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Be Wary of the Passionate Franchise Founder

When visiting a franchisor’s headquarters franchise candidates look forward to the opportunity to meet with the person who founded the franchise. However, it’s important that franchise candidates keep the enthusiasm, often demonstrated by the founder, in proper perspective.

The founder of a franchise can be the most important single individual to meet during a Discovery Day visit. However, prospective franchisees need to avoid being overly swayed by the passion these entrepreneurs can exhibit.

When a candidate visits a franchisor’s corporate headquarters, particularly a small or medium franchisor, there are several reasons to meet with the franchise founder(s):

  • A new or medium size franchise doesn’t have the accomplishments or track record of a mature franchisor. As a result the individual who started the franchise can add credibility to the franchise.
  • The founder typically built the business from the ground up and has hands-on experience in operating and growing the business. This can provide knowledge to a candidate.
  • Franchise candidates recognize the founder as a true entrepreneur compared to franchisor staff.
  • They want to meet the key decision maker in the organization.

Although, these are valid reasons and may have merit, there is the potential for the franchise candidate to be overly influenced in his or her decision-making after meeting the person who started the franchise.

The individual who started a franchise that was built upon their initial business operation has a great deal of pride in their accomplishments. This pride on the part of the founder can manifest itself in a high level of confidence in the franchise opportunity. They may unwittingly or by design impress a candidate in a way it overly influences their decision about purchasing the franchise.

Jeff Johnson, CEO of FranSurvey, which has surveyed franchisees on behalf of hundreds of franchisors, feels that franchise candidates should focus on the quality of the franchise investment. “During the franchise process a candidate will meet some very charismatic people, including the franchise founder. This is why it’s important for candidates to focus on the quality of the investment. The best source of that information is from existing franchisees.”

When meeting with the founder here are some tips that a candidate should keep in mind:

  • A successful business and a subsequent franchise operation is usually the result of hard work, risk and significant sacrifice. In a similar vein, operating the franchise may be much more difficult than what appears on the surface.
  •  The enthusiasm and self confidence of the founder can be contagious. The franchise candidate should maintain a realistic attitude regarding their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Since the  founder has achieved success operating the business they may portray operating the franchise as being easier than it really is. However, these skills are not readily transferable to other individuals.
  • Promises of unwavering franchisor support by the founder, although well intentioned, must be validated by existing franchisees.
  • Unfortunately, in some franchise organizations the founder may not be in touch with the bad as well as the good in the franchise operation.

Individuals who convert a business into a franchise are understandably proud of their achievements. Most franchise founders have a strong desire to build their franchise company into a highly successful organization. Prospective franchisees need to keep these factors in mind when meeting with a franchise founder.

About the Author: Ed Teixeira has over 35 years of franchise industry experience as a franchise executive and franchisee. He has served as a franchise executive in the c-store, manufacturing and home healthcare industries and has licensed franchises in Asia, Europe and South America. Ed operates FranchiseKnowHow  which provides information and advice to prospective and existing franchisees and franchisors. He publishes newsletters for the franchise community.

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