The success of franchising may lie in its well-oiled business systems, but getting to that point doesn’t come without a little bit of education. In fact, education is so essential when it comes to franchising that some universities have developed entire programs around the ins and outs of franchising.
The International Institute for Franchise Education at Nova Southeastern University’s H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business & Entrepreneurship is one such example. Established in 2002, the Institute has attracted participants from 39 states and 21 countries. The program offers everything from a seminar for prospective franchisees to learn more about franchising to in-depth leadership training programs and even customized in-house training programs for franchise executives. In addition, the Institute conducts programs with the Philippines Franchise Association and the Mexican Franchise Association, is working with a university in Thailand, and is in various stages of negotiations with representatives from four other countries. Says Cheryl Babcock, director of the Institute, “The global interest in franchise education has expanded enormously.”
Melanie Bergeron, current chair and past president of the Lansing, Michigan-based franchise Two Men and a Truck, is one franchisor who believes in the value of education. She has sent 18 of her staff members, including members at the executive level, franchise consultants, and even her own assistant, through the International Institute for Franchise Education’s program. “It is the ultimate way to teach your staff all aspects of franchising [such as] franchise development, legal issues, marketing, franchise finance, franchise relations,” says Bergeron. “We wanted our staff to understand the full scope of franchising.” Bergeron feels that the Institute has helped with the learning curve immensely and has been most significant in helping Two Men and a Truck expand internationally. The company is now operating in three countries.
Sometimes the education value extends beyond the classes. Just the networking factor alone has impacted Two Men and a Truck’s bottom line. By meeting and consulting with other franchisors, Two Men and a Truck has been able to break down overall goals into realistic action items. They also gathered invaluable ideas on how to improve their annual convention as well as how to have the most efficient advisory council.
Other established university franchise programs include The Franchise Center at the University of Texas at El Paso, established in 1994, and the Certificate in Franchise Management program, launched in 2007 by Georgetown University’s Center for Continuing and Professional Education.
Over the course of two sessions, participants of The Franchise Management Program learn about the history, legal structure and economic/social impact of franchising. They also learn about the core systems of franchising including marketing, franchisee relations, and ongoing support. Although the majority of participants are already franchise professionals, Ben Litalien, director and creator of the program, believes that the education is crucial even to those even just thinking of buying a franchise. Says Litalien, “[A franchise] is generally more expensive to launch than your own business in the same industry, and it is a long-term commitment–the average contract length is 10 years–so it is critically important to have a comprehensive understanding before committing.”
So, if the complexity of franchising has you perplexed, you may want to consider a university program. But what should you look out for? Make sure that the classes are approved and count toward the Certified Franchise Executive program, a professional development program offered by the International Franchise Association’s Institute of Certified Franchise Executives, advises Bergeron. “I would also make sure that there are a minimum of four to six other participants in the class, as the networking is just as valuable as the content,” she says. “Real-life case studies, if you will, speak volumes.” If you are thinking of becoming a franchisee, Bergeron says, “It certainly is respectable to have your certification, as the franchisor will recognize that you took time to learn the industry — not to mention the great contacts you will make.”
Sara Wilson is a freelance writer who specializes in issues related to small businesses.