If your high school was anything like mine, cool was the currency of choice. If you weren’t part of the popular crowd, you probably wanted to be (whether you chose to admit it publicly, or not), and your choices reflected it. After all, success was measured by earning the approval of others.
Fast forward a few years (more than I’m now comfortable admitting), and things are probably a little different. While most of us still strive to earn others approval, at least on some level, the currency has changed--to actual currency. Success is now measured by, well, being successful. And, here’s the good news: being an adult means there’s a much clearer roadmap to success. Want to join that club? All you have to do is follow it.
It’s what franchising was built on: a great idea or concept replicated and improved upon, then delivered to the masses. So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the most successful franchisees share many of the same traits. Here are a few of them that have helped navigate that road to success.
They’ve Learned How to Say No
It might seem confusing. Successful people should say yes, right? Not necessarily, says Which Wich Superior Sandwiches Director of Franchise Development Connie Peyton.
“Successful franchisees can make uncomfortable, and sometimes unpopular decisions,” she said. “Sometimes, you have to make calls you might not like. That’s part of owning a business. And, it can be hard to say no. But, successful franchisees know that it’s OK to do that sometimes.”
That also includes knowing when to say no to a franchise opportunity that might not be the right fit.
“From that initial approval process well into training, I see a lot of people who have that quintessential ‘light bulb moment.’ They say ‘I’ve been looking for this—this brand is me.’ But, just because they like a concept, or they’ve been a customer, doesn’t always mean it’s the right fit for them. And, just because you really like someone as a franchisor doesn’t mean they’re going to be a successful franchisee,” Peyton said.
They Know When to Ask for Help
Just like you needed help with your Algebra homework in high school (at least, I did), successful franchisees share a key trait: they recognize that they can’t run their business in a vacuum.
“The stronger franchisees have worked to identify their strengths and weakness, and they’re comfortable admitting when someone else can help them be more successful,” said Chad Tramuta, Franchise Development Manager at Smoothie King. “They seek out successful partners, at both the franchisor and franchisee level, and they understand their limitations.” Tramuta advocates that franchisees lean on experience, particularly through franchise business consultants.
“They may have inside knowledge or shortcuts to success that you haven’t figured out yet as a franchisee,” he said. “The most successful franchisees we see take advantage of their passion for the brand and are never too proud to benefit from others’ knowledge.”
They Understand They’re Part of a Team
Franchising is a team sport. It’s built into the concept. If you’re a team of one, well, you’re not a franchise. The most successful franchisees understand that what’s good for the brand is also good for them.
“Striking out on your own road in franchising doesn’t work,” Peyton said. “If you’ve found something you think you can do better, let’s talk about it so we can all take advantage of it. At Which Wich, we’ve created an open dialog, and our franchisees help make each other more successful because of open communication.”
Being part of a team also means following the rules the team has established.
“We have to have the same things in each store location. That’s a critical thing. But, we also understand that we have hundreds of unique personalities to work with. What makes Which Wich so successful in that process is that we were founded as a franchise concept from day one. We only have three corporate owned stores. We understand that the franchisees make this concept run, so we our corporate team operates more like a franchisee support system, and less like a corporate headquarters because of that.”
That team mentality should also trickle down from the franchise owner to employees, said Tramuta, of Smoothie King.
“Staffing is incredibly important,” he said. “The most successful franchisees understand that you’re only as strong as your weakest link, so they are always hiring. They don’t wait for an opportunity to become available, and they’re always on the hunt for someone more driven to add to their staff, because they recognize that customer support is everything to their business. They understand the P + L’s and they manage their business from a unit level economics standpoint. And, when they do find great staff members, they look for opportunities to reward them to keep retention levels high.”
They Don’t Sit on the Sidelines
Franchising is not a spectator sport, either. It’s a business model that demands your attention as a franchisee, and those who fail to heed that advice are often the first to fail.
“Franchisees have to be involved, plain and simple,” Tramuta said. “Lots of brands try an absentee model, but it usually doesn’t work. Our most successful franchisees understand that they have to have the pulse of their business, and that comes from being there, managing the businesses and tracking the P+L’s daily. They have a passion for what they do and a passion for the brand, and they understand that operating a franchise is a lifestyle, not just a business.”
“The most successful franchisees are the most engaged ones,” agreed Peyton, of Which Wich. “They’re in their stores every day. They know how things run. They know what their food costs are. They know what their inventory is. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re behind the line making wiches, but it does mean they’re involved in their operation.”
Successful franchisees also seek out opportunities to connect with their customers to create a more personalized experience. That helps drive customer satisfaction and retention.
“Almost all of our most successful franchisees are engaged and involved in their communities, and that starts in their stores,” Peyton said. “They work to bring a personalized experience to their customers, and that’s become a vital part of the Which Wich franchise lifestyle.”
“Smoothie King has done a great job at focusing on franchisees who have a passion for the brand, and because of our brand awareness, we get the benefit that most of our franchisees are already are bought in to the concept,” Tramuta said. “We try to channel that passion into the back end of their business as well. Our successful franchisees use the word ‘our’ not ‘my’ when working with their teams. And, they work face to face, not over the phone. We preach a solid year of involvement in any new location, right off the bat. If you’re not involved in the day to day, your staff won’t feel like a part of the “our,” and maybe even worse: you could even get cheated, and before you know it, your margin goes right out the door.”
They Invest Back Into Their Business
Think your business will simply grow, without any extra work from you? Think again.
“Marketing is critical,” said Tramuta. “Successful franchisees understand that it takes money to make money. It’s still your business, but you have to invest back in it to grow it. Successful franchisees aren’t just spending the required two percent they contribute to the ad fund. They’re investing some of their revenue back into growing the business.”
“Building buzz happens easily right after your business opens,” agreed Peyton. “It’s new and exciting. But, what are you doing a month or two down the road? Successful franchisees understand that it’s critical to keep pushing to keep new customers coming in the door.”
And, what about when it’s time to open your second location, and ride that great multi-unit success train into the sky? The shared successful traits shine through there too.
“Successful franchisees become partners in real estate,” Tramuta said. “They understand that it’s not just the franchisor’s responsibility to secure the best location. They reach beyond just easy to see signs in a window. They work with local brokers and leasing agents, and with sites already in existence to see when their leases are up. There’s one trait all successful franchisees share: they do what it takes to make it happen.”