by Glenice Riley
last updated 23/09/2019
How to become a high-achieving franchisee
by Glenice Riley
last updated 23/09/2019
Glenice Riley offers advice on how to make the most of a franchise opportunity
So you’ve made your mind up. You’ve done your homework, you’ve found a franchise that fits both your pocket and your ambitions and you’re ready to take the plunge. You’re about to get very busy, so take a few minutes now to think about what you can do to make the most of the opportunity before you.
I’ve worked in franchising for over 20 years as a franchisee, franchisor, broker and consultant, and I’ve seen all sorts of people find great success in their chosen franchise. I’ve also seen some who never quite achieved everything they could – or should – have. What are the factors that made the difference?
Successful people need qualities such as focus, self-reliance, direction and determination, but in many ways the single biggest predictor of success as a franchisee can be summed up in one word – passion.
If you are absolutely passionate about your business then you are far more likely to succeed. You need to truly love the brand, the business and what you do.
If you are passionate, you’ll give your customers the result they’re looking for because you care and because it’s important to you – whether it’s the best hair cut, glowing skin, a weed-free garden or a fantastic cup of coffee. Passion for your business gives you a clearer vision about the brand and how you can leverage it to build your business.
If you are doing something that you love, then you won’t feel as much of the stress and strain as many business owners. It takes hard work and long hours to make a business work, especially in the early days, but if you love it then you’ll have a more positive approach.
Your passion and commitment to excellence will rub off on your customers and staff; people will want to work with you and customers will want to spend money with you. Passion focuses you on delivering the best service and looking after your customers. That’s what generates sales, and without sales you don’t have a business. Everything else follows.
Passion comes before money. If your decision to invest in a particular franchise is driven more by the thought of making money than by a passion for that industry, you won’t achieve the same results as someone driven by passion. Passionate franchisees do much better – and have a whole lot more fun – because they are working at something they love in a business that matters to them. They are excited and proud of what they do, proud of their brand and comfortable talking about it to anyone and everyone. It pushes their buttons.
Sometimes, when we try something new, it is more difficult than expected. In any business, getting started and getting up to speed takes time.
A major miscalculation that new franchisees often make is expecting to be operating at peak capacity and efficiency on day one, with all systems in place and everything firing on all cylinders. Even with all the training and support you’ll get in a franchise, that probably won't happen, so don’t set yourself unrealistic expectations. You need to allow time for customers to get to know your business and products or services. You need to build awareness of your business in your local community and grow your customer database. It takes time for staff training to kick in, for certain tasks to be become instinctive and for your team to gel. You may be new to the industry, to managing people and to running a business so give yourself time to find your feet. It doesn’t happen instantly but don’t get downhearted - persist. Nothing worthwhile was ever achieved overnight or without effort.
Don’t expect there to be no hiccups along the way – they are inevitable. Expect the unexpected. Can you persevere when the going gets tough? Remember, it’s not what happens; it’s what you do about it that counts. What will determine your success is your ability to think on your feet, to pick yourself up and keep going when things happen that you didn’t foresee.
Be prepared for the reality of the small business lifestyle. Are you anticipating business days filled with serving customers, meaningful meetings, business wheeling and dealing and money rolling in? Dream on – in reality, you’ll often find yourself up to your neck in all the other things that have to be done. You’ll be wearing many hats: marketing, dealing with suppliers, doing paperwork, managing the business and your team if you have staff, putting out fires (not literally, I hope), making your own tea and working long, unsociable hours. You’re it – the buck stops with you.
Can you remain positive throughout the ups and downs of business ownership? The bad days, the grouchy customers, the mistakes and the constant interruptions? Your outlook and attitude will impact all those around you, your staff, customers and the franchisor, and your success will be a reflection of your outlook. Is your glass half full or half empty? Will you look for ways to make things work, or look for someone to blame for things not working?
When you are facing issues in your business, you need to be able to look at the reason for them and take ownership of them. Things go wrong sometimes: accept that, learn from it and move on. That’s what the high achievers do.
Focus on what matters
Apply the 80/20 rule – spend 80% of your time on the 20% of the tasks that are going to produce the biggest results. As a business owner, you’re like the conductor of an orchestra. To make beautiful music you need to be focussed on marketing, sales, providing fantastic service, looking after your customers, inspiring your team and inspecting what they’re doing to ensure your standards are maintained.
It’s easy to become bogged down with bookwork and administration, but this is not an area that makes you money (although it can cost you money if it goes wrong). Can you entrust these tasks to someone else? Being in the back office won’t build your business as much as being on the front line and driving sales.
Manage your business by walking around. Check what’s happening and keep your team accountable. Pay attention to every aspect of your business, maintain high standards in everything and insist on delivering only the best that you and your team are capable of. Don’t expect what you don’t inspect.
Follow the system
It seems really obvious, but follow the system you’ve paid for. Would you pay to lease a building then not use it? When you invest in a franchise business you are buying a tried and tested system that has been proven to work in other successful businesses. Others have already done the hard work for you to find out which systems and processes work and which don’t. You’ve invested in learning from their mistakes – don’t invent new ones of your own.
Accept that being a franchisee limits what you can and cannot do in your business. You must be willing to provide the product or service at a standard that is consistent throughout the whole franchise. Don’t cut corners or change ingredients. If you are not willing to work within the boundaries that are provided by the franchisor, then there is little point in buying a franchise.
The most successful franchisees are the ones who execute the system best. They focus on putting it into practice rather than wasting their time and energy trying to change it – in other words, they follow the recipe. They still think about what they are doing constantly and contribute new ideas to the franchise, but they don’t re-invent the wheel.
Look for continuous improvement
A franchise is an exclusive club – a club full of members who have exactly the same type of business as you. When you become a franchisee, you become part of a group using the same brand, products, services and systems to operate your businesses. Despite this, you won’t all be getting the same results. By sharing information, you can learn what you are doing well and where you have room for improvement. Even better, by learning from those franchisees who are doing well in areas you’re not, you can find out how to make those improvements in your own business.
Some of the most successful franchisees I’ve seen are those who constantly seek out ‘best practice’ information. Regularly review your business’s actual performance against your own goals and against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) across the group. Identify the areas of your business to improve and talk to the franchisees who are doing best in those areas. Set aside time every week to talk with high-performing franchisees in your system.
Have a personal/professional line
Most New Zealand businesses employ fewer than five people and when you’re working with the same few people day in and day out, it’s easy to get very close to your team. One of the things many franchisees struggle with is being friendly with their team but not actually becoming their friend. That can cause problems when someone lets you down or disciplinary issues arise. Employees will have their own standards and agenda, and they won’t necessarily be the same as yours. Always remember, it’s your business and you need to be able to take the actions necessary to keep it running properly and profitably – to protect their livelihood as well as yours.
You are less likely to fail if you have realistic expectations from the start. In my experience, franchisees often have unrealistic expectations as to how much money they will make (and how quickly it will happen), and how much the franchisor will do to build the business for them. The more you talk with the franchisor before you start to ensure that your expectations are aligned with reality, the less likely you are to have conflict with your franchisor later on.
This is another area where talking to other franchisees in the system, both before and after buying the franchise, can be helpful.
Understand the money
There is plenty of advice available regarding the financial resources that you’ll need for your business; needless to say, having sufficient capital to purchase and set up your business is essential. So is having enough money to live on until you break even, but people don’t always allow for this. No business will make money on day one and it may be some time before it is actually able to pay the bills, let alone a salary for you. Don’t let this put you off, though – plan for it.
When you start your business, understand that there are three different levels of break-even and set yourself targets for each. These targets will be the number of dollars you need to be making and the date by which to be making them.
Break-even No.1 This is when your franchise is generating enough revenue to pay all the costs in the business except paying yourself.
Break-even No.2 Your franchise is able to pay all the costs in the business plus pay you a reasonable market salary appropriate to the position that you hold within your business and the industry that you are operating in.
Break-even No.3 Your franchise pays all the costs for your business, plus an appropriate salary for yourself, plus a return on the capital you have invested in setting up the business.
By knowing these three targets, you’ll have a better understanding of exactly how your business is progressing. It also helps you be disciplined: don’t expect to pay yourself until your business reaches the required level.
Taking money out of the business too early will cripple it. Franchisees who haven’t previously owned a business can run into problems when they’ve been in the business for a year or two, see money in the bank and spend it on a holiday, a car or a boat, rather than applying caution and re-investing money in the business to keep it going. Cash in your bank account isn’t profit, and profit isn’t cash to pay the bills. Understand what money your business needs and where it is going – and if you don’t, get expert help.
Know who does what
Although the franchise brand will have value and any national marketing will help to bring customers to your door, your franchisor is not solely responsible for your success. Think of it this way: when you buy a franchise, the franchisor provides you with a toolbox containing the brand, systems and procedures for you to run your business. However, you’ll be the person on-site actually operating the business on a day-to-day basis. They can’t do it for you, so don’t expect the franchisor to run your business. You need to open the toolbox, pull out the tools, roll up your sleeves and use them. Don't expect to open your doors, sit back and wait for your till to magically start ringing.
The franchisor is not solely responsible for your success, and you need to realise that. It’s a business partnership with different roles and responsibilities for each partner. Be clear about the franchisor’s obligations and your own. Both of you have a vested interest in your building the most successful business possible. Working with them produces the best results.
Have family and friends behind you
Even if you’re working hard and having fun, you’ll still need the support of your family and friends to help you keep up the effort involved in starting your own business. Your family needs to believe in what you are doing and be prepared to provide the support you need, whether by working in the business themselves or by taking on more responsibility at home. If they are not fully supportive of what you are doing, or not appreciative of the effort that is required by you to get the business off the ground, it will be detrimental to your success.
How high will you fly?
Nobody said creating a successful business was easy – if it was, everyone would be doing it. But by buying a franchise you are giving yourself the best possible chance of success. You start with a known brand, proven products or services, well-developed systems, marketing and business support, a peer group of like-minded people to discuss issues and ideas with, and all sorts of other advantages.
All franchisees start with these same tools in their toolbox, but some use them better than others. By identifying the factors that high achievers have in common, I hope I’ve helped you work out how you can join them. You’ve bought the franchise – now make it work for you and get the maximum return.
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