Franchise Candidates: A Changed Mindset

This article was originally posted on August 13, 2009 as Franchise Candidates: A Changing Mindset. Well, I guess we can revise the title slightly to reflect candidates’ current views – A Changed Mindset. Nevertheless, the article may be even more relevant today as franchising attempts to rebound from the economic downturn and continues to explore more viable lead generation strategies that will attract today’s franchise candidate. Many continue to explore social media and have realized its position as an integral and effective component of these strategies… of course, when utilized according to a plan.

caution-01A look at today’s franchise candidates will reveal they are more sophisticated, better educated, and more technologically advanced than ever before. In addition, and even more so because of the economic downturn, they are extremely cautious.

Today’s candidates are spending more time researching opportunities, and doing so at a much slower pace. In order to be diligent in the process, more time is spent online pouring through page after page of information, constantly bookmarking, and moving back and forth from new information to saved information. They’re comparing notes with other franchise candidates on social networking sites. As well, they’re gaining invaluable insight monitoring online discussion groups and forums.

Ultimately, today’s franchise candidate desires and needs to be certain the franchise opportunity is as close to perfect for his or her situation, as humanly possible. In the past, and especially after previous recessions, franchise candidates took their capital gains and invested in a franchise opportunity. Many times leaving the principal investment untouched. There was a sense of throwing caution to the wind because they were investing profits. Many times ungodly profits, at least by today’s standards. Does anyone remember when money markets kicked out 17% profit margins?

Unfortunately, many individuals looking at franchise opportunities today are looking at things differently. They have to. Many are transitioning corporate executives staring at the back end of illustrious careers trying to squeak out just ten more years before retirement. Facing the challenge of younger talent, new technology, and a rapidly changing business environment, many opt to “buy” a job and explore franchising and small business ownership.

What Changed?

Here’s the difference between today’s recession, and of those in the past. As huge fortunes have been lost, and large gains have not been realized in current financial markets, today’s candidates are forced to invest all or part of their remaining nest egg in order to enter the world of business ownership. Of course, everyone knows and fully understand the risks involved in owning a business. But in yesterday’s business environment, many franchisees and business owners were “gambling” with profits.

Certainly, no one wanted to lose money in a business venture. But, many had fallback positions with funds still in retirement accounts and of course, if they had to, employment. For many of today’s candidates, failure is not an option because fallback opportunities are fast becoming non-existent. Actually, I believe many of today’s candidates might not have even considered franchise or small business ownership in the past.

So, as many individuals explore their options, they will focus more and more of their efforts online. Franchisors must embrace this fact, and dedicate more resources to the internet and look to social media to complement, not replace, their traditional franchise marketing strategies. By doing so, they’ll realize multiple benefits for their entire system including:

– Creating or further developing brand awareness with franchise candidates and consumers alike
– Generating franchise leads that are genuinely interested in exploring what franchising and small business ownership has to offer, and how a particular concept may be the vehicle to achieve their goals and objectives
– Establishing an interactive environment of communications and information sharing that will become the backbone of future franchise relationships throughout franchise systems

Last, many franchise candidates previously viewed franchising and small business ownership as a way of achieving their wishes, hopes and dreams, regardless of what those may have been. Today, it’s more about goals and objectives, and necessities. We, as an industry need to fully realize this, and understand the mindset of today’s franchise candidate.

Attracting Female Franchise Candidates via Social Media

“Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, right? On Venus, there’s allegedly a lot more touchy-feely, emotional stuff going on…you know, talking, crying, connecting. Well, according to a study by The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute, there’s a lot more of something else going on too: social networking.”

Read more about how women are utilizing social media in small business in the blog at Information Week SMB Technology for Small and Mid-size Business. The article, Social Media for Small Business: It’s a Girl Thang! refers to a study in which 1,200 small-business owners across 12 verticals (including financial services, high-tech, hospitality, and real estate) were surveyed, found that female entrepreneurs value social media “at three times the level” of male small-business owners!

This corresponds with our experience in working with franchise clients across various industry segments, where we continue to see more and more women explore franchising as a career alternative. And, for a variety of reasons, women choose to control their own destiny and take matters into their own hands.

Joining the force of today’s more sophisticated, educated and technologically advanced transitioning corporate executives, women are using social media to explore and investigate franchise opportunities. Tending to be more diligent and thorough than men in general, women relish relationship building and sharing of information making social media marketing perfect to attract female franchise candidates.

Several key steps to an effective social media strategy include, identifying targets, identifying where they congregate and communicate online, and identifying the online influencers of the target audience. In the case of women as a target audience, the blogging community is a perfect place to start, providing direction to other social media via links within the blogs along with direct “follow me / join me / like me” buttons. It’s within these captive “online communities” where franchisors can share information about their brand, interact with community members, and create interest in their franchise concept.

* Here’s another article supporting the case that women are embracing social media more than their male counterparts.


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Opinions, Insight and Perspectives on Franchising

I recently posted a question on Linkedin that addressed the primary reasons to explore franchising. Below please find several of the responses from a cross-section of industry and non-industry professionals . As I have done in the past, the names of the responding individuals will be kept confidential. Instead, they will only identified by their Linkedin statement or profile.

doors-optionsWhat is your opinion of franchising as a business model, business expansion strategy and as a career alternative?
as posted in the Q & A section on LinkedIn under Franchising

An SAP Consultant with some franchising experience obviously has done his homework and offered valuable advice as well as sharing some real life experiences.

“I have studied business and many individual businesses personally. I read many business cases and books and have a deep interest in business models and how they work in the current market.

First of all, check out the book ‘The E-myth Revisited?’ It is a very interesting way of viewing a business model. It describes the benefits of the franchise way of doing business.

I also have been involved in a few franchise opportunities, most recently, I was looking to purchase a tanning franchise. The business model was highly tuned, the computer system was revolutionary and perfectly adapted to the business through many years of iterations. The computer system alone would allow you to manage multiple stores with very little hands on control. The power of the franchise itself brought purchasing power and brand recognition which would have been difficult to built independently. The small percentage of revenues to fund regional advertising brought in enough business that I could have been almost completely hands off while still turning a sizable profit.

In short, most entrepreneurs work IN their business, but at a point you need to delegate so you can work ON your business. And franchising is a marvelous way (for most businesses) to grow exponentially.”

This next response if from a business coach that specializes in guerilla marketing strategies. Before I even read her response i knew I would agree with her perspective of franchisees needing to be prepared to work hard despite buying into a system. How true, indeed.

“I think that Franchises represent an great opportunity for some people. They can provide an excellent template for success, as well as resources and support as you are growing your business. That said, opening a franchise is just like starting any other business from the standpoint that you must have a clear idea as to how you will drive customers to your product/service. A franchisor will provide you with the tools and a blueprint, but you are going to have to do a lot of the heavy-lifting yourself. Make sure you are prepared!

Before committing to any franchise, talk to some of their current (and former!) franchisees. Don’t just call the people the franchisor tells you to call; reach deeper into their list of franchisees. Develop a list of questions that you can ask that help you to understand whether this particular franchise is going to be a good fit for you.

Lastly, if you are someone who doesn’t really like “rules”, you may want to think twice about franchising. What makes franchises work is that things are delivered consistently. That can be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on how well you follow rules!”

An entrepreneur who previously founded a small franchise company offered his view which it appears may have been formed by some entrepreneurial types that entered into a franchise agreement with his franchise company. Personally, I do not believe true entrepreneurs make very good franchisees. On the flip-side, is he referring to true entrepreneurs or franchisees that just had buyer’s remorse and had to blame someone for their poor performance and/or failure?

“I could wax on for hours on the subject and don’t have the finger skills to type it all, but…

First, my qualifications: I founded/own a successful retail business for over 15 years. I have created multiple businesses, some successful, some not, but all independent. I also created a retail concept that I franchised. So I have the unique view of being an independent and a franchisor.

Here are some quotes:
-A franchise is like a bicycle with training wheels. Once you learn how to ride, you won’t want training wheels anymore.
-Franchising is for those who want you to help them…but, then to leave them alone. In other words they want to be indies, but in a community.
-A franchise is only as good as it’s support.
-If a franchise operation doesn’t give back in value more than royalties paid in, the franchisee will eventually resent writing a check to “the mother ship”.
-A franchise is a business model that people expect to have it all figured out – no one has it all figured out.”

A very well-respected and experienced franchise consultant offered his perspective from having worked with individuals explore franchising as a career alternative. I agree that many explore business ownership options because they cannot find a career position that will compensate them as they have grown accustomed to in the past. the choice between franchise and startup often comes down to risk.

“As a business model I think that franchising is or has taken the place of corporate expansion in a lot of cases. Especially in the startup sector. I don’t know how many times recently I have been contacted from a startup that wants to expand via franchising.

I am talking to a lot of people that are looking at franchising as an alternative career path. Most of them are coming to me because they can’t find a job, it isn’t that they don’t want one, but they can’t find one making the money they were making before.

So they turn to owning a business and a logical choice for some of them is a franchise. For others it is starting their own business.

I think it comes down to personal preference and ability to cope with risk factors. I think most of the people that buy a franchise do so to help reduce their risk, so if they were really looking for a job and then had to buy a business, a franchise is probably a one choice.

About 1/3 of my clients are people in this situation that were looking for a new career, due to recent economic conditions, and they couldn’t find what they were looking for.”

An upstart franchise founder offers her views from the perspective of being new to franchising but quite experienced in running her own business. She appears to be spot on about ideal franchise relationships but I look forward to discussing her thoughts after she awards her first four or five franchises.

“As a career alternative, franchises are not for entrepreneurs, whose M.O. is ‘anything you can do, I can do better’. As an expansion strategy, it depends on the industry, product, service and system. For those that rely heavily on outside sales, for instance, hiring salespeople is more risky and time consuming than offering the opportunity for ownership.

I agree that franchising is a great way to grow by working on your business instead of in it.

Franchises offer franchisees:
– Self direction (while some do, many don’t have too-stringent rules)
– Higher income potential than a fixed salary or most sales positions, and often even more than business ownership because growth may be better supported
– Proven solutions to problems that exist in the market, the basis for any startup
– Elimination or reduction of what can often be years or decades of research, development, relationship building and trial and error and financial investment
– SUPPORT”