Last weekend my husband participated in a Polar Plunge. For those of you who live in warmer climates or are unaware of what a Polar Plunge is, it goes something like this: Organizers cut a large hole in the ice on a lake and participants jump through this hole into the water below. Then, the swimmers run screaming out of the water and climb into a hot tub in order to avoid frostbite. Oh, and the participants pay for this privilege — as a fundraiser for charity, of course.
This year, as in years past, I hurried to get a spot close to the jumping area so I could watch and photograph the whole event — my husband walking up to the edge, looking into the murky water below, the nervous laughter and brave smiles, the deeeeep breaths, the eventual countdown and finally….the jump.
As I stood there watching, my heart raced and for a split second I was overwhelmed with panic — what if he slipped and hit his head on the ice, what if the cold water shocked his heart, what if he went under and never came back up????
Within seconds the panic was over — and sanity once again took hold in my brain. As I looked around I became aware of the many safety measures in place — the rubber mats on the edge of the ice to prevent slipping, the divers in the water placed strategically in the jumping area, the numerous flotation devices within arms reach and the medical teams waiting on shore..just…in…case. How silly of me to be so scared! While nothing could guarantee a participant’s complete safety, every single detail had been thought out and every possible contingency planned. My husband and his team were soon back on shore, safe and sound, having done their part to raise money for the sponsoring charity.
Suddenly the parallels between that situation and franchising became blatantly obvious to me and I realized that I was having a moment similar to what so many people feel when they contemplate the idea of franchise ownership.
As a prospective franchisee, you’ve done the research required and have a plan in motion for fulfilling your dream. As you talk to existing franchisees, you’re one step closer and you’re still riding on the adrenaline high that comes with anticipation of a new venture. But then once you’ve narrowed down your choices to the ONE franchise you desire, it’s time to make a decision. Suddenly it is all very real and fear begins to set in.
When you get close to making that decision regarding whether or not to buy a franchise, you are in essence peering into the murky water of your future — what will be down there? What will happen once you jump? What exactly will your future look like? Given that none of it is perfectly clear, it feels like a huge leap of faith to go for it.
Then you jump — you probably panic as you “hit the water” in the form of signing that franchise agreement, writing the check for your franchise fees, and realizing that you are now committed.
Once you’re “in the water,” and now you’re operating your franchise, you realize that the safety mechanisms are all in place — you have received training from the franchisor, you have a system of processes and procedures to follow, you have marketing materials and advice on how to market your business, and you have support from the home office. You are not going to drown. The franchisor has a vested interest in helping you set yourself up for success and you just need to look around with open eyes to view the support available to you.
So what’s the moral of this little story? Every single person (whether the prospective franchisee or their spouse/significant other) has that moment of apprehension as they peer over the edge. It’s called fear, and it’s natural, normal, and to be expected. If you work through it and don’t let it stop you, the rewards can be significant! Don’t let your unfounded fear of the unknown keep you from making the leap — with your eye on the shore and a focus on the prize available to you at the end, you can realize the dreams and goals you put out in front of yourself.
Linda Bremer Menter is the Vice President of Consultant Development for FranChoice Inc., a national network of franchise consultants that provide free guidance and advice to qualified individuals in the United States searching for franchise opportunities that match their personal interests and financial qualifications.