Franchisors require a variety of qualities in prospective franchisees, not just whether they have sufficient funds to invest. Here’s what you need to know to ensure you stand out from the competition
Threats of redundancy and recession mean many more people are applying to become franchisees. As a result, competition among prospective franchisees is rife.
So here’s what you need to know to boost your chances of being selected:
It’s not just about the money
You’d not always know it from the adverts, but franchisors don’t just check that you have got the necessary funds and then say yes to your application. They turn down far more prospective franchisees than they accept.
Pam Gordon, a franchise recruitment and development consultant at The Franchising Centre, who helps franchisors recruit franchisees, says: “Many prospective franchisees don’t realise that they face competition to become a franchisee. Many applicants do not expect that.”
How do you make yourself appealing to franchisors? Pam identifies the most common things franchisors looks for:
By this, Pam means you need a reason to make a change in your life.
She says: “It could be dissatisfaction with your present job or lifestyle, feeling bored, stagnant or just ready for a change. Ask yourself: are you really ready for this change now?”
Franchisors will be checking your motivation, so think about this before contacting them.
Change may be forced upon you if you’ve been made redundant, but nevertheless, ensure you really do want to go into business.
Franchisors want franchisees who are business partners, not employees, so if you’re considering investing in a franchise because you cannot find a job, think carefully. Launching a business, even as a franchisee, is vastly different from getting a job.
Franchisors look for people with a positive mindset.
“Some applicants seem defensive from the start and ask negative questions such as: ‘Am I going to earn enough?’ Pam says.
Positive questions are things like: ‘What’s the highest level of turnover I could reach?’ and: ‘How soon is it before your franchisees typically start to expand?’
Research what the franchisor is looking for. This can be harder than it first appears.
Franchise adverts and websites typically give a list of qualities they seek in prospective franchisees. They often feature terms such as ‘ambitious’, ‘hardworking’, ‘people skills’ and ‘business-minded’. But what do these actually mean in practice?
It can be hard for someone who has not run a business before to recognise these skills and qualities in themselves, let alone know how to prove they have them.
This lack of specifics in franchise recruitment adverts means many prospective franchisees are just guessing that they might be suitable - an approach that can mean wasted effort for both franchisees and franchisors.
The way to find out what franchisors really want can be to look at what their franchisees actually do.
“Check their website for franchisee profiles and ‘day in the life’ stories that explain what the franchisees do,” Pam says.
They may refer to sales calls, marketing activities, team meetings and admin, as well as more obvious activities such as delivering pet food or providing business services.
If you’ve done similar things before, this is the kind of experience franchisors will look for.
You will usually be able to work out what the franchisor is looking for - and those are the skills and qualities you should mention to the franchisor.
“Many prospective franchisees fail the selection process because they don’t understand the level of commitment required, in terms of time and effort,” Pam says.
For instance, if a franchise requires you to work full-time, don’t apply if you can only commit to part-time hours. Franchisors need you to understand what to expect. Differing expectations between franchisors and franchisees increase the risk of business failure.
Plan your approach to the franchisor. Research the franchise, its market, what franchising is and what you will be expected to do.
Have a list of questions for the franchisor and then call them. Many like to speak to applicants on the phone initially, so they can see how you come across in conversation.
Almost all franchisors require franchisees to have ‘people skills’. This is the ability to communicate comfortably with all types of people.
Good communications skills enable you to form relationships with customers. This is essential if you want them to buy goods or services from you, which forms the basis of any business. Being a ‘people person’ also makes you more likely to work well with the franchise head office team and other franchisees in the network.
Highlight evidence of your communication and people skills when approaching franchisors.
Purpose and passion
Franchisors look for people who demonstrate purpose and passion for the business.
“If you’re enthusiastic enough about a franchise to tell friends and family about it, it’s a good sign that you’re passionate about it,” Pam says. “If you’re embarrassed to tell them, you’re probably not.”
Franchisors want to see this because operational skills can be taught, but enthusiasm for a business cannot.
Ask an expert
If you’re unsure about how to approach franchisors in a way that makes you more likely to be accepted as a franchisee, consider speaking to a franchise consultant who recruits franchisees on behalf of franchisors.
“Franchise consultants who include franchisee recruitment among their services, like me, can help you identify what you have to offer franchisors, what kind of franchises might suit you and help you shortlist possibilities,” Pam says.
“Call the consultant. Most, like me, offer an hour consultation free of charge.”
Barbara Burnett, Just Cuts
Identifying my transferable skills helped me get a franchise
When Barbara Burnett lost her husband out of the blue, she was devastated. She also knew she faced another huge challenge.
“My daughter has severe learning difficulties and various other medical conditions, so she needs specific personalised care 24/7,” Barbara says.
“I had been in a full-time senior management role in the charity sector and my husband and I had achieved a good balance between us and the carer I employed to enable Lauren’s care needs. It was impossible to continue working full-time and still give my daughter the emotional and physical care she needed.
“I realised that setting up a business was the only feasible way I could care for Lauren and still have financial security.
“I needed a business where I did not have to be on-site - ideally, a franchise. My knowledge of the charity sector would not help me, but I had strong transferable skills in marketing and people management. I needed a franchise that could be run from a distance, with an essential USP that attracted customers.”
Barbara researched franchises online, attended conferences and exhibitions and finally found the perfect fit. “Just Cuts fitted all my criteria and they fitted mine - a perfect match,” she says.
Barbara now has a Just Cuts salon in Stevenage and another in Leeds.
She advises: “Before I applied, I listed my soft skills, the kind that franchisors usually look for.
“For me, that meant marketing, team management, strategy, analysis and communications - basically, finger-on-the-pulse business management.
Then I drew up a CV crafted to suit the franchise and listed my transferable, relevant skills on page one.
“It helps franchisors to see your strengths and the areas in which you could need their help - and it worked for me.”
The 5 biggest mistakes would-be franchisees make
1. Assuming that just having the funds required will automatically get you accepted as a franchisee.
2. Skimping on research. As well as online research, speak to some franchisees and attend virtual discovery days.
3. Assuming a meeting with a franchisor is like a job interview. It’s a discussion between potential business partners.
4. Underestimating the amount of work involved.
5. When talking to franchisors, focusing solely on the money you could make.
What do franchisors look for?
Chris Wootton, managing director of domestic cleaning franchise Poppies, says: “Franchisors in the service sector want to ensure that you recognise both good and bad service and may ask you for examples.”
They also look for confident - but not arrogant - communicators who have the ability to listen, but also hold a balanced conversation.
“They will be listening for this from your initial phone call,” Chris says.
They want people who are willing to take responsibility for business issues and deal with problems effectively.
“They may ask for examples,” Chris says.
In the cleaning sector, they will look for people who can get on with clients and cleaners -often different types of people.
“Some kinds of experience are particularly helpful, such as hotel housekeeping, where you have managed staff and dealt with clients while under time pressure, or in retail management, where you have worked with customers, but also had experience of working within budgets and deploying staff to maintain profits,” Chris says.
He also recommends reading case studies of existing franchisees before calling the Poppies head office: “Our discovery days include a self-discovery quiz that’s designed to show you if it’s worth pursuing your application.”
David Mathie, UK general manager of hairdressing franchise Just Cuts, says: “Our website deliberately doesn’t list any qualifications or qualities we seek in franchisees, but we do say that they need no hairdressing skills.
“We want franchisees to work on the business, not in it. They employ team leaders and stylists to work in the salons.”
However, he does look for experience of managing a team in a customer service environment: “We want franchisees who appreciate that stylists are creative and who have a positive and uplifting attitude, because that affects their whole business.”
Unlike most UK-founded franchises, Just Cuts, which is headquartered in Australia, expects prospective franchisees to supply a CV and the recruitment process includes personality tests that reveal applicants’ suitability for the franchise.
Should I send my CV to franchisors?
Only if you tailor it to the franchise. Investing in a franchise is not like applying for a job.
Most UK franchisors don’t ask prospective franchisees to send a CV, so supplying the same one you’ve previously used to apply for jobs may be of little value, unless it already includes plenty of evidence of the kind of skills the franchisor is looking for.
Sending your usual CV may even give the impression that you’re looking to ‘buy a job’, which franchisors don’t like because they’re looking for people who want to build their own business.
On the other hand, a CV tailored to suit the franchise, which highlights the kind of skills the franchisor is looking for and gives practical evidence of the results you’ve gained from using them, could make you more attractive to franchisors.
Pam Gordon, a franchise recruitment and development consultant at The Franchising Centre, says: “In 20 years of helping franchisors source suitable franchisees, I’ve only seen about two CVs effectively tweaked to target the franchisor.
“If you can do this, it could really help you stand out.”
Becky Sagar, Poppies
Look at the skills, not the sector
“I hate cleaning, but I love my Poppies cleaning franchise,” Becky Sagar, from Exeter, says.
Becky was working in her father’s hot air ballooning company after graduating when she met the founder of the Poppies franchise.
“They knew I wanted to work for myself and suggested I think about becoming a Poppies franchisee,” Becky says. “I thought: ‘Cleaning? Not for me!’.”
But when she researched what was required of franchisees, Becky saw it suited her existing skills. Ballooning needs high levels of organisation and attention to detail, careful planning and good communication skills for dealing with pilots and customers.
“Then I spent time with some existing franchisees and learnt that the skills are about communicating with customers and your teams of cleaners, organising, problem solving and delivering high service standards,” Becky says.
“I invested in the franchise 13 years ago and I still love it.”
She advises prospective franchisees: “Look beyond the label. Research the skills that the franchise really requires.”
Linda Whitney writes about franchising for the Daily Mail, What Franchise and many other publications