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How to Survive Your First Year of Franchise Ownership

Launching a franchise business can be time consuming, but with a clear plan and the dedication to follow through, you can make the most of the first 12 months.

Starting your own franchise is certainly something to celebrate, but it’s also important to be prepared for what the first year will bring. According to Zippia, over 20% of businesses fail within the first 12 months; however, with a plan for yourself and the support of your franchisor, you can survive (and even thrive in) the first year of franchise ownership.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Here’s what you need to know.

Make a Clear-Cut Plan for the First Year of Franchise Ownership

The first year of business ownership brings many demands, and it’s important to be prepared for them all. While the franchisor provides a pathway to launching a successful business, it can also be helpful to work alongside those who have been in the same position to ensure you have full visibility. Collaborating with fellow franchisees and other mentors in the system will allow you to build a comprehensive plan—based on real experiences—that will allow you to be proactive rather than reactive. 

With this plan in hand, you will be prepared for a realistic first year and equipped with a pathway to success that you can reference when things get challenging.

Jerry Akers, a regional developer and franchisee with The Joint Chiropractic and franchisee with Great Clips*, pointed out that all plans should be made in consideration with the franchisor’s guidelines and any stipulations included in the franchise agreement.

As a new franchisee, he said, one of the most memorable mistakes he made was “believing we had the ability to do as we choose in spite of buying a franchise with guidelines and expectations.”

“Implementing your own strategies to a franchised business may be a great thing leading to much success but still must fit the franchisor’s model, or you may find yourself at odds with your franchisor,” explained Akers. “Layering on your experience and ideas for improvement is awesome, and I recommend it, but you still must fit the model.”

Stay Invested, but Not Too Invested

It’s important not to lose sight of the end goal. You chose to go into business for yourself for a reason, and you’re still working to build that dream. Having this in mind and remaining emotionally invested in the journey, even when things get difficult, will keep that spark alive.

However, balance is crucial here. Passionate leaders bring an important element of motivation and care to the business model, but it’s not realistic to expect to be in total control of every single thing that happens in the business.

Don’t be afraid to outsource tasks or ask for support. Whether this looks like placing full trust in the franchisor’s support teams, reaching out to business coaches or consultants in the system, or even hiring additional team members, letting go of some of the responsibilities can lead to positive change. In many cases, outsourcing some tasks creates time for you to focus on higher level responsibilities that will benefit the long-term trajectory of the business.

Akers explained that this may be one of the most crucial steps. You can rely on your own skills and drive, and these will be an important part of your journey, but you are not all you have.

“The biggest thing [franchisees] need in their first year is the willingness to engage with corporate and peers,” said Akers. “You are not on your own in searching for success in franchising, and these two groups will literally guide you and sometimes put you on their shoulders and carry you through problems. In franchising, you are never on your own … unless you choose to be!”

Dig Deep and Apply Your Own Strengths to the Proven Model for the Best Start

Franchising requires a delicate balance of personal influence and rule following. While the franchise model does provide a well-established starting point for entrepreneurs, it doesn’t excuse an owner from ever doing work in or on their business.

“Don’t get too wrapped up in the ‘business in a box’ or ‘prepackaged’ business model that some sell and others too willingly buy,” said Akers. “While you are buying a successful brand as a part of a successful model, you are still buying a business that takes owner engagement.”

As a regional developer, Akers said he looks for candidates who have business or corporate experience as well as those who have been able to problem solve and find success in other areas of their lives.

“If someone finds accomplishment through hard work, innovation, engagement and perseverance in other areas of life, I feel it translates well to being a successful franchisee,” he added.

Throughout your first year, be intentional about applying those favorable traits to your business ownership experience. The ramp-up process is work-intensive and challenging for many, but doing it right from the beginning almost always pays off in the long run.

“Once you have your first unit up and running smoothly with proper management or have scaled with multiple units, your life does become much easier, and you can gradually spend less time on the business,” said Akers.

So, during that first year, when you might feel like the best you can do is to survive, remember your motivation. Hard work during the first 12 months will give you a great foundation to get that first unit running smoothly—and ready to scale, if that’s your goal—as you work toward building a life you love.

Find more resources to support your journey as a new franchisee here:

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.