Q During my franchise search, most of the contacts I see are listed as ‘franchise development’ executives. What exactly do these people do?
Franchise development executives are the employees responsible for recruiting new franchisees into a franchisor’s system. Their primary role is to work with qualified franchisee candidates to help them understand all the critical elements of what the franchisor is offering and explain its value proposition (e.g. systems and processes, strategic product and service differentiators, initial/ongoing training and support, etc.). They are also responsible for helping you understand what’s involved in running a successful franchise.
In stronger, more well-established franchise systems, the franchise development executive is a more highly skilled professional who is also tasked with ensuring prospective franchisees have the ideal skills and capabilities needed to operate a successful franchise. In other words, in addition to the previously mentioned responsibilities, they thoroughly screen applicants and disqualify less desirable or unqualified candidates. This extra commitment to finding ‘the right fit’ for the system elevates a franchisor from simply selling franchises to awarding franchises, thus significantly reducing the likelihood of franchisee failure. Unfortunately, not all franchise systems subscribe to this strategy.
Q Is it important for me to meet with different members of the franchisor management team before signing on as a franchisee?
This is always highly recommended; you can think of it as a ‘final culture fit’ check, to ensure you are making the right decision.
While you are investigating the franchise system, you will be working closely with the franchise development representative (and his or her team), but in most cases, as soon as you sign your franchise agreement, your interaction with that individual/team ceases. You will then interact primarily with the franchise support team. Your reliance on these people is critical, so you should meet with them ahead of time to ensure you have confidence in their abilities to train and coach you. You should also try to get a sense of their skills, aptitudes and communication and work styles, especially with those individuals with whom you will be working on a regular basis.
In many cases, the CEO and senior management team are not directly involved in the ongoing support of their franchisees, but they are responsible for the overall leadership of the company, which will obviously directly affect you. Even if you can’t meet with them personally, you should do your research to make sure you are comfortable with their leadership style and values.
Q How much contact will I have with the franchisor executive team once I’m up and running as a franchisee?
This depends greatly on the size, maturity and culture of the franchise system. There should always be someone on the senior management team who is directly responsible for franchisee support. You should have direct access to that executive whenever necessary. However, in most cases, your ongoing support will come primarily from dedicated field representatives who are experts at launching and coaching existing franchisees.
Gary Prenevost is president of FranNet of Southern Ontario, which helps entrepreneurs define their ideal franchise, offers them well-matched options and guides their research to decision. He can be reached at (905) 405-6300.