What Franchisors Should Really Look for In a Prospect
What Franchisors Should Really Look for In a Prospect

These Traits Help Boost the Chance of Success (Hint: There’s More to Find Than Just Passion)

Ask a franchise salesperson to describe their ideal prospect, and you’re bound to hear one of two distinct answers:

“I want someone with the passion for my brand/my widget/my industry!”


“I just want someone who can write a check that won’t bounce!”

The second answer may be a joke (or at least a half-joke), but it illustrates a point: there’s a lot more than just the initial investment that puts a franchisee in a strong position to succeed. With that in mind, 1851 Franchise asked some of the leaders in franchise development from across the industry what they look for in a prospect.

And, it turns out that passion is a commonly sought after trait.

“Passion and entrepreneurial spirit is hard to disagree with,” said Jamie Cecil, Director of Franchise Sales and Development for Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and The Brass Tap. “That desire to be in business for themselves and control their own destiny is a strong indicator that they’ll have the willingness to put in the hard work to be successful. And just as critical is that they can take criticism constructively and build on it.”

“I look for excitement, but tempered with realism,” agreed Beth Caron, Director of Franchise Development for Great Clips. “Passion and drive along with persistence, achievement alongside humility and intelligence tempered with a willingness to continue to learn set a franchisee up for success. Great franchisees need to have a balance in all these things. We see the people who are successful being the ones who are smart and driven, but who are also determined. They are willing to do what it takes to not only meet the expectations, but to also go the extra mile to exceed them. They hold themselves and their staff accountable. But, through all that determination, they also treat the people in their organizations with respect and kindness.”

Entrepreneurial spirit is important, agreed Wireless Zone Director of Franchise Development Keith Dziki. But, that spirit has to be grounded in reality, too.

“We want people in this for the right reason and for the long haul,” Dziki said. “We want multi-unit expansion possibility, and that takes a certain type of mindset from a prospective franchisee. With our franchise opportunity, it’s very possible to be successful as a single unit owner, but there’s no denying that it’s harder. The most successful of our franchisees are multi-unit owners. The ones who expand to that 15-20 unit level are seeing big success, so we look for people with that mindset of long term success.”

For many franchisors, it’s also important that a prospect shows passion about the product they’re selling as well.

“You can certainly succeed without that, but in almost every franchise I can think of, you’re much more likely to be successful with it,” said Cecil. “With The Brass Tap, it’s important to have some sort of passion or knowledge for beer. We are a craft beer bar, so that’s what you’re involved in, day in and day out. It would be a tough business if you didn’t have some interest in beer.”

Because of that, Cecil, like many other franchisors, looks for experience in the segment.

“For us, management experience, especially in the restaurant and bar segment, is an important thing. And, you have to be able to create trust. You have to be able to delegate and establish trust, because, you can’t be there 24/7. Management experience in our industry helps to create that,” he said.

“In the wireless industry, product or pricing can change at a moment’s notice, so the willingness of owners to adapt to constant change is critical,” agreed Dziki. “We’re an exclusive retailer of Verizon Wireless products and services, and Verizon may change pricing just a few days before Black Friday in order to help capture additional market share, for example. You have to be able to roll with the punches. So, individuals who have some experience in the industry, or at least a strong retail background or business management background, tend to excel. We look for someone who isn’t afraid to hear ‘no’ and be able to turn it around.”

“Too many people underestimate the work involved with running any business, let alone a restaurant,” agreed Dirk Ferrell, Director of Development for Pita Pit USA. “For our concept, we need an extrovert personality, with business and/or restaurant experience. I say extrovert because in new markets we sometimes have to battle brand awareness, so we need a partner who understands that they need to be involved with the community and market their location on a consistent schedule. This person needs to bring a skill set that includes leadership qualities to manage a staff, discipline to manage cash flow properly, people skills to work with customers and to anticipate their needs. All of that needs to happen simultaneously while they are building relationships in the community.”

That combination of skills may seem like a tall order. And, it usually is. That’s what makes the competition for multi-unit minded, experienced franchisees so high. 

“To have all those components is difficult to find these days,” Cecil said. “You might find someone with a good business acumen, but maybe they’re not passionate about your product. Maybe they really love your product, but they don’t have the ability to follow that system and are a risk to go rogue. You need to hone in quickly on people who fit all of those traits all at once.”

For Cecil, there’s a telling question that helps to identify prospects that have their mind in the right place.

“I always ask one question of my prospects: when you have a party at your house, what do you do? If they say, ‘I open the door and invite people in,’ then I take a much closer look at whether they really have the traits we need for them to be successful. But, if they say ‘I clean the house first, go grocery shopping to make sure I have all the right food and drinks, get the music ready and buy extra supplies,’ then I know that they think ahead. Those are the people we want, because we basically throw a party every night in our restaurants and bars,” Cecil said.

Preparation is half the battle, but what happens when a franchisee really gets into the trenches?

For Caron and Great Clips, that’s where true success is made.

“The biggest differentiator, in my opinion, is grit,” Caron said. “It’s passion and perseverance. Being a franchisee is not always easy. It’s going to have ups and downs, so you need to find someone who has the emotional capacity to weather the storms when it’s tough. Asking the tough questions in our conversations with prospects about how they have handled tough situations in their previous careers tells us whether they can stick with something even when it becomes challenging and still live out their values while doing it.”  

“There are so many prospects out there that are professional interviewers that say what you want to hear and this makes our job very difficult when choosing the right partners,” said Ferrell. “That’s why it’s so important to really spend the time to get to know them and understand their motivations and personalities. That’s what we need to be successful and grow our brand. We don’t settle on less than ideal franchisee prospects anymore just to build stores.”