Creating a system that allows your team to properly qualify franchise candidates takes a little work and a lot of communicating.
By Theresa Huszka, CFE, Senior Consultant, MSA Worldwide
In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the need for franchisors to shift their thinking about their priorities in qualifying a franchise candidate. Generally, one of the first questions a franchise sales person will ask a franchise candidate is:
“Have you thought about how much you will be comfortable investing in a business?”
While this is certainly a very important question to ask, there is another that is even more important as an initial qualifier and will have a greater impact on that franchisee’s success in your system:
“Can you envision yourself being genuinely excited about building this business every day for the next 5, 10, or 15 years?”
While being properly funded is certainly very important, qualifying a franchise candidate as a good “cultural” fit is much more important for the long-term success of your franchise system. You may come across 10 candidates who are financially qualified to purchase your business, but you will most likely only find one or two out of that group who are truly a good fit for you.
Creating a system that allows your team to properly qualify franchise candidates takes a little work and a lot of communicating. First, you need to answer some fundamental questions about your system.
- What is the unique value proposition our system offers?
- How do we wish to be perceived in the marketplace?
- What is the level of service we want our staff to provide our customers?
- Who are our most successful franchisees, and what personality traits have been critical to their success?
Once you have a clear insight into the culture you want to create in your system, you need to communicate this to every member of your team. You also need to live and breathe that culture every day, making sure that the culture you’ve created at your corporate office is in sync with the culture of the brand you’re selling in your units. Being consistent is critical to both staff and franchisee’s buying in and embracing the system that you’re creating.
The one part of your team that this is especially true for is your franchise sales team. In most franchise systems, the franchise sales team is somewhat separate from the rest of the company purely based on the nature of what they do – they work with the candidate until they become a franchisee, and then the salesperson turns the new franchisee over to the rest of the team for training, support, marketing, operations, etc. All of the other teams in your system will work together to nurture that new franchisee into your culture, but your franchise salespeople aren’t involved much once the contracts are signed, so it is especially important that they understand exactly the type of candidates you’re looking for.
There are various ways to qualify a candidate; depending on your system, some or all of the following options may assist you in evaluating the true “fit” of your franchise candidate.
- Require your candidates to speak to at least 4 or 5 of your existing franchisees prior to approving them to purchase. They need to understand what a franchise owner in your system really does on a day-to-day basis, and you can count on your existing franchisees to be honest (brutally so at times!)
- “Day in the life” – have your franchise candidate spend a day or a weekend shadowing a franchisee or working in a corporate unit (possibly as part of their Discovery Day experience), thus providing them a “hands-on” experience before they buy. This will give both you and the candidate a clear understanding of what some of their strengths and weaknesses will be as a franchisee. This information can be critical in deciding whether to move forward with a candidate; equally important, it provides valuable information to your training and operations teams about what this owner will need to be successful.
- Create a mentoring program that allows managers and other team members to learn the skills they will need to eventually become a franchisee. There is no greater incentive for driven, motivated employees than the belief that they can eventually become an owner.
- Use profiling tools that help you screen for the personality traits and skills that will maximize your candidate’s opportunity to succeed. A candidate looking to buy a quick service restaurant will need to have strong management skills and will need to be good at motivating a team, whereas a candidate looking to buy a business-to-business sales franchise may not need those skills at all.
It’s important to remember that for many franchise candidates, they are risking their life savings to purchase your franchise; and we, as responsible franchisors, must do everything we can to be sure it’s the right investment for them. No matter what options you may choose to help you qualify your franchise candidates, the bottom line is this: You’re better off not awarding a franchise to the wrong candidate than trying to get them out of the system when they fail. The latter is costly and damaging to your brand – and can be financially devastating for your franchisee.
Theresa Huszka, CFE, is Senior Consultant for MSA Worldwide, providing franchise and business development programs, conference presentations, and restaurant operations audits. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.