Danny Hanlon, chief operating officer of home improvements franchise Granite Transformations, explores the character traits needed to become a highly successful franchisee
A recent industry paper on the psychology of franchising suggested that ‘assuming a franchise model is based on a proven business concept with sound training and support systems, we estimate that around 40 per cent of a franchisee’s success will come through the application of his or her own hard work and talent’.
That being the case, someone who does not have the right attributes for making the transition from employee to franchisee is more likely to fail. But what are the character traits that make for a successful franchise owner?
Dr Thomas J Stanley, author of The Millionaire Next Door, conducted a poll amongst 4,000 millionaire business owners and identified 10 key factors they believe are critical for building wealth. These have been used by our own human resources management consultants to construct a profile analysis test we use to establish the potential of would-be franchise owners. These factors are surprisingly straightforward:
* Being fair and honest.
* Getting on with people.
* Being well disciplined.
* A supportive spouse.
* Work harder than most.
* Loving your business.
* Strong leadership.
* Very competitive spirit.
* Being well organised.
* An ability to sell ideas.
These ‘millionaire success factors’ are attainable by many, I would suggest, but there are additional characteristics that will help ease the transition from the relative security of a salaried position to the arguably more challenging role of a franchise owner.
When you own a business, things will inevitably go wrong from time to time and a positive mental attitude will help override those negatives. Employees are somewhat protected from these challenges, whereas business owners need to be creative and provide strong leadership during any setbacks arising from market conditions or other factors.
This tends to indicate a good level of ambition, self confidence and personal motivation. More ambitious individuals set themselves higher goals, precisely because they feel they have the inner resources to achieve them. They require little external input to be motivated and believe in the possibility of success, whereas those with low levels of self motivation need external stimuli to go for it, since they don’t really believe in themselves.
Don’t become a franchise owner just for the money, because particularly in the first year you may not always be able to draw a salary. It’s critical you enjoy what you are doing. One of our most successful franchisees simply loves what he does and thrives on helping customers make the right makeover decisions. Money is merely a by-product of success and it doesn’t always follow, so it’s better to get satisfaction from what you do.
As an employee, you are typically responsible for a specific task or aspect of the business, but as a business owner you are ultimately accountable for all parts of the operation, so you need to develop a broad range of skill sets. Having said that, you will need to delegate areas of responsibility to your senior staff, while retaining sufficient interest and involvement to keep control and assert your authority when necessary.
It takes an enormous amount of work to start a new business, which is why leadership is a key attribute for any franchise owner. Leadership involves engaging others in an idea or project and is invaluable for motivating employees to work effectively for you without constant supervision. It’s also important to lead by example, inspiring confidence amongst your staff and setting benchmarks for performance.
The core strength of franchising is that it provides you with ready-made systems and resources that will contribute toward your business success. Franchisors are looking for people who will implement a proven business model, so if you are unhappy about executing someone else’s system you could be better off setting up your own business. Successful franchisees absorb information from the head office training and support programmes and network with fellow franchisees to pick up market intelligence and new techniques.
Becoming a franchise owner doesn’t mean you are going solo, because the maxim of franchising is ‘in business for yourself, not by yourself’. You will certainly need advice and help from the franchise support staff and other established franchisees from time to time, so forge good relationships with other members of the franchise team and try not to throw your toys out of the pram if and when things go wrong. One thing’s certain, you will need team support in the future.
The most successful business people I have encountered are tremendously inquisitive. They ask a lot of questions and are interested in other people’s thoughts and ideas. It is how they learn to improve performance and hone business processes, by recognising that they don’t know everything and appreciating the views and perspectives of others. If you are willing to listen, you are likely to learn things that will assist you in making the correct decisions in your own business.
Particularly in a retail business like ours, where you are in daily contact with members of the public, you will need to interact effectively with prospective customers to sell your ideas. Equally, you need good people skills when dealing with your staff to create a convivial working environment and build loyalty and trust. Individuals with a strong level of understanding will perceive the needs of those around them, whereas those with poor understanding will tend to create disharmony and not pick up on unexpressed problems.
During a talk I attended by Red Bull F1 boss Christian Horner, he claimed to have no particular speciality, but instead said his job was to recruit specialists - drivers, mechanics, designers, sponsors and so on - and extract the best from their exceptional talents. As a franchise owner, your all-round abilities will only stretch so far and you will need to identify and encourage the specialist talents of others to ensure you get the best from your team. If selling or finance is not your strength, recruit and train people who can excel in these areas.
Never forget you are an ambassador for a national or global brand and that any shortcomings or shortcuts on your part may well affect other franchisees’ investments. If you let quality standards slide or make unauthorised promotional claims, as a customer facing brand representative you will be adversely affecting its currency. So be prepared to comply with brand standards and protocols, rather than attempting to go solo, because these are in place for a good reason.
I am not sure any of these characteristics cannot be learned or acquired - except perhaps a capacity for hard work - so don’t let this article put you off considering a franchise opportunity. Rather, let it provide a ‘wish list’ for becoming a highly successful franchisee.