They say that hindsight is 20/20. Sure it helps to be knowledgeable after the fact, but that doesn’t help someone succeed in their careers. For the elder statesman of the business world, they may not be able to use this wisdom to translate to more success in the future. That is not to say the act of perception is not valuable to achieve future success, but the sage advice these business savants have in the world can be a good opportunity to mentor the newest generation of entrepreneurs.
A seasoned business veteran imparting their wisdom upon a rookie entrepreneur can be the perfect way to steer that person in the right direction. Sean Falk has been involved in the franchise world since 1998. He has owned several different franchises over his storied career including Mrs. Field Cookies, Great American Cookies, PretzelMaker and Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina to name a few. Falk said he got into the franchising world because he thought it was an industry he could grow with and learn from others along the way.
“I always wanted to be a business owner and I saw an ad in a local newspaper about becoming a franchisee with Mrs. Fields Cookies,” Falk said. “I saw it as a fairly low risk and wanted to try it out.”
Falk went on to say he credits his success with his drive for success. Whether in his professional or personal life, he said it was always his goal to be no. 1 or be in the top tier of his industry. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had any missteps in the past. Falk shared some pieces of wisdom that he would impart to his younger self and today’s hungry entrepreneurs.
Choose a game plan
Coming out of the gate, a franchisee can be excited about their investment opportunity. Being their own boss and running a business is all fine and dandy, but without a proper game plan beforehand, it could be curtains before they know it. Falk said when he started in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the franchising industry was more open to have multiple franchises spread out through several states. Today, he feels there is more competition from regional franchises and franchises are more contained to single areas.
Falk recommends at first picking one territory or geographical area and growing your franchise slowly from there. Opening a few stores within one area is a good way to build the brand up slowly, not get too stressed from the rigors of being an owner and you’ll be able to get some seasoning before possibly moving on to a new territory.
Pick a trajectory and stick with it
On top of that last piece of advice, Falk recommends having a trajectory of what you want to do the first few years in the business. Whether franchisees want to remain local or spread their business across several states, knowing what you want to do can help entrepreneurs not get in over their head.
He went on to say that getting finances secured and planned for the coming years will also help. Even the tiniest detail should be situated beforehand as it won’t come back to haunt you if a financial misstep occurs.
Find a Mentor
Potential franchisees may want to jump head first into the industry, but Falk recommends slowing down and maybe dip a few toes in first. He recommends connecting with a current franchisee and picking their brain about the business. A mentor and protégée relationship can go a long way in the business world. Bouncing ideas off a mentor and asking them questions about every facet of a prospective business can help prepare from the obstacles one may face. Falk said he didn’t have a mentor in the beginning and reiterated that having someone to confide in is understated.
Do Extra Research
Along with finding a mentor, it doesn’t hurt to do some school in order to be prepared for the juggernaut that is ahead. Working at an existing franchise and finding a mentor is a good start, but Falk recommends taking some franchise related classes. There are a number of organizations in the franchise industry that provide tutorials and classes for those that are ready to start their own business. Falk has been a member of several franchising organizations, including the Multi Unit Franchising Conference and was nominated to be on the International Franchise Association board, and other organizations like these offer symposium and lectures about changes in the industry and classes as well.
Be Involved on the Corporate Side
The last piece of advice that he would give to younger franchisees would be to get involved with the franchisor. Falk said that too many times franchise owners think they’ve reached the top and they are their own boss, but they may isolate their corporate owners and be left out of important decision making. Falk recommends chatting or visiting the corporate offices a few times, in order to keep a report with the decision makers. He said if you are actively involved, you could have the chance to be involved with decision making or have an influence by presenting ideas.