So you are thinking about finally taking the plunge and buying a franchise business. Before you take the first step, you must assess whether or not you are mentally and physically prepared to become a franchisee.
Are you ready to work like a maniac? Because as a franchisee, you will, especially in the first few years of your business. The only people who do not work like fiends for the first several years are those who are on their way to failure. Got a lazy streak? Like to sleep late? Committed to taking long family vacations? Like to read the Sunday newspapers? Go do all that. Just don’t be in your own business.
Your New Daily Duties
Think I’m exaggerating? Here are some of the daily activities you might do for your first two years or more in business:
- Interviewing, hiring, training, and firing employees
- Preparing for a “Secret Shopper” visit from your franchisor
- Fixing the point-of-sale system
- Calculating royalty payments
- Planning cash flow to meet expenses
- Dealing with bank overdrafts
- Designing a marketing brochure, ad campaign, coupon
- Talking to your accountant, banker, insurance representative, attorney, plumber, chamber of commerce, auto mechanic, carpenter, union shop steward, etc.
- Greeting customers and figuring out how to get more business from them
- Checking up on the competition
- Opening, closing, filling in for a sick employee, dealing with difficult customers
- Handling worker’s compensation
- Reordering supplies
I’m sure you can add a few dozen other items to the potential daily list of activities. You will be very busy.
Be Healthy as a Horse
If you are serious about buying a franchise and are nearing the finish line, get a complete physical. A few years ago, a close friend of mine who was in business for himself was unexpectedly sidetracked for months with a major illness. Fortunately, by that time he had other people to help him stay in business. But even with the help, he was thrown off his game for about six months. He considered getting out of his business. He started casting around to see what the job market was like, and had someone offered him a halfway decent job, he would have taken it. He’s glad no one did. If he had become ill in his first year in business, there might not have been a second year. I have seen more people go out of franchised businesses due to health reasons than any other cause — even cash flow.
You can’t foresee everything when it comes to health, but do all you can to stay healthy. At the very least, get a complete physical and get all of the recommended preventive tests for someone your age. Plan for what happens if you do become injured or sick. If you have no one to back you up in your business, that should give you great pause. Do anything preventive you can think of including visiting your dentist and your eye doctor. Speak to a health insurance consultant. Plan, plan, plan, because once you buy into your business and the train is moving, stopping is a very costly option.
It is also a good idea to be in as good physical condition as possible. If you need to lose 15 pounds, I recommend you do it before you buy a franchise. Why? Well, there are the obvious benefits to being in shape. But no matter what kind of business you might enter, if you’re going to be the boss, you will probably be more physically active than when you worked for a large company. In the good old days of corporate employment, did someone deliver your mail? Your coffee? Fix your computer? Did a car service pick you up to go to the airport? Did you spend a lot of time sitting in meetings? When you own a business, you will be doing many things for yourself that someone else may have done, plus all of the other responsibilities that go along with owning a small business. Most franchises are not “sit behind a desk” businesses. There are pet grooming businesses, sandwich shops, muffler repair, hardware stores, real estate firms, and thousands more. So lighten up. Literally.
One more thing: if you don’t have the discipline to get in shape (and that includes quitting smoking, losing weight, getting your blood pressure under control, and other health to-do’s), it’s a real question as to whether you have the discipline to be in your own business. No one will be telling you what to do or when to do it, so if you don’t take the initiative as the owner, the business will suffer and possibly even fail. (I think they call my little speech here “tough love.”)
You and the Joneses
If you have a spouse or a partner, is that person fully on board with your becoming an entrepreneur? I have seen marriages and relationships crumble in a dramatically short time because of the strains of a startup business, usually tied to not having enough cash to weather the first few years. I knew a guy whose wife was gung ho at the beginning and helped him out all the time. But she quickly grew weary of the business and long hours, especially when she had to make sacrifices in their lifestyle — no more vacations, no more dinners out. Wait a second, she didn’t sign up for that! It was the end of their marriage and it unwound in a hurry. She divorced him, they sold their house, and he moved out of state to get work. He rarely sees his children. A sad picture, indeed.
But it’s not only about money: the lifestyle of a franchisee is very different from just about any other job. Many new franchisees had careers that gave them a certain level of respectability in their communities. In a franchise, that often goes out the window.
Like me, you may find yourself wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a goofy baseball cap and getting your hands sticky. You may be ready for that, but is your spouse or partner ready? Ideas about status and professions can change quickly. Remember how schoolteachers were thought to be underachievers? (“Those who can’t, teach.”) Well, now teachers are looking pretty darn smart — a reliable paycheck and an outstanding pension after 30 years of service. So perceptions can change. But if you live in Shaker Heights, Ohio, or Garden City, New York, or Palm Beach, Florida, and one day your Lexus is replaced in the driveway by a van with a decal on the side, your friendly neighbors might be anything but friendly from then on.
If I’ve given you pause with my litany of what can go wrong, good! If by thinking long and hard about the demanding realities you will face as a franchisee, you realize that this isn’t the best opportunity for you at this time, then you’ve just saved tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. But my guess is that you aren’t discouraged; you just want to give yourself the best chance for success. And success starts by making sure you have a realistic picture of what becoming a franchisee will entail, and the fundamental life changes it will involve.
Mitchell York is a Professional Certified Coach, small business entrepreneur, and author of Franchise: Freedom or Fantasy? How to Know If a Franchise Is Right for You After Your Corporate Career. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and information about his book is available at www.franchisefreedomorfantasy.com. Mitch also blogs at www.e2ecoaching.com.