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FranDev Players: Jack Armstrong, New Jersey Market President of FranNet

Armstrong left behind a career in the publishing industry to become a franchising powerhouse with FranNet.

Years ago, Jack Armstrong built his own publishing company in Manhattan, drawing from 15 years of experience in the business to perfect his model. But when Armstrong went back to school for his Masters of Business Administration, something else caught his eye: franchising. 

After getting his MBA, Armstrong sold his publishing company and became a franchisee with FranNet, a franchise consultancy that helps franchise brands find them the best possible prospects for their brands. Later, Armstrong had the chance to buy into the company and become part of the franchisor team. 

As both a franchisor and a franchisee, Armstrong knows every angle in the business. 1851 caught up with him to talk about last year’s many challenges and what’s ahead. 

1851 Franchise: Tell us about FranNet.

Jack Armstrong: FranNet is a franchise that works with approximately 200 franchise companies, trying to find them the best new franchisees for their systems. We’re locally based, and we have close to 100 people in North America. So if a franchise company is looking to develop Northern New Jersey, they’d work with me in my territory. If they’re looking in the Carolinas, they'd talk to another office.

We get a lot of clients through referrals, and then we work with those people to find the best fit. At the same time, we know what franchisors are looking for. So we’re matchmakers trying to find the best franchisees in a territory. 

1851: How did you get into franchising?

Armstrong: I was a magazine publisher in Manhattan for 15 years. I had gone back to school for my MBA in finance, and the professors said you had to do a thesis to graduate. I didn't want to do publishing, so I did it on franchising. When I sold my publishing company, I looked around and found my friend Howie Basset, a FranNet owner, who said New Jersey was open, so why not join him? So, I took over the territory. Later on when Howie wanted to sell, he approached me, and I got some partners together to buy him out. So now I’m both a franchisee and a franchisor. 

1851: Are there any keys to consistent franchise growth?

Armstrong: I think the number-one key is always validation. Are the franchisees happy? Would they do it again? When prospective franchisees validate, are they hearing good things about ROI? Are they making what they thought they'd make? People want to change their lifestyle and income, so validation is a critical element. 

Then we have to look at what the economy at large is doing. 2020, with COVID was completely different from other years, of course. 

1851: What are the biggest hurdles to successful franchise growth right now?

Armstrong: I think so much has shifted to the internet. How does a franchise company cut through all that’s out there and stand out? How do you start to build that online brand and reputation? So many of the newer or younger people, that's where they start. They do their research on the internet. They come to us when they’re confused. 

How do you define yourself out there? What’s your niche? How do you define yourself in the marketplace? How are you going to grow past the others?

1851: How did the COVID crisis affect franchise growth opportunities?

Armstrong: It hurt certain industries. Retail got crushed; food got hurt. But the service industry has done much better. People are at home and need things done around the house. 

Food has done well by pivoting to takeout, but you can't run a gym now at 25% capacity.

You’re also seeing a recession. With high unemployment, who are you appealing to? Can customers still afford your product and service?

If you look at senior care, people are still doing it. Demand hasn’t changed at all. 

1851: Are there any common mistakes you see franchisors making when trying to grow?

Armstrong: Sometimes they get hot and grow too fast. Their franchise sales team is better than the development they built for the operational side. It’s got to be a good balance with support and not just selling franchises. Both sides have to work together to maintain that strong valid

1851: What are your biggest goals and plans for 2021?

Armstrong: I think for the next few months, we’re still going to have the COVID crisis, so it’s doing business virtually with webinars and Zoom and trying to build relationships with customers when you’re not meeting face to face. After that, you’ll have to have people coming to meet with you and reestablishing those relationships. So I hope to reestablish all those relationships when the crisis ends.