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.

Women, Social Media and Franchising: A Winning Combination?

Women, more than their male counterparts, have embraced social media as an integral part of their typical day. From getting their news online to communicating with family and friends on social networking sites to blogging about their personal and business experiences, women are spending more time than ever before on the internet.

women get it rightAs more and more women explore franchising as a career alternative, choosing to control their own destiny, franchisors must market directly to this rapidly-growing group of opportunity seekers. Joining the force of today’s more sophisticated, educated and technologically advanced transitioning corporate executives, women will use 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.

The article below details the continued usage of social media by the female population. Franchisors should pay close attention to the various stats provided by the author and make social media marketing a key component of their franchise marketing and development strategy.

42 Million U.S. Women Use Social Media: Blogs Most Influential
By Anita Campbell on Small Biz Trends May 10, 2009

Is the jury still out in your mind as to whether social media matters in business? If so, a recent survey might make you change your mind. In fact, it may cause you to re-think your entire marketing outreach, especially if you market to women.

The study found that 42 million women in the United States (roughly 53% of the 79 million adult women in the United States who use the Internet) participate in social media at least weekly. As they spend more time with social media, women are spending correspondingly less time with traditional media: 39% less on newspapers, 36% less time reading magazines, and 30% less time watching TV.

That’s according to a recent social media survey by BlogHer, the women’s blog network, along with iVillage and Compass Partners.

Read the entire article here

Transitioning Corporate Executives as Franchisees

Recently, I posted a discussion on LinkedIn about whether or not transitioning corporate executives made good franchisees. Most responses came from individuals from within the franchise industry. Some, from outside the industry. Several responses were based upon actual experience while some were simply opinion. For our readers’ benefit I’ve listed below several of the responses which I feel provides a fair cross-reference of responses. In doing so, I’ve given credit for each response but only according to respondents’ titles as identified through their LinkedIn profiles.

Guerrilla MarketingCoach, behavioral analyst, speaker, author, student of life – “Really interesting question. In my “past life” I worked in franchising and my general observation is that while a franchise offers a great framework and tool-kit for someone starting a business, it does not guarantee success.

People who buy a franchise understanding that they will have to work (and hard) to grow a successful business, and who are committed to using the franchisors tools and resources, are likely to be quite successful. On the other hand, those who think that a franchise is going to be a “magic pill” that allows them to prosper without putting effort into it are surely destined to something far less than success.

Anyone looking at a franchise should take their time, talk to other current (and former) franchisees, find out what is involved in success, and what may contribute to failure within that particular franchise. Then, each person has to look deep in themselves to understand if they are truly prepared to start a business…”

Franchise Information, Mentoring & Development Professional – “Interesting question, Paul. As I’ve thought about it, I don’t think it’s an easy question to answer. Or the answer would have to be fairly simple, such as Yes and No! (Not very helpful, I realize).

Maybe we could ask the question another way. How have franchisor succeeded when they awarded franchises to transitioning executives? . . . Puts a little different emphasis on it.

We sometimes look at franchise success as up to the franchisor, i.e. it’s the franchisor’s job to be sure franchisees succeed, and that includes transitioning executives. But of course we know that not all franchisees, including transitioning executives, are created equal. Some are better than others! People in transition may, in fact, not make very good decisions–they may panic and jump into a franchise too quickly and they don’t do all the homework that’s necessary or they don’t at least ask all the right questions.

It would be interesting for franchisors to reveal how “transitioning executives” have fared though that’s probably asking a bit too much. Because again, even if the transitioning executives failed, it doesn’t mean the franchise system is a bad one. Now it may not be right for transitioning executives, but that’s probably incorrect. Would that be like saying it’s not right for left-handed people? I just don’t think “transitioning executive” matters. What matters is how well prepared the candidate is for franchising and whether or not the candidate picked a good franchise. Because we also know that all franchisors are not created equal, either. Some are better than others–and I bet there are some that could tell us 100% of the transitioning executives that joined them succeeded.”

Director of Operating Systems at a National Foodservice Franchisor – “It depends…. There is a significant difference between being a corporate executive and a franchisee. As a corporate executive of a brand you have a wide and deep support system with interdepartmental experts that can solve problems or point you in the right direction with one phone call.

As a franchisee you are “it”, unless you buy into a multi unit franchise that can afford a support system that can make up for the skills that you lack or don’t have much experience on (accounting, finance, legal, HR, workers comp., marketing, training, operations, etc., etc., etc.).

The corporate executives that I have seen succeed are those that had an entrepreneur mind or prior experience running a business and quickly understood that forming that support system (internal or external) was crucial. It is not that corporate executives don’t want to do the hard work, it’s just that they are not used to think at the level of detail that is necessary to be successful and therefore they are not familiar with all of the intricacies of running a business.

Franchisees need to be generalists and not specialists. Corporate executives are usually very good at the role that they had in their corporate career. While they will understand the brand’s perspective and strategy better than the average franchisee; they would only make the best franchisees if they are able and willing to adapt quickly to the demands of being a small business owner.”

Strategic Performance Oriented Franchise Executive – “I doubt there are reliable statistics to support an empirical conclusion to your question.

However, my opinion for what it’s worth is that when people make decisions to become franchisees out of desperation to replace a job/income it can be problematic as opposed to someone who transitions from employment to self-employment on their own terms.”