Franchise Realty Partners
Executive Q&A: Founder Drew McWilliams
Franchise Realty Partners, the full-service commercial real estate company that operates as an internal real estate department for emerging franchisors, is establishing itself as a differentiated real estate partner in the franchise industry. The Franchise Realty Partners team brings over 20 consecutive years of experience working specifically in the tenant and buyer real estate representation field, as well as over a decade of experience as a franchisor. Today, interest in franchising is on an upward trajectory, and as more emerging franchisors sign new franchisees, the more they need to ensure they have a proven and streamlined real estate process in place. Especially as the commercial real estate market surges all over the country, a qualified team like Franchise Realty Partners can prove to be an invaluable resource for emerging franchisors focused on healthy growth.
1851 Franchise spoke with Franchise Realty Partners founder Drew McWilliams to learn more about how the firm came to be and how it aims to offer a turnkey real estate solution to help franchisors find optimal sites for their franchisees, connect with brokers, negotiate leases and more.
1851 Franchise: What void does your company fill? How was it identified? What inspired you to start?
Drew McWilliams: I am a commercial real estate broker in the Carolinas with over 20 years of real estate experience, and my wife and I also own preschool and child care franchise, Ivy Brook Academy, which currently has 51 locations open or under development. After years of operating in both the franchise and real estate space, I realized there was a disconnect between what third-party real estate companies offered and what franchisors needed.
The epiphany came after I found that I was paying way too much money for outsourced real estate support, and I was doing most of the work as a franchisor. Also, the third-party company I used had a contract with franchisees, but they hid their fee and sneakily raised their commission from 3% to 4% over time. I wasn’t monitoring the fees, because I thought the contracts would stay the same from day one. That kind of shady behavior made me realize that it would be better if I handled real estate myself. I also had peers in the franchise industry who kept telling me real estate was a major pain point for them, and I realized that if I could do it myself, why not do it for other brands as well?
I teamed up with my business partner Corey Roberts, an industry expert with 10 years of experience managing franchises through commercial lease negotiations, and Franchise Realty Partners was born. We work with franchisors and franchisees from coast to coast, providing personalized support in helping them navigate through the entirety of the real estate process. This includes finding sites that match franchisors’ individual criteria, presenting detailed demographic reports that show the target audience for each potential site and negotiating the terms of each lease.
1851 Franchise: What are you doing well right now? What are your company's differentiators?
McWilliams: We really stand out as a real estate partner because we relate to other franchisors and deeply understand the complex process they are going through. We also understand the commercial real estate side and can bring the expertise of a massive conglomerate with the communication and relationship-driven approach of a small boutique firm.
Also, it may sound simple, but we actually answer our phones. If you have ever tried to call a commercial real estate agent, you know they never answer their phone, especially if the franchisor calling has less than 100 units. We know how valuable it is to have a real estate partner that is actually available at all times.
We work with the client to take the approach that works best for their needs. For example, we can white-label ourselves as an internal real estate department for the specific brand if that is how they’d like to come across to franchisees. We want to be a turnkey solution — when a franchisor signs a new franchisee, we will take on 100% of the real estate work. Our overall goal is to help franchisors find sites faster, open stores faster, ramp up franchisees faster and bring in royalties faster. Clients no longer need to hire one company to handle data-driven site selection and another brokerage to show the properties to franchisees and negotiate the lease. We will handle it all.
The number-one key to success in commercial real estate is partnering with the right local broker. When franchisors are starting out, they usually grow in their home state, where they already have real estate connections. But when they enter a new state, those local real estate connections can’t help anymore. Especially right now, when demand outpaces supply, it is incredibly important to connect with the best local real estate experts who have pocket listings ready in each market. We have been networking for 30 years collectively, and we know multiple brokers in every city across the U.S.
1851 Franchise: What were some learning opportunities that the company leveraged to get where it is now?
McWilliams: We are constantly learning, but one of the big takeaways we found early on was the importance of communication. From day one, we’ve been applauded for our high level of communication and transparency, and we saw how much clients appreciated that we answered the phone. We’ve taken that as a lesson and have made sure to prioritize communication in every way we can.
1851 Franchise: What have been some of FRP's most important milestones since it started?
McWilliams: Starting our work with Ivy Brook was one of our first big milestones. Since being founded last year, we’ve already signed on to work with franchisees of multiple brands, including salon franchises Supercuts and Cost Cutters.
1851 Franchise: What are your growth goals? What is your vision that you want your brand to fulfill?
McWilliams: We are looking for new emerging franchisor clients, with the goal of adding 10 franchise brands or 50 units to our roster each year.