By Shelly Sun
I was a 30-year-old vice president in a multibillion dollar company on a steady career track when I discovered that life had other plans for my husband, JD, and I. His grandmother became ill and we needed to find care but had a difficult time finding a quality solution. This was the first inclination that there was an opportunity for someone to improve the standard of home care. As a certified public accountant, I initially thought a career was less risky than going out on my own. But considering the new normal of today economy, I determined that I would rather bet on me than on my employer, and I jumped off the entrepreneurial cliff to start BrightStar Care in 2002.
But why did we choose the franchising model to grow BrightStar Care? Franchising can scale your brand by building upon the years of fine-tuning that made your business a success locally. Franchising links your expertise and investments as the franchisor with the capital and personal oversight of a franchisee to replicate your model in a new geographical market, which is one of the biggest differences from growing company-owned locations. Selling your business model means taking into consideration the benefits for prospective franchisees. In and of itself, franchising can be one of the least costly methods for aspiring entrepreneurs to get into business: the brand is established, the trademarks are secured, brochures and websites are designed, technology is provided and the model has been through hundreds of adaptations before it is rolled out as a franchise.
But you’re not looking for just anybody to buy into your business model. So how do you find the right people to run your franchises? In my new book, “Grow Smart, Risk Less: A Low-Capital Path to Multiplying Your Business through Franchising,” I cover some of the key lessons that we ve learned about franchise development since launching our franchising efforts in 2005.
Three first steps
1) Develop a franchisee profile. First and foremost, it’s really important to know who you’re looking for. What skills do your franchisees need to have? What background do they need? How much capital do they need to be successful? As you establish a franchisee profile when you re first starting out, consider what made your company-owned business successful in the first place. What did the initial team for the company-owned store look like? What are the founder’s skills, passion, attitude, work ethic and capitalization? That’s a great roadmap and a good profile to start from. Overall, finding those who have a similar set of values and have a capability for success will likely be the ones who will help you in building a sustainable franchise system.
2) Develop a sales process. Once you know what you re looking for, the foundation for a solid franchise development program is a good sales process. If done right, it helps a franchisee evaluate you and it also allows you to evaluate the franchisee. For example, we build homework into each stage and note when prospects are not showing up for calls on time or they re not completing the homework that they were required to do. If they don’t follow the homework before they’re a franchisee, they likely won’t follow our model later. And they’re likely not right for our system.
3) Manage expectations. Another key lesson I ve learned is that you want to make sure you’re delivering enough information upfront so a franchise prospect understands what they’re getting into “ the good, the bad and, yes, even the ugly. Is it something that you need to work 60, 70 or 80 hours a week for a couple of years to get the franchise off the ground? If so, make sure they know that upfront. Let them see exactly what constitutes a day in the life of a franchisee. You don’t want a franchisee getting in thinking they can put in 30 or 40 hours a week or be an absentee owner, and then require something different. What do they need to know to make a good decision? And how much does it cost? How do you make sure they’re properly capitalized? Your franchisees will be a major key to the success of the organization. Managing their expectations during the sales process will help you to find the right fit .
Even with these best practices in place, your franchise development strategy likely will evolve over time, especially if you are just launching your franchise system. But what will remain unchanged is that driving system-wide growth and success depends heavily upon your franchisee recruitment efforts. In knowing what you re looking for and having a refined process for finding it, you will be on your way to building a system of franchisees that will be in it to win it.
Shelly Sun, a certified franchise executive, is chief executive and co-founder of Chicago-based BrightStar Care, with over 200 locations nationwide. She is author of the forthcoming book, Grow Smart, Risk Less: A Low-Capital Path to Multiplying Your Business Through Franchising. For more information, visit http://growsmartriskless.com/.