With over 20 years’ experience under her belt...
If you've bought a franchise, the chances are that you're now feeling a mix of excitement, nervousness and mounting panic at what you do next. This is a typical reaction after the initial euphoria of leaving a paid and employee-based position within a company and branching out alone into the exciting world of self-employed business ownership via the franchise model. So what now? Here is a look at your initial steps.
You'll shortly be so busy that you won't have time to read papers and forms. So make sure you do so now and avoid costly or difficult mistakes later down the line. If you did your research thoroughly into the franchise business that you've invested in during your investigation period, you will probably know a lot about the business already and its market share, products, customer base and other business-model variables. Make sure you understand the provisions of your contract, the accompanying paperwork around the licence and any other factors. Read and absorb everything carefully.
Now is the time to get yourself an accountant and a small-business legal advisor and consider any other services you might do well to outsource, such as a book keeper, HR services provider if you plan to hire staff and maybe IT support and development if you'll be maintaining an office. Speak to your franchise head office and development team, who may have recommendations to help you.
As part of your franchisee initiation, you'll be expected to undergo an in-depth period of training that will cover everything you need to know about the franchise that you've invested in. This will include the proven business system, the product, marketing expectations, brand usage, customer-service standards, logistics and supply chains. This is vital and you must be sure to adhere to the provisions of your new franchised system, as this is key to your success. If you fail to follow the system you will rapidly find yourself in breach of contract, although most experienced franchise development teams recognise that new business owners are often simply filled with enthusiasm!
Make as much use of your franchise development team as you can. They will be your source of support as you get to grips with your new role and responsibilities. Find out if there is a mentoring scheme within your new business which will pair you up with a more experienced franchisee and join any networking groups available within your industry and business to meet others like you and share best practices and experience. It will give you a sounding board, a source of advice and a listening ear when you are struggling or when you want to share successes.
As with all new businesses, the first year or so of operation is extremely time-consuming. You'll need to be prepared to prioritise your new business and put a lot of time, dedication, energy, effort and resources into it. This may mean compromising on the time you have to devote to your family, hobbies, leisure and other activities. However, most franchisees will have factored this expectation into their decision to invest in a franchise system and recognise that this is simply part of owning your own business. You will build it into something enduring and successful that will eventually provide a balanced way of life and the sort of future that you aspire to.
Successful business people are always learning and are not afraid to admit that they need development. Some of the finest business people are still beginners in certain areas and ready to embrace their lack of knowledge as a learning opportunity. So don't pretend that you know the ropes. Stay open minded and willing to soak up new information and be prepared to develop yourself wherever you can. You'll ideally want to learn your new business on the 'shop floor' and experience everything from the bottom up, even if you're starting with a team. Some of the most successful food-based franchisees are known for working the tills and welcoming customers into their unit, because they know that the frontline customer-service experience is among the most important functions of the business. Sign up to business courses, online development modules and read blogs and publications within your industry. Also stay closely linked to your franchise organisation and really maximise the potential of your new opportunity.