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International Franchising, A Slice of the American Pie

International branded franchising connects the past and present with the future. It is a balancing act between the franchisor’s self-interest and what is best for the system, the franchisees, and the brand.  Superior international franchise development executives know this and practice harmonizing the entities.

Franchising, the global empire builder, gives currency to successful expansion.  As internationally known franchise systems go about the business of empires, they require management that is highly attentive to what is accomplished in the franchise development divisions. Top producers are constantly in a look up, look down mode, as though their very jobs depend on the success of all others in the chain, and, in fact, they do. The business of international franchising is incapable of producing small and inexpensive mistakes.  Consequently, significant missteps find their way to page one in the business section, a circumstance sure to cause vexing situations at the board level and within investment quarters. 

Empire is about domination. Domination of the market is the target, and international franchise managers know they must possess the discipline, foresight, and visceral instincts to make the dangerous decisions that either hit their mark or miss the objective.  Pursuing market domination is a singularly riveting job with the ultimate responsibilities heaped squarely on the backs of these empire builders.  Succeed or perish.  Many, however, can move on to another burgeoning system, grateful for their existence thanks to the ever-expanding international franchising dynamics.

Global markets are vital in ’09 franchising

Today, franchisors are reshaping their management leadership internationally as they struggle to turn sales around. Mature global brands are wresting command from established operations managers of entire countries because these executives are out of step with corporate financial realities. Flagging store revenues will call forth resignation letters in months to come as franchisors prepare for positive economic change on a worldwide scale. 

Who will be replacing these decision makers and what will they need to know?  Consider this pair of axioms:  “When there is failure, someone must pay the price,” and “failure produces some of our best lessons in business.”

In international franchise development, experience is the exclusive predictor, and franchisors flex their wallets more broadly on this line item than on any other in the budget.   

When the job description demands international experience, the labor pool becomes shallow and relatively small.  These elite executives are treated like gifted racehorses, and some mirror the same obduracy reflected in the exceedingly costly expenditure of doing business abroad.  Then again, they are the light and the way to the future.

International managers are risk takers

Anticipating the marketplace, often seen from a feisty, unstable perch is the urgent, essential task of international executives.  Knowing when and where to expand is as important as understanding how to build improved sales numbers through product and service franchising operations.  Growth in unit numbers is not the only battle being waged.  Brand market share is king, and nobody wants to go halves.          

When international development officers speak, everybody listens and contemplates the possibilities.  Mark Siebert, CEO of the iFranchise Group states, “International managers do not fall victim to the ready-aim-aim-aim-aim syndrome.  These captains of commerce make the decisions to fire.”  According to Siebert, “The international people are the true risk takers today in the business of franchising.  They know how to cope with a mercurial international marketplace fraught with economic jeopardy, and business peril.”

While taking risks, we do not always arrive where we had planned.  Siebert noted, “These influential franchising coaches of export trade know that no business opportunity is ever lost.  If they fumble, the competition will find the prize and score on their business blunder.”  Siebert indicates that alert, shrewd franchisors reap the rewards that a stagnant, risk adverse national brand will never recognize or experience.  “This bottom line enhancement from international growth,” Siebert affirms, “is the life blood for many franchisors today, and will be the distinct source of substantial revenue extension in the future.”

Obviously, hiring the right international manager will set the brand off on the correct footing.  Experienced representatives enable the system to get into step faster and to make fewer pricey mistakes.  So how does one locate and hire these colossal, atypical characters from within the franchise community?  There are a few based in the UK and the EC, a handful along the Pacific Rim, and a considerable assemblage within the International Franchise Association’s International Franchising Committee in the U.S.  Tread lightly, for franchisors are disrespectfully protective of these individuals and may let one rip across a competitor’s bow priot to ramming him to protect their prodigy. 

In today’s franchising, leadership capital is a commodity, and franchisors are investing in people, just as in certificates of deposit, precious metal, and stocks.  The incentives are lofty, and the investment return can be extraordinary.  International franchise development and senior operations managers are truly a form of capital formation for progressive franchisors as they grow their brands in a hyperkinetic, volatile world marketplace.

Success Is The Pursuit of New and Improved Products Internationally

The secret of international franchising success is in the constancy of franchisors in their pursuit of new and improved products and services along with rock-hard brand identity enrichment from which their franchisees experience consistent bottom-line improvements.  Success dictates the need for special human capital formation within the system; therefore, franchisors must make a considerable investment deposit on international franchising representatives. 

The vast majority of global franchise officers have wondrous vision, dauntless drive, searing intellect, fearless spirit, profound character, and a well-honed, furiously competitive instinct.  They resonate with energy, passion, and a staunch will to succeed.  These are the builders and chief multipliers for the future of franchising. 

Big salaries, bonuses, and appealing stock options are not always what lands and maintains commanding management within the group.  What keeps these prized employees loyal today and attracts others to the brand is the enticement of working with winning teams and the ability to see the potential for growth and development across the planet. People want to be a part of something that is transforming their industry, the very realm of their business cosmos.  They want to change the world, make a difference. 

After more than three decades in the business of franchising, I have observed a common thread that weaves itself through the tapestry of the constant ebb and flow of international franchise enterprise.  It is the insatiable desire to be successful.  Success eludes those who rely on others; achievement comes to those who trust themselves.  These are people who have the courage to blaze new trails with confidence and take control of their corporate future.  They have faith in themselves and a generous willingness to share worldwide their successful concepts.  The same is true with many franchisee investors who are breaking new ground.

Ethical leadership believes that success is not gained at the expense of our neighbors, but rather that prosperity adds to the richness of the whole world.  It has been said, “The parasitical belief in prosperity as coming by the sacrifices of others has no place in the mind that thinks true.  ‘My benefit is your benefit, your success is my success,’ should be the basis of all our wealth.”  Here is a franchise proclamation that embraces and fosters a global economic effort.         

The first 45 years of franchising gave us the blueprint for the future in international expansion.  Today, we can provide the commentary in many languages and cultures.  We merely need to be tough enough and smart enough to follow through.  The greatest undeveloped territory in the world lies under our hats, and we are only at the beginning of the exploration of the vast untapped resources of creativity in international franchising.

If the art of franchising is to teach how to live a better life, franchising international supervisors need to get their passports in order and pack their bags. The flight to Timbuktu, with connecting flights to the foremost world markets, is now boarding.   


Jerry Wilkerson is a former president and executive director of the International Franchise Association in Washington, D.C. and founder of Franchise Recruiters Ltd., an international franchise management executive search corporation with offices in Chicago and Toronto.  He recently completed his 31st year in the business of franchising. Call: 708.757.5595, email me at [email protected], and visit my website

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