Company founder Brody Sweeney reveals 10 key qualities
A misconception with prospective franchisees is the belief that sticking a franchisor’s name over the door means instant success.
What they don’t realise is that a franchise is made up of individual business owners and that is where the real success lies. The franchisor’s most crucial job comes at an early stage - making sure they choose the right franchisees for their brand.
When my franchise brand is scouting a prospective franchisee, we spend as much time as we can learning about them and their personal goals. I’ve discovered our best franchisees all have the following traits in common:
1. You don’t want a job. You want a business
The key difference between owning a business and having a job is that in a business you’re totally responsible for its performance.
This can be a huge misconception for prospective franchisees. They may be coming from a corporate environment, where the actual performance of the overall business is someone else’s problem. You go home in the evening and get to relax, secure in the knowledge that your salary will be paid and your job secure.
Not so in your own business. Every little decision you make has repercussions - good or bad. If you’re making a mess of things and not fixing it, there’s only one place the results of that are going to land and that’s with you.
2. You love working with people
All franchises involve working with customers and most involve building a team. If you’re not great with people, starting any new business, never mind a franchise, is probably a bad idea.
I had a friend once who lived in a big house. He was very comfortable in his own company and didn’t really like visitors. When he told me he was thinking of putting the house on Airbnb, I didn’t think twice about persuading him that this was not a good idea. He didn’t like friends coming to his house, never mind complete strangers!
We conduct psychometric tests with prospective new franchisees, partly to find out about this. Someone could be totally happy as a desk jockey, but for most businesses you need to love people.
3. You’re resilient and know how to bounce back
For most people, starting a new business is one of the most difficult and challenging things they will ever have to do.
It’s not just the physical bit of working 12 hour days at the start, but the mental side of dealing with stress, deep disappointments and crazy highs when you think you’re a rock star.
All businesses have highs and lows and require exceptionally hard work, often for extended periods. You need to have the stamina and positive mental attitude to keep going, even in the difficult days.
4. You understand life never turns out exactly as your business plan predicts it will
A business plan is a vital element of your preparation for opening your new business and a good one gives you a road map, down which you drive yourself and your business.
But when preparing a business plan, you need to understand they never work out as planned. You’ll either do better or worse than you think, but it’s extremely rare for a business to perform exactly as predicted.
It’s a fact that all banks love business plans and insist you prepare one, but also know the predictions will not hold true. As one bank manager friend said to me: “Brody, I have never seen a business plan presented to the bank that did not show the bank being repaid in full and on time.” This was not the bank’s experience in many cases.
Because many business plans don’t work out exactly as planned, your capacity as a business person to keep adjusting it until you get it right is what separates the winners from the losers.
5. You’re excited about moving outside your comfort zone
Being in business for yourself often involves you having to do things that are hard and which in normal circumstances you would like to avoid.
Having to let someone go is one. Another good example is cold calling. To go and knock on a stranger’s door, offering your life’s work for sale is tough. But to be a successful franchisee requires just that. If you know your hit rate is just one in 20, you know your audience and learn to plan accordingly.
Unsuccessful business owners will try it, slow down when the going gets tough and then make excuses and stop entirely. Successful ones get it and when they get the rejection brace themselves as they stand in front of the next door.
6. You know when to step back and trust the brand’s decisions
Being a franchisee means you have to sacrifice some of your independence and toe the line. The prize for your patience is greater and more secure profitability.
You might want to paint your shopfront neon green and sell pizza, but at our Thai restaurant chain you’d have to walk over my dead body before I let it happen. That’s because a franchisor realises a brand is about reliability, consistency and a common standard. Common standards adhered to by all franchisees is the best way to ensure the common good.
If you’re someone who likes making all their own decisions, you might find the restrictions placed on you as a franchisee frustrating and you could be better off on your own.
7. You take comfort in being part of a bigger community and team
While a franchisor will want you to observe their brand standards, keep to their standard operating procedures and promote the brand in the same way as all the other franchisees, they also need you to be a motivated self-starter capable of making decisions and getting things done.
This is about you being in charge of running your own business and doing whatever it takes to make it successful. Disaster for the franchisor is a franchisee who waits to be told what to do all the time.
8. You’re a disciplined person
Running any business requires huge amounts of personal discipline if it’s to be successful. For example, in our restaurants we have been extremely disciplined about cash. We take cash very seriously because if we don’t it has a habit of disappearing in an unexplained way.
It’s so easy to lose money in business if you’re not carefully watching your key performance indicators and taking appropriate action where you’re not meeting them. It’s very hard in the stress of opening a new business to sit down and work out your margins for the previous week, but if you want to avoid unnecessary losses and potentially running out of cash you need to have the discipline to do these calculations every week.
9. You have to put customers and staff ahead of yourself
It’s mostly a laughable misconception, at least in our company, that fat cat business owners exploit staff and customers to make huge profits for themselves.
Modern business owners realise that to generate consistent sales you need to deliver great service and put the needs and wishes of your customers at the centre of your strategy.
Great service comes from staff who are happy in their work. And if they’re not happy in their work, your customers will notice it.
Being of service to your staff and customers does not come naturally to everyone, but if like me and thousands of other business owners you like doing it, this is for you.
10. You’re prepared to walk a lonely road
This is not something people consider, but running a new business, where you have to make difficult decisions, can be hard on a person.
Often things will be happening that you have no experience of or knowledge of how to deal with them. Realising that your business is not performing as it should and that you might run out of cash is a very lonely place to be.
Even with the support of a great franchisor, many times the buck stops with you and that can be hard to handle.
My experience in franchise businesses would suggest that the biggest risk factor for a new franchisee is not the franchise itself, but themselves. You’re the most important element that makes the franchise business successful.
At Camile Thai Kitchen, we give every new franchisee a specialised tool kit, including a business system, brand and marketing strategies. However, it’s up to them whether they use this tool kit well or at all.
Before making the decision to invest in a hands-on franchise, have an honest conversation with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses and your capacity to be your own boss. If you have any questions, you know where to find me.