like you can do it all on your own, but even when you feel you can do anything, you cannot do everything. That’s why you joined a franchise that (hopefully) offers good support structure.
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