Franchise Failure – Why Does it Occur?

Ivan Widjaya, author of the Franchise Note blog, recently posted about franchise failure. In the post, Ivan listed these five reasons why established franchises fail:

1. Franchisors compromise too much, franchisees demand too much.
2. Franchisors don’t listen to their franchisees, and vice versa.
3. Franchisors are busy taking care of bad franchisees, bad performing franchisees are becoming “traitors.”
4. Franchisors don’t have strong Management Team, franchisees ask the franchise support team too much.
5. Franchisors make things too complicated, franchisee can’t seem to be able to follow simple rules.

His thoughts behind each may be reviewed HERE.

Certainly, this list is not complete, and I felt compelled to add as follows:

Poor franchise training program – A sustainable franchise system must have an effective, comprehensive training program complete with well-defined and documented process and procedures. Such processes and procedures should be tried and true, and relatively simple to replicate at the unit level. In addition, it is imperative to franchise succees to offer continued training as well as initial training. I agree as the author has indicated, that many franchisors make things too complicated. So, the key is simplicity, but not at the expense of diminishing best practices.

Inadequate franchise marketing programs – Strong franchise marketing programs are essential to franchise success at both the franchisor and franchisee levels, and should be integrated to ensure brand awareness. Poor brand awareness is a key component in many franchise system failures. The failures are the result of poor unit level sales, minimal interest in the franchise opportunity, and of course, poor communications throughout the system. The latter occurs as the system begins to crumble. In the years since I’ve been responsible for directing two major franchise systems, I’ve been repeatedly asked what I would do differently today? My answer is always, “drive leads to the franchisees!” as everything revolves around franchisee success… increased royalty stream, franchisee profitability, system validation, brand expansion, etc…

Of course, there are many other factors leading to franchisor failure that could be debated until the cows come home. But, this is a great start, and it’s important to get this out in the open and discuss so as to minimize failure at any level. For that, I applaud Ivan for choosing this topic, and encourage many more responses.


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Fear and Consequences of Failure: A Story Worth Repeating

I’ve been asked time and again to post the following article that I’ve written about my own personal experience as a multi-unit franchisee where I succeeded at first, only to crash and burn later on. This article has been posted on several of my blogs, and picked up by numerous other blogs and online magazines. I have received numerous comments and inquiries about the article, individuals sharing their personal experiences and requests for assistance. Although I cringe at the thought of any business failing, I admire and respect the fact that franchisees and franchisors alike know when to put their pride aside and ask for assistance, and I look forward to providing my experience and expertise to help determine a practical resolve to their problems.

I’m proud to say this article has been instrumental in helping a number of businesses keep their doors open and work towards recovery. On the other hand, I’m also sad to say several businesses were not as fortunate, but at least the owners were able to exit with dignity and in few cases, with less liability than they previously thought possible. And, in one case, the owner actually exited in the black when we were able to facilitate the sale of her business when she previously thought about just walking away.

Fear and Consequences of Failure

I can personally relate to the trials and tribulations of owning franchise businesses as I have “been there and done that” and have experiences on both ends of the spectrum from achieving overwhelming success to dealing with bitter failure. I have definitely come to understand the fine line between success and failure in trying to nail down the American Dream.

I know it is sometimes counterproductive to even mention failure which is why the subject is always avoided and never discussed. Yet, it’s out there and it’s real. Once franchisees face the possibility of failure and its very real consequences they can be motivated to understand that failure is not an option and commit 100% to a plan that addresses immediate problems and provides solutions accordingly. Even if it’s necessary for the plan to be quite drastic or aggressive due to prevailing circumstances, franchisees that unequivocally realize that failure is not an option are prepared for immediate action.

Let me emphasize one point. Franchisees should not view poor sales and disappointing profits as either potential or immediate failure and stick their heads in the sand. I made that mistake in the past and suffered the consequences. Instead, franchisees should build upon the courage it took to become a franchise business owner and recommit to success as they did when they first took the entrepreneurial plunge.

They need to remember their wishes, hopes and dreams that prompted the decision to own their own business? They need to remember the admiration of family and friends when they heard about the new venture? They need to remember the excitement when they actually signed the franchise agreement?

Unfortunately, there’s a very distinct possibility the root of the problem is embedded in the franchisee’s actions, non-conformity to the franchise system and unwillingness to face reality. However, as there was some shining light evident during the franchise award process, it may not be a totally lost cause if the franchisee is made to completely understand the implications and consequences of failure.

As franchisors are faced with the potential of closed units during this recession that may be the result of things out of their control, it’s imperative they don’t lose even a single unit just because a franchisee just flat out needs a snap back to reality. It’s worth the effort.

Let me clarify something. I failed as a franchisee. Not because of anything the franchisor did or didn’t do but because I put and kept my head in the sand and did not face reality. I could go on and make excuses about things that happened around me but at the end of the day I could have turned things around if I got my own head out of the sand, made some difficult decisions and took full, immediate responsibility.

Unfortunately I was scared of failing. I was afraid of what people would think. I was ashamed at what other franchisees, ones I put in business, would think of me. I couldn’t even think of facing my family. All lame excuses for not taking responsibility. Maybe a hard swift kick you-know-where would have helped.

Did I mention that I previously ran the franchise company where I failed as a franchisee? Did I mention I was elected by fellow franchisees, President of the National Advisory Council? Did I mention that I owned and operated five franchise units?

If I had clearly understood the implications and consequences that were looming on the horizon and if I was able to get my big ego out of the way and address things head on, maybe I could have survived. Maybe I could have at least implemented an exit strategy that would have, in some small way, paid back the loyalty and support of my employees, family and friends.

In the end, I may not have survived because it may very well have been too late when and if I finally took action and responsibility. But maybe I could have at least exited with some dignity. Also, I could have saved many innocent people a great deal of hardship, embarrassment, wasted effort and ill-spent resources if I did face reality. This includes my family, my employees and yes, my franchisor; all who believed in me.

Yes, it was a tremendous learning experience but not one I would bestow or wish on anyone. Now, all I can do is to offer my experience to anyone in the franchise industry that needs assistance. If just one franchise business is saved from the consequences of failure, then we’ve made progress. Progress we’ll continue to build upon.


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Are New Franchisees Ready to be Successful?

Last week on Franchise Today, Joel Libava (aka The Franchise King) and I discussed an except from Lizette Pirtle’s recent book, Franchise Success: The New Formula. The discussion pertained to whether or not franchisees are ready to be successful and whether or not it’s actually an assumption that is incorrectly made when a new franchisee signs on the dotted line. Further, the excerpt included a passage about an unemployed individual that entered into a franchise agreement, and his subsequent failure as a franchisee. In an attempt to jump-start discussion on this and other factors relating to franchise success and failure, I have posted the excerpt below and encourage all comments and opinions.

Franchise Success: The New Formula
By: Lizette Pirtle
Chapter 3: Readiness (Pgs 59-60)

We can’t assume that when people invest in a franchise they are ready to be successful. We can’t even assume that they were ready to make the investment in the first place. But we do make these assumptions. Yet, action does not necessarily equal readiness. There is much more to the investment decision and the success of franchisees than we have traditionally considered.

William was laid off from a job he enjoyed as the vice president of operations for a manufacturing company. He had unemployed for 6 months and was getting desperate. He had applied for every job available. He had lost self confidence and was becoming increasingly frustrated. He felt pressure from his parents, his wife and his friends who recommended he consider starting a business.

William never considered self-employment before, but the thought of working again and owning his own business became very appealing. The more he thought about owning a business, the more excited he got. He decided to acquire a franchise, and by the time he made this decision he was eager to start and his excitement was almost overpowering.

William was extremely intelligent and had been very successful in his career, but during training he experienced difficulty. He labored through many portions of the program and questioned new concepts with mistrust. Many of the exercises seemed difficult to him.

While his classmates joyfully excelled, William’s mood became somber as the training progressed. Sometimes he became hostile and withdrawn, while at other times he would engage and be open. The franchisor called him aside and offered him the option to leave the training and recoup his investment. William declined.

When he opened his business, William could not make the business go. He fought and resisted many of the marketing activities and, although he was always busy and worked hard, his efforts were fruitless. In spite of his qualifications and the full support of the franchisor, within 6 months of attending training, William closed his business.

Okay, franchise professionals, tell us what you think. How would you have handled this situation? What would you have done differently? How can we prevent these situations from actually happening within franchising?


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