What You Need to Know About Semi-Absentee Franchises

Semi-absentee franchise ownership is an attainable goal, but it requires a lot of hard work upfront. Here’s what you can expect if you’re looking to build and run a semi-absentee business.

By Chris IrbyCopy Editor
9:09AM 03/06/24

The idea of semi-absentee franchise ownership has become so prevalent that many prominent franchise brokers will no longer accept brands that don’t offer it as an option.

On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer. No doubt you’ve heard the inspirational tales of franchise owners who built an empire of several hundred locations, and you could be forgiven if your takeaway from that was, “Hey, I can manage a bunch of businesses and I don’t even have to be there!”

However, the harsh reality is that semi-absentee franchises are something you have to build up to. If you’re a new franchisee, you’re going to need to put in the time. Most first-timers fund their franchise purchase with a personally guaranteed loan. That means, if the business fails, you’re still on the hook for the money you owe; this usually means handing everything over to the bank and then filing for bankruptcy.

Franchising guru Jonathan Matzner once compared the concept of launching a semi-absentee business out of the gate to that of having a bunch of kids and then hiring a nanny to take care of them. His summation? “Dude — that’s not how it works at ALL.” 

Semi-Absentee Ownership Has to Be Earned

Despite the romantic ideal of a set-it-and-forget-it business model, that simply won’t fly in the real world. If you’ve sunk your savings (or a hefty loan) into a franchise and you know in your heart that your future and financial security is riding on that franchise’s success, are you really going to be able to hand it off to a manager and assume it all goes well? Would you really be able to put that business out of your mind while you’re enjoying all this newfound freedom of being a semi-absentee owner?

Probably not.

The fact is, semi-absentee ownership has to be earned. You have to pay your dues as a full-time owner before you can start delegating your responsibilities. If you’re a first-time franchisee, you need to be all in.
The franchising mavens who are buying new concepts and running them “semi-absentee” from the get-go are coming into the enterprise with a ready-built management team and enough cash on hand to cover the problems that will inevitably rear their heads.

Managing the Expectations of Semi-Absentee Franchises

I realize this article has been a bit of a downer so far, so please allow me to clarify: the problem doesn’t lie with semi-absentee franchises as a concept, but rather with those in the franchising industry who do such a poor job of setting and managing expectations.

The problem is that a lot of franchise brokers are there for the sole purpose of making the sale and collecting the commission. Once you’ve been sold the semi-absentee ownership bill of goods, the folks who negotiated the deal on your behalf frequently vanish, leaving you with the stark realization that it’s going to take years of hard work while you figure things out on your own.

I should point out that not everybody in the franchise industry operates this way. Sure, there are a lot of folks out there who are just in it for the franchise fees, but there are also plenty of legitimate channels you can go through that operate honestly and transparently. It’s their job to cut through the fluff and let you know, realistically, what running your business is going to entail.

Semi-absentee franchise ownership is a realistic option, but you need to view it as a long-term goal rather than an immediate perk. Do your due diligence, put in your time, and perhaps one day, you’ll be able to hand the day-to-day responsibilities off to a manager and enjoy some well-earned freedom.

At 1851 Franchise, we’ve always prided ourselves on the honesty and transparency we bring to all of our interactions with franchisees, franchisors and brokers. If you’re looking for a franchise opportunity, we can help you find the right brand and work with you to ensure that you’re on the right path to semi-absentee ownership. Visit 1851 Growth Club and see what we can do for you.