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What Experience Do You Need to Open a Franchise?

These are the two key career backgrounds that can help you succeed as a franchise owner.

When it comes to opening your own franchise, there’s a dizzying array of opportunities available. 

The problem is that so many opportunities may not align directly with your work history. Does that matter? Do you actually need to have worked in the specific industry your franchise is in to be successful?

Not necessarily, say franchise experts. While industry expertise is sometimes helpful  —  such as in highly technical areas like IT — for other types of franchises, it’s less important. 

“That’s because you’re not doing the physical work, you’re managing the people who are,” said, Jack Armstrong, New Jersey market president FranNet, an international franchise consultancy. 

So what kind of experience do you need to open a successful franchise? 

The best experience you can bring is the kind that can transfer from one industry to another, whether you’re making donuts or repairing water heaters, said Armstrong. 

“We have a lot of people coming in from the retail sector. They’re used to managing people and dealing with customer service,” said Armstrong. “But because of the economy, they don’t want to go back into retail. But they can transfer their skills into some sort of service-based business.”

Armstrong said there’s a couple of backgrounds that well suited to owning a franchise: Management and sales and marketing. 

Good Managers Wanted

With a bird’s eye view of the business, managers have to help everyone do their very best. From  HR to customer service to sales and marketing, a good manager should know how to deal with different personalities, respond to crises, solve problems, and generally just be comfortable around people. 

In other words, a franchise owner's ability to hire good people or talk to customers is much more important than his or her ability to twist a wrench or fix a faulty hard drive. 

“If you’re in health care, for example, you’re managing a team of health-care professionals,” said Armstrong. “You’re not doing the work yourself. You put your team together and run it. “

A Background Sales & Marketing Doesn’t Hurt, Either 

A background in sales and marketing is also good to have if you’re thinking about investing in a franchise, said Armstrong, though it also depends on the industry. 

“If you’re doing something in temporary employment, you need to be very good at sales,” he said. Information tech jobs may require some grounding in the field because you’re managing IT professions and need to speak their language. But you also need to have sales skills.  “If you don't have [both] those skills, you’re not going to make any money,” said Armstrong.

You have to be honest about what you're comfortable with, he cautioned. If you’re not comfortable with making cold calls, for example, then something in the B2B world is probably not for you. 

Armstrong also said it’s also important to look at what the franchising company is providing you in terms of marketing and sales support because you need to hit the ground running with a solid marketing game plan in place.   

“Marketing is the biggest challenge today in the COVID world,” said Armstrong. “How are we generating leads? How are we getting people to contact us? How do we do the business?”  

But Armstrong said that experience alone isn’t enough to make it as a franchise owner. You need drive and motivation, he said. “You can have a lot of management or sales experience, but if you don’t have a get-up-and-go attitude you’re dead in the water.”