Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Impress and Court a Franchise Company
by Leslie Lautzenhiser | March 31, 2011
In an upscale restaurant in the good part of down town, in the soft glow of candle light with a jazz ensemble playing in the background, alone sits someone waiting for their blind date. They nibble on the bread, take a sip of water, look at the menu and look at their watch. At 15 minutes past the time the blind date was supposed to arrive, they check their phone for messages. They waive away the waiter. They debate if they should stay and wait, if they should order an appetizer or if they should just leave. At a half hour past the time their date was to arrive, they lay down the menu, fold their napkin and walk out of the restaurant. They are pretty sure they will not agree to another date.
This scenario is familiar in a dating environment, but it also can characterize many business situations as well. For those individuals who are exploring franchise opportunities, their first meeting with the prospective franchisor is essentially like a first date. It is an opportunity to make either a glowing first impression or as in the vignette above an opportunity to ensure a second date doesn’t occur.
Given the amount of advertising spent by franchise companies seeking to attract potential franchisees, an outsider may assume if an individual shows up with cash in hand and a pulse, they will be awarded a franchise. With the more discerning franchise companies, this simply isn’t the case.
In any business venture between two parties, both parties are interviewing and evaluating each other. There is no difference in a franchise/franchisee relationship. For the franchise company to be successful and therefore a good investment for potential franchisees, a fair amount of vetting must be done not only by the potential franchisee, but by the franchisor.
If a franchisor does not perform due diligence in getting to know and qualify a potential franchisee, the franchise system can be damaged by poor validation and by under performing franchisees.
A franchise company that creates a dynamic of a two way interview with both parties being engaged fully in getting to know each other and determining whether they should “go steady” is a healthy franchise concept and one worth serious consideration.
How then can a potential franchisee put on their best front when approaching a franchisor and how should they act throughout the “courting” process?
According to Mark Titcomb, VP of CertaPro Painting Company, part of the Franchise Company, he and the franchise development staff at his company look to see the attributes of their successful franchisees demonstrated throughout the investigation process.
“We look for those general characteristics that are in our successful franchisees. We look for those that are charismatic influencers,” Titcomb said. “We look for those people who are good with people and building relationships.”
Titcomb continued on by saying they also look for candidates who can lead and inspire people without micromanaging and who can demonstrate through the extensive conversations occurring throughout the investigation process, they have the ability to follow a program and to execute a proven process.
“It’s critical that our potential franchisees be on time for all phone appointments, that they return calls, are respectful of others and are assertive and decisive,” Titcomb added.
Titcomb says their thorough process of investigation gives their candidates both the confidence and the skill set that will likely make them successful franchise business owners. They gauge whether or not their candidate will be a self-starter, is motivated and will take initiative. “These are all characteristics that they will need to get out of the gate and get their business up and running.”
Part of the investigation process should help determine to both the potential franchisee and to the franchisor that the franchise is a good fit. It should be noted at any time during the investigation one or both parties have the ability to stop the investigation and declare that it’s not a good fit. This discourse is a critical process and ensures both parties are going forward into a business venture both feel confident has a large likelihood of being successful.
At the conclusion of the investigation there is typically a Discovery Day. This is intended to be the “final date” before each party commit to each other. The candidate will have the opportunity to see the corporate headquarters, meet the franchise staff and demonstrate to the franchise parent they are motivated, interested and ready to move forward in their decision.
Linda Bremer-Menter, VP of Marketing for FranChoice, a franchise consulting company, echoes Titcomb in her assertion that potential franchisees be prepared and can demonstrate they can conduct thoughtful research and are at a point where their timing and financial position allows them to make a decision to purchase a franchise when the investigation concludes.
Bremer-Menter added the Discovery Day that candidates are invited to attend at or near the end of the franchise investigation process should be attended by the candidate only when they are actually prepared to make a decision. “They should be able to demonstrate to the franchisor that they are ready to go, their research is done and they are prepared to make a decision.”
Candidates investigating franchises should also be able and willing to demonstrate their credit worthiness. Being prepared to disclose items such as net worth, cash on hand to investigate and a willingness to submit to a credit check demonstrates to the franchisor they are a serious candidate worth consideration. In highly competitive markets, franchisors often will evaluate several candidates and make their decision to award a particular territory not only based on the candidate’s attitude and actions in the investigation, but by their ability to qualify for all financial obligations involved in purchasing a franchise. Franchisors want to ensure their new franchisee has enough capital to successfully participate in required marketing efforts, can purchase inventory and equipment, pay rent, insurance and other business related expenses for at least the first six months to a year. Candidates should be prepared to have an honest and forthright conversation regarding their actual financial position and ability to qualify for financing the franchisor may require for purchasing the franchise and any and all required capital equipment.
In the best situations, both parties show up to the restaurant, dressed to impress, are on time, engage in lively discussion and discover they are a perfect match. Individuals considering a franchise purchase, should put on their best interviewing/dating face and treat the investigation as the beginning of a long and productive relationship.
Most Wanted Franchisee Candidate Attributes:
1. Being on time for meetings
2. Being prepared and engaged in investigation
3. Forth right and assertive communication
4. Demonstrated ability to build relationships
5. Understanding of general business concepts
6. Respectful communication
7. Ability to make a decision
8. Ability to stay on track throughout the investigation process
9. Can come to a decision within a reasonable period of time (generally 30-60 days)
10. Can demonstrate a solid financial position and credit worthiness
11. Demonstrated enthusiasm and interest in the concept
12. General interest in employee management and development
13. Ability to follow processes and proven franchise system
Leslie Lautzenhiser is the author of “A Roadmap To Success: What It Takes to Build a Successful Franchise”.