Potential franchise owners want to have as much information about a concept as possible prior to making a decision regarding licensing the brand.  As stated in my previous blog, franchisees are a great source of “front line” information regarding the franchise business that you are exploring.  Franchise concepts with a well defined recruiting process require you talk with some of their existing franchisees as you are nearing the end of the discovery process.  Franchise concepts with a less defined recruiting process may suggest you speak with their existing franchisees earlier in the discovery process, and may expect their franchisees to “sell the concept” for them.

Experienced franchise recruiters are respectful and protect their franchisee’s time and privacy.  Franchisees are very busy individuals as they build their businesses while maintaining the proper balance between work, family and other community activities.  Franchise recruiters want to ensure that their franchisees only spend time interacting with qualified candidates.  Often a password is utilized to signal franchisees that you have reached an important milestone in the qualification process, and the franchisee will speak more candidly with you.

No franchisee is obligated to talk to you. If they do so, it is strictly voluntary. If you are awarded the franchise, in the future, potential franchisees will be calling you, so please consider how you would want that conversation to be conducted as you call existing franchisees.  Please remember, the more pleasant you are, the more likely that they will be to talk to you.  Please understand, as you prepare for these calls, franchisees are not required to reveal their earnings to anyone. While they will want to help, human nature is to be relatively private when discussing income and earnings – especially to someone that they have never met before.

Having your questions formulated is key to having a productive validation call.  Consider the following guidelines:

  • Validation provides an opportunity for existing franchisees to meet and evaluate you as a potential franchisee. Franchisors will seek feedback from their franchisees so please make sure these conversations reflect you at your best.
  • Please respect their time and keep the conversations to a length of approximately 15-20 minutes. In order to address the points that matter most to you, please keep your list organized and in order.
  • Ask questions that build on the knowledge that you have already learned in the discovery process.
  • You should avoid questions about the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) and Franchise Agreement. While these are very critical documents, most franchise owners will not remember the content as the FDD typically collects dust on a shelf after operations are launched.

As you see from the guidelines, beginning the validation process prematurely may be detrimental and unproductive for both you and the franchisee.   The vast majority of  franchisees will be willing to schedule a time to talk with you, but they are very busy managing their businesses.  Work with your franchise recruiter to ensure this process is handled properly.  Your recruiter should have some basic guidelines and information that will take you through the process and make it both informative and enjoyable.

When considering a franchise opportunity, you may want to think outside the box.  Often people looking at business opportunities search inside their current skill set or trade.

Carpenters look at construction related franchises, electrician looks at franchises in the electrical field, etc.  Consider the other experience you  have and think of how you could utilize that in almost any field.  You may have sales experience, marketing experience, management experience, etc. and none of these skills are “field” specific.

Grady Barnard began to look for opportunities outside his field and shares his experience of getting into the franchise arena below.

“Hi, my name is Grady Barnard.  I am in the Technology field with a great company, but wanted to diversify my income, so after looking at several opportunities decided to go with the Squad. In the end I feel as if this opportunity will give me financial freedom and a better quality of life for my family.

After looking at several opportunities, I decided on Mosquito Squad for several reasons:

  1. Initial Investment
  2. A true need in our area, plus the ability to help others enjoy the outdoors as I do – Mosquito Free
  3. A company (OLB) that has been around for a while with other successful franchise opportunities

So far the company has been a great help getting us started – I think what closed it was the fact they do not take everyone who has money to spend. You go through an evaluation process to determine:

1. if the opportunity is right for you

2. if you are a good fit with the company.

That was big in my mind.  I am looking forward to a big season in 2010.”

As you have read, Grady decided to think outside the box and consider utilizing his skills in an unrelated field to reach his goals.  With the right mind set, the sky is the limit with franchising.

“I’m waiting to see what happens with the economy.”  As a Franchise Recruiter for Outdoor Living Brands, this is a common reason people state for not starting their own business and taking control of their own destiny.  “I would love to be my own boss, but what if . . .” Step back for a moment and ask this question – “Am I looking for excuses or answers?”

Does fortune truly favor the brave?  Entrepreneurs thrive on challenge and seek the positive attributes of any situation.  Consider the businesses that were started during a recession or depression that have thrived . . . Hewlett-Packard, Sports Illustrated, CNN,  GE, IHOP, Microsoft, Burger King, Fed Ex, MTV, Hyatt Corp, the list goes on and on.  New opportunities are born each day, even during tough economic times, but only those “brave” enough to view the economic situation as a positive will make that first step toward owning their own business.

 All businesses face challenges.  One challenge that has caused many companies to fail is the lack of planning.  We hear of companies that were lax in their spending, controls, systems, analysis, and structuring.  With companies having to “tighten their belts” many people are caught in the pinch.  When you start a business or are nurturing it through the infancy stage, your attention to detail and the key systems of your business is exceptionally strong.

Whether you are looking for a job or starting a business, you will face challenges.  Now add the ability to utilize many years of experience in developing, implementing, and monitoring systems to your arsenal.  Perhaps you are thinking “I don’t have many years of experience, and little or no exposure to those things.”  Franchising allows you the ability to have that experience and knowledge at your finger tips.    Put your determination, abilities, and drive to work for you.  Consider franchising as a way to start your own business.

There are thousands of franchise offerings for you to choose from, but not all are good opportunities.  In many instances you will find there are leaders and there are followers.  With a bit of research into a franchise, you can determine if you are considering being a part of a leading franchise concept or a following franchise concept.

Leadership characteristics are apparent and can not be falsified or stolen.  At Outdoor Living Brands, we look for franchisees who exhibit leadership qualities – those who lead by example and attract those who take ownership and accountability for all that they do.  Leaders can admit when they are wrong or in error; leaders solve problems instead of working around them; leaders are visionaries – striving to do better instead of pointing out that they are better than some or most; leaders listen and learn rather than trying to impress others by talking and searching for or pointing out flaws.  

Many have suffered the wrath of the follow or “glory grabber”.  When a leader determines there is a better way of completing a task, and begins the quest of determining that correct path, a follower lingers in the background until the leader is finished and rushes to present the idea as their own.  Followers are constantly looking for ways to take other’s ideas and present them as their own.  Some may even admit to “borrowing” an idea – perhaps an attempt to justify their lack of creativity or masking questionable ethical behavior. 

What happens when a follower is tasked with making improvements, explaining a concept, or “taking it to the next level”?  Phrases we are all too familiar with begin to rear their ugly heads . . . “It’s the way we’ve always done it”; “That’s the way it’s always been” or the dreaded “I only work here”.  When you are considering franchise concepts, take the time to determine if this concept and franchisor is a leader or a follower.  Leaders will be setting the standards and blazing the path to the future – followers will always be playing catch up or riding on the coat tails of the successful. 

All men may be created equal, but not all franchise concepts are.

Have you ever watched a skilled craftsman at work in their trade?  You stand there watching this person utilizing their skills and talents to make something work.  As you watch this person, you begin to think “that looks easy – I bet I could do that”.  You spend time thinking about how easy it looked to produce that end result, and before you know it, you are ready to try your hand at this task.

For many years, I worked in the finance/accounting and human resources field.  It is something that came quite easy for me.  Understanding the tasks at hand, scheduling those tasks, and making my job run as smoothly as possible was my goal and basically, my daily routine.  For ten years I worked in this role for one employer.  One day an opportunity came along to work in the same field, but with a different company.  I decided to open the door when opportunity knocked.  I notified my employer that I would be leaving the organization. 

Having watched me perform these duties for many years, my employer decided it would be easy to replace my services in that role.  I moved on and began my new career with the new employer.  A short-time later, I was approached by the former employer and asked if I could train my replacement.  Something I agreed to do without hesitation.  All of the sudden, the role I had filled for years was not viewed as “something anyone could do” anymore.

As my former employer quickly came to realize, there was a great deal to be said for someone who could not only complete the tasks they were assigned, but manage an entire process with few or no stumbles along the way.  Help was needed, sought, and given by someone with the experience to make things work.  Systems and processes are developed, implemented, refined and taught or handed down. 

This same scenario happens often with entrepreneurs.  They see a successful business owner making their business look easy – and they try to duplicate it.  If the entrepreneur is lucky enough not to fall on their face to many times, they may actually succeed.  However, there is a much easier way.  Franchising offers success to aspiring new business owners with much lower risk.  Take advantage of the years of knowledge, systems and successes offered by a franchised business before you think “that looks easy – I bet I could do that”.

While many of us our thinking about football with the recent kickoff of the NFL playoffs, at Outdoor Living Brands we are kicking off the year with the Annual Conventions for the Outdoor Lighting Perspectives and then the Archadeck franchise system in Amelia Island, Florida next week.  We hold the Annual Convention for our third brand, Mosquito Squad, later in February.

I look forward to seeing all of our franchisees!  We have great meetings planned for each franchise system to help our franchise owners start strong in 2010.  If you have been thinking about kicking off a change in your life and career, consider franchising as a vehicle to pursue your personal, business and career goals.  I look forward to seeing you at our 2011 Annual Conventions!

Fewer than half of U.S. workers are satisfied with their jobs, the lowest level since record-keeping began 22 years ago, said a report released on January 5, 2010.  What are people waiting for?  Franchising is the vehicle for people to make the changes in their careers and in their lives!

As published on CNN.com today:

The Conference Board’s survey polled 5,000 households, and found that only 45% were satisfied in their jobs. That’s down from 61.1% in 1987, the first year the survey was conducted.

Even though one in 10 Americans is out of a job, those who are employed are increasingly dissatisfied.

“Through both economic boom and bust during the past two decades, our job satisfaction numbers have shown a consistent downward trend,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board, in a prepared statement.

“[That] could spell trouble for the overall engagement of U.S. employees and ultimately employee productivity,” she added.

The report notes that job satisfaction has steadily declined over the years despite big improvements in the work environment, such as a reduction of workplace hazards and an increase in vacation days.

The drop in satisfaction over the past 22 years spans various aspects of employee life, including interest in work (down 18.9 percentage points) and job security (down 17.5 percentage points).  And employee satisfaction dipped across the board; workers in every age group and income levels showed a drop, but workers younger than 25 were the most unhappy in their jobs.

Almost one-quarter of respondents said they didn’t expect to be at their current jobs within a year. 

Again, with all of this dissatisfaction, I believe 2010 will be a strong year for franchise recruiting.  The economy is starting to recover which offers the perfect backdrop to launch a new franchise business.  If you are one of those 55% that is unhappy with your current job, what are you waiting for?