Franchisor Profile: Darrell Johnson, FRANdata

Darrell Johnson, CFE, is CEO of FRANdata, the franchise industry's source for objective information and analysis.
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During Darrell’s tenure with FRANdata, the company has become the premier franchise research and advisory firm in the US. He started with the company in 2001 and, over the subsequent 14 years, guided it beyond a document and data business to an information and research company and, more recently, to an evaluation and advisory firm operating in both the US and Australia.

“Over the last quarter century, FRANdata has had a methodical evolution from a regulatory document collector and seller to a full service research and advisory firm. We are still a young company with a very exciting future.” From the first UFOC collected in 1989, to the research and consulting projects of today, to the growth of our analysis capabilities into a more expansive research company, the foundation was built on industry integrity and trust.

Under Darrell’s leadership, FRANdata has become universally recognized as the objective source of information and analysis about franchise brands and their execution of the franchise business model by thousands of franchisors, lenders, and other service providers, as well as the media and government. “The strong response we got from our analysis for last year’s Forbes Best and Worst Franchisor issue is testament to FRANdata’s reputation as a trusted source of franchise performance analysis.

That was the first time a ranking of that sort was created on that scale and depth. Its significant ripple effect around the franchise community held a clear message – performance metrics are powerful tools for selling and growing a brand; franchisees need a consistent set of metrics to make sound decisions; the industry needs it to validate the franchise model’s integrity; and the media needs a sound way to create a truer picture of the franchise ecosystem.

FRANdata plans to lead the way for consistent and clear structuring of operational metrics, and our experience and passion for franchising makes this a natural step in our evolution as a company.”

While at the helm of FRANdata, Darrell led the growth of FRANdata’s SBA eligibility service into a broader franchise validation service adopted by government and private sector alike. He then added a franchise brand credit evaluation service with Bank Credit Reports and more recently a franchise system credit rating service. He expanded FRANdata’s research and analysis capabilities for franchisors and targeted marketing services for suppliers. He has also launched FRANdata Australia, proving that franchise performance measurement is an international concern and that FRANdata solutions can be adapted outside of the United States.

“I have been privileged to be CEO of FRANdata for nearly 15 years. There has been tremendous change in the franchise business model during that span of time. What haves not changed are FRANdata’s standards of integrity and objectivity, which I attribute entirely to the professionalism and dedication of the great team around me.

I’ve also been honored to work with some of the best minds in franchising. The franchise community’s willingness to share information, experiences and knowledge, and their desire to seek answers that lead to improved performance, have allowed FRANdata to serve such a central role.”

With a background in banking and economics, Darrell has become known as the “Franchise Economist.” He has dedicated himself to understanding the franchise business model and how the economy and outside influences are affecting the future of franchising. His trend analysis and forecasts are widely followed. He is committed to understanding those influences and defining and measuring best practices for the franchise business model to guide franchise brands toward performance excellence.

“You get what you measure. For decades, franchising has been unable and often unwilling to measure the outcomes that matter most. Almost all companies have KPIs. Why can’t franchise systems? Why can’t we define success and failure or benchmark the operational functions every franchisor, regardless of industry, is responsible for performing? The answer is that we can, and FRANdata is doing just that.”

Darrell has seen adaptation of capital access standards created by FRANdata as the first steps to a unified acceptance of a wider range of franchise system performance standards. “The far-reaching implications of franchise performance standards can be seen in how lenders who are accessing our Bank Credit Reports are leveraging these measurements in the underwriting of their loans applications – measurements that show the true picture of franchise success or struggle.” The growing number of both lenders and franchisors that access the Franchise Registry site (more than 6000 lender members and more than 2000 franchisors) point to a need not only within the franchise community, but also to a lender or other supplier’s need for a consistent understanding of the franchise system.

Darrell’s multifaceted career spanning information services, commercial banking, investment banking, and federal financial regulation has helped shape FRANdata’s vision as a franchise best practices advisory firm. Prior to his involvement with FRANdata, he was part of the National Cooperative Bank’s executive team, where he managed investment, conventional, and SBA lending teams.

Before joining NCB, he was an investment banker specializing in mergers, acquisitions, and financial advisory services for middle-market companies. Darrell was a founder of the investment banking subsidiary of a regional commercial bank (now part of Bank of America) and also worked in several independent advisory firms. He received a bachelor's degree in business and a master's degree in economics from Montana State University. He also earned a master's degree in business from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

As a nationally recognized authority on franchising in the U.S., Darrell is a frequent speaker and contributing columnist on franchising economics and trends. He is often cited as a franchise subject matter expert in such leading media as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Forbes.

Darrell is a Certified Franchise Executive and has served on many for-profit and not-for-profit boards. He has served on the board of the International Franchise Association’s Board of Directors as well as several IFA committees.

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