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Building a Better Franchisee

Who’s the perfect guy to help grow your chain?  Bet he looks a little like this.

Selecting franchisees can be a tough job. How do you get the really good ones? It’s a bit like finding a needle in a haystack, an exercise that even the most seasoned chain executives repeatedly put on their list of top challenges.

Wouldn’t it be just great if you could build your own franchisee? Somebody who magically embodies all of the specific skills and qualities needed to succeed—in your restaurant chain?

That’s just what we asked a panel of four veteran franchisors to do. They added a little of this character trait, a pinch of that bit of business acumen to create the model store operator.

So what does the perfect one look like? Depends who’s doing the building. Take a peek.

The builders:
Nick Vojnovic, President, Beef O’Brady’s
Matt Friedman, CEO, Wing Zone
John Scardapane, CEO, Saladworks
Tom Wilscam, Director of franchising Juan’s Mexicali and Grains of Montana

Marketer. “They have to be willing to go out there and get the business. You can buy chicken wings from anybody, but the most successful stores are those in which the franchisee pumps up the marketing.” M.F.

Strong Leader. “These are business owners. Bottom line, they absolutely have to have some leadership qualities.” M.F.

Great Host. “Great franchisees get a lot of satisfaction from making people happy.” N.V.

Community-Focused. “We want them visiting the elementary school principal to see what the school needs, sponsoring Little League teams and attending some of the games, raising funds for community causes.” N.V.

Salesperson. “Great franchisees are always selling the business. They wear the company T-shirt when they go to the grocery store, put the bumper sticker on their car, and during downtime after lunch drop off a few sample orders of wings at the local business.” N.V.

Military Man.  “Or a teacher, or a coach, or someone who has worked for a large organization with structure and discipline. We want someone who gets the concept that if they follow the system, they’ll be successful.” M.F.

People Person. “You’ve got to have a great personality to be able to market your restaurant and the brand. People who get involved in their communities and really live and breathe the business make the best franchisees.” M.F.

A Customer. “Seventy percent of our franchisees have no restaurant experience. The bulk of them were customers of ours.” N.V.

Self-Made.  “We want owner-operators with an investment in every store, preferably with money they made and earned the hard way.” N.V.

Business Owner. “I’d take an owner any day over someone who has just been a manager because they know what it’s like to sign their own paycheck and to try to build a team.” M.F.

Smart Shopper. “Franchising is being in business for yourself, but not by yourself. They have to have a clear sense of what they’re buying and what it’s going to take to be successful.” M.F.

Not a Highbrow. “We like people who have experience managing people making $7 or $8 an hour. Doctors, lawyers and scientists who’ve tried this often can’t relate.” N.V.

Truly Passionate. “They’re the ones who, instead of having dinner with their families on Thanksgiving, open the doors and thank their customers and their communities with free turkey and a pot luck dinner.” N.V.

A Competitor. “Our top franchisees want to be the best, they absolutely have to win and they love competition.” M.F.

Ethical. “You can’t take a risk on someone with compromised ethics. That person represents your brand to the community.”  N.V.

Independent Thinker. “If someone says I do it this way because that’s the way it’s always done, that doesn’t fit our culture. The system has to constantly evolve and stay fresh. Good franchisees contribute to that process.” J.S.

Eyes Wide Open. “The primary role of our president in interviews with potential franchisees is to try to talk them out of it by telling them all the potential negatives. We want them coming in with their eyes wide open.” J.S.

Head Cheerleader. “You need someone who will be involved at the unit level, and delegate, not abdicate. The franchisee should be the lifeblood of the business and have a positive presence—not just show up and be a policeman.” T.W.

College Educated. “Doesn’t matter if they have a degree in P.E. or flower arranging, getting a degree says they have tenacity to see something through.” T.W.

Non-restaurateur. “Sometimes, bringing in someone from the food business means spending a lot of extra time and energy de-training and re-training.” J.S.

One-Minute Manager. “If they don’t know how to lead and motivate people, they’d better be doing something else.” T.W.

Happily Married, or Happily Single. “It’s a difficult issue when a franchisee comes in married and then gets divorced. It can create some serious operational problems at the store.” J.S.

Customer-Centric. “We don’t want people whose egos become more important than the customer.” J.S.

Coach. “Coaches have to have leadership skills, the ability to communicate effectively to a diverse group of people and plenty of patience. They build people up, not drag them down.” T.W.

Has Waited Tables. “Or worked the drive-thru, or been a prep cook. It doesn’t matter what kind of restaurant it was, any industry experience helps.” T.W.

Not a Perfectionist. “They can’t be afraid to fail, or be such a perfectionist that they drive everyone crazy. People make mistakes and they have to be okay with that.” J.S.

Pulls the Trigger. “Mid-level managers from a corporate environment, for instance, often haven’t had bottom-line decision-making responsibilities. As such, they’re often not cut out for franchising. We like people who don’t vacillate.” T.W.

Knows What He Doesn’t Know. “Some forget what they pay franchise fees for and start wanting to change everything. Good franchisees tap the system and the experience behind the brand for their success, and bring new ideas in the right way.” T.W.                                                                                           

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