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Many people, during their lifetime, consider going on their own by buying a suitable franchise. What some of those people don’t realise is that buying a franchise is more like choosing a life partner than falling for a short-lived crush or even a one-night stand. Infinity Brands chief executive Ricardo Maio explains how choosing to become a franchisee should be compared to finding your soul mate.
It’s a long-term partnership where both franchisee and franchisor can win. But just like any long-term relationship, it may have a rocky start as both partners try to find their place in the union.
Finding Mr (or Mrs) Right
Just like franchisees want to find the perfect franchise to match their own skills and passions, the franchisor needs to assess franchisees for their fitness to run a business before embarking on a life-long journey of give and take. I am regularly approached by a variety of potential franchisees and must sift through them to find the candidates that will make a perfect match.
This is a difficult phase because we look for someone who is a leader, a good salesperson and has exceptional operational skills. The challenge is that good leaders are often entrepreneurial mavericks. They can’t help but clash with the need for them to align with the franchised business’ rules and boundaries.
Respect the boundaries
There are many important aspects that contribute to a perfect partnership. One of those aspects is setting boundaries right up front and sticking to them. Successful franchises are built on consistency. Customers learn to trust that consistency. It is so important for all the franchisees to know the boundaries and respect them.
Just a small example, a chicken franchisee who decides to buy his chicken at a different supplier may still be producing delicious chicken, but it won’t taste the same – from a customer’s perspective – as the chicken sold at the other franchises. It breaks the brand consistency and affects customer loyalty.
Respect the individual, as well as the whole
The franchise owner needs to be respected as an individual by the franchisor, while the franchisee also needs to see the whole brand as one big picture that he or she fits into. In relationships and in business, this is where most of the challenges start. It’s a fine balance to find individuality within a partnership.
It is important for franchise owners to be strong enough to succeed on their own, but within the processes and policies of the bigger brand. It truly affects the greater whole if one goes rogue. A few years back, there was a fast-food outlet that took a major dip in revenue because one rogue franchisee decided to clean chickens in the public eye instead of following the brand’s procedures.
No one likes an overly needy partner
Another relevant comparison, especially in the business of franchising. The franchisor’s role is to support, guide and consult. They are not meant to “take the wheel”. In this relationship, the franchise owner should be the driver and the franchisor the co-pilot, giving directions to get to the desired destination: success.
This definitely works both ways. It is incredibly crippling when franchisees expect too much from franchisors. It is just as crippling if the franchisor wants more than a franchisee can give. Both parties need to focus on their roles and responsibilities so they can complement each other. The franchisee is in charge of the individual business, the franchisor must take care of the brand – the collective.
Respect each other’s opinions
As the two partners go about their own business, there will come a time when opinions clash. It’s old advice, but still stands today: have an open-door policy. Respectful communication is key. See it as an opportunity to grow both sides of the partnership.
It is so important for franchisees to remember that franchises are not a democracy – they are a business with a core leadership team. It is equally for franchisors to listen to franchisees who have picked up ways to improve business operations. Franchisees can’t dictate and franchisors can’t be rigid.
Treat each other like equals
The franchisee must respect the whole and understand his or her role in the bigger picture. Similarly, franchisors need to understand that each franchise owner will be unique and will have different needs and wants. This truly is a fine balancing act of people who are, at best, vastly different. Franchise owners can’t go off on a tangent.
They will be going against a winning formula that has been proven to work. They need to take an internal view and see themselves as one cog in a finely tuned machine. Bucking the system can cause untold damage to the bigger picture. If each entity sees the other as different but equally important, the formula will thrive.
Happily ever after…
In a nutshell, the franchise owner’s vision is to grow a franchise into a successful business. The franchisor’s vision is to keep the customer happy and the product consistent. They can find their “happily ever after” if they understand the difference in vision and keep working towards a common goal.
- Ricardo Maio is the chief executive of Infinity Brands in South Africa. Infinity Brands currently manages five existing franchises — ACDC Express, Sunburst Electric, The Local Farmer, The Gas Kings, and Garden & Pool Legends.