From employment to empowerment: what women need to know to be successful in franchising
Sonja Brummer planned to put her degree to use teaching physical education. But, with state budget cuts hitting school districts, it became clear she needed an alternative. “I knew that the budget cuts would make it difficult for me to get a job as a teacher and that they were leading schools to cut out physical fitness,” said Brummer.
While in college, Brummer worked as a coach for Amazing Athletes, which had just started franchising. She decided to forgo the teaching credential program and make the leap into business ownership. Sonja Brummer is far from alone. The International Franchise Association is seeing more and more women entering franchising. And for good reason. Women often bring unique qualities and perspectives as business owners that bolster their success.
Rhea Lana’s, a children’s clothing consignment events business, has all-women franchise owners. “They understand the strength that comes from being part of a high-achieving team. Because of this dynamic, they work hard to find solutions that meet the needs of the team and organization, even if it means great sacrifice for themselves,” says Rhea Lana Riner, Founder and CEO.
Tony Lamb, CEO of Kona Ice, which has nearly 75% of its franchises co-owned and operated by women, says, “From a business perspective, they are organized, responsive, creative, and excellent at marketing the business. Women want to leave their community better than they found it.”
Franchising also offers women benefits they may not find working in a more traditional job. Susan Maranhao, a Wild Birds Unlimited franchisee since 1990, previously worked for the city of Boston. “The major negative to working in the public sector is that more often than not you are not in control of your career path,” said Maranhao. “I wanted to have a stable future and to not have to worry about whether or not I was going to have a job come the next election.”
Similarly, for women looking for work/life balance, franchising offers a number of innovative concepts that offer flexibility and the support necessary to be successful. Andrea Joyce, a franchisee with Dream Vacations, says,“I work from home, so if my son has a sporting event, doctor appointment, or another activity I want to attend, I can schedule my hours around it.”
Clearly, franchising can be a tremendous opportunity for women to forge a path to meeting their personal and financial goals. But franchising is still not without its challenges. Franchise Business Review has surveyed hundreds of thousands of franchisees. Based on our research, there are five key things to consider before investing in a franchise.
Ensure you’ll get the support you need. One of the major benefits of franchising is entering into a proven system. Find out exactly what the company’s training and support program entails, not just as you ramp up to opening, but once your business is well established. “What I most appreciate is that my franchisor and I work well together,” says Wild Birds Unlimited’s Maranhao. “I receive a high level of support from my enterprise coach. She helps me establish both revenue and operational goals each year and then I work on a plan to achieve them.”
Look for a progressive brand with a vision. Make sure the franchise brand you’re considering has a vision for the future: How does it evaluate its position in the marketplace? Does it constantly look for new and better ways to serve its customers and gain new ones? Think about your personal goals and how they align with the goals of the organization.
FBR’s CEO Eric Stites points out, “When you look at the top performing franchisees in any system, it’s not the brand’s vision, prior work experience, or specialized skills that set them apart, but rather, a clear, personalized vision for their business and what they want to get out of it.”
Make sure the franchisor seeks out and values input from its franchisees. If the brand you’re considering is not asking for feedback from franchisees on a regular basis, this is a brand to avoid. “Find out if the franchise you are considering surveys its franchisees,” recommends Victoria Schafer, a TSS Photography franchisee. “TSS Photography is accessible and willing to help, but also always asking for thoughts and suggestions from franchisees on how they can improve.”
Ask a lot of questions. Call current franchisees to understand exactly what you’re getting into. Amazing Athletes’ Brummer recommends talking to other franchisees to find out all the pros and cons before investing. Ask women franchise owners about any specific challenges they may have and if their experience is consistent with their expectations.
Ask the franchisor for franchisee satisfaction scores as well. Jim Westover, VP of Operations for Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, says, “We encourage our candidates to read through our franchisee satisfaction research. Most franchisees will be very honest about their business experience, and the challenges they’ve faced and overcome to grow their business.”
Seek expert advice. Jenny Muller, who owns two Painting With a Twist franchises, says, “Develop a working relationship with an attorney and a CPA who you can trust to guide you and explain things in a way you can understand.” Seek out expert advice on financial planning from someone knowledgeable about funding franchise owners, and specifically, someone who has expertise in incentives and low rates for minorities.
Finally, make sure that whatever brand you choose is a partnership based on mutual respect and trust. While you need to feel good about the business you’re entering into, it’s not just about going with your gut. Each year, Franchise Business Review recognizes the brands that rank highest in franchisee satisfaction. These brands are a great place to start, but what’s most important is asking the brands you’re considering IF they survey their franchisees and, more importantly, what they do with the feedback they receive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michelle Rowan is President & COO of Franchise Business Review, an independent research and consulting firm specializing in franchisee satisfaction and analysis. She sits on the Conventions Committee for the International Franchise Association, is the Vice-Chair of the Women’s Franchise Committee, and is a Certified Franchise Executive. Michelle has facilitated CEO Performance Groups and Executive Networking Groups and also mentors students at the University of New Hampshire.