It’s very common to hear about entrepreneurs that have walked away from a seemingly ideal franchise opportunity because they feel as though they aren’t experienced enough for the role. This is a shame, as experience isn't nearly as necessary as it is often made out to be. Here, we take a look at whether determination and many other personal qualities are more important to the role of franchisee than any amount of industry experience. This will then help us answer the question: ‘Do you need experience to be a franchisee?’
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Do you need experience to be a franchisee?
How important is experience?
Many people believe that it’s necessary to have experience in a chosen sector before you can manage a franchise in that particular industry. Though there are exceptions, this is mostly untrue. The vast majority of franchisors aren’t looking specifically for franchisees with experience in the industry in which they work – although it doesn't hurt to have some – and many make a point of saying that experience doesn’t matter at all.
Of course, there are some industries in which knowledge will be of great use but, for the most part, it isn’t a priority. One of the principal reasons for this is the fact that, as a franchisee, you'll require a different skillset to succeed.
Experience in what?
Whilst experience in the health and wellbeing sector would be helpful if you want to open up a fitness franchise, and waiting experience may be useful if you’re starting up a food franchise, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are endowed with the skills required to become a successful franchisee.
Industry-specific experience often isn’t required
Franchisees are responsible for running the franchise unit as a whole. They need excellent management, communication and business skills, as well as an understanding of how to market a company and how to manage its finances. While many of the skills required will be taught during the initial training period, this type of experience is likely to be far more useful than industry-specific expertise.
Some franchises will require you to demonstrate some basic business knowledge, but it’s very rare for franchises to demand any qualifications or formal training. In fact, franchisees will often prefer a blank slate with other attractive qualities to someone who has picked up a lot of bad habits or is overconfident in their expertise.
What’s more important than experience?
Rather than looking for industry-specific experience, most franchisors will be searching for other traits. Chief amongst these are drive, determination and a desire to succeed. However, franchisors will also be keen to see that you want to work as part of a team and that you’re committed to the franchise as well as your self-interest. Passion is also essential. Without passion, franchisees can find it very hard to motivate themselves to work the long hours that are typical of the initial franchise opening period. Passion is what will keep you going when the times are tough, and it's also the quality that will ensure you don’t give up if it doesn’t all go to plan initially.
The franchisor/franchisee relationship
Alongside passion, determination and drive, franchisees also need to ensure that they’re a suitable match for the franchisor. The relationship between the two parties is incredibly important and needs to be nurtured if it’s to blossom into an enjoyable and productive long-term partnership. In most instances, you’ll both get a good feel for one another during the first meet. However, it’s also a good idea to look for second opinions, even if you like the franchisor immediately. Talk to existing franchisees and ask them about their relationship with the franchisor; it’ll give you a good idea of what to expect and will either affirm or disprove your initial gut instinct.
Franchisors will invest in you
Franchisors understand that most successful franchises thrive because they’ve put the right franchisee in charge of it. They know how important selecting a good partner is and have plenty of practice doing so. Franchisors also recognise the fact they're going to have to invest a fair bit of money in you to train you to the required standard.
Consequently, they want a franchisee who is loyal, dedicated and easy to work with. While they can teach you business fundamentals and marketing tactics, they can’t teach you determination and drive. They want to invest in an individual who is going to stay with them for the long term, enjoy the role, and who will take hold of the franchise business opportunity and not let go until it’s a success. While previous experience of an industry may give you a head start over the competition, it won’t give you the drive and motivation to take it to the very end.
Look for franchises with learning opportunities
Finally, if you're concerned about your relative lack of experience and want to develop your skills, look for franchises with lots of learning opportunities. A large number of franchises now hold annual conferences, workshops and seminars, while also attending expos and franchise fairs across the country. These networking and educational events are a fantastic opportunity to learn a little and enhance your abilities.
Whether it's a training tutorial on how to draft a franchise business plan or a conference on technological developments in the industry, there’s typically a wide array of learning opportunities to take advantage of. When you meet with a franchisor for the first time, ask what interest they take in your personal development and what training and learning opportunities are available.
Let’s now consider one of our best franchise opportunities currently looking to expand its UK network, which doesn’t require industry-specific experience.
This successful management franchise is the leading supplier of drivers and logistics personnel to many public and private sectors. Since its establishment over 30 years ago, it has won the BFA HSBC ‘Franchisor of the Year’ award six times, including the top gold award this year.
Current franchisees have roots in a diverse range of backgrounds, including everything from teaching to IT. Driver Hire doesn’t ask for any previous experience in recruitment or transport and logistics to be considered. It has found that personal qualities have proved more important than technical experience or career background; namely, self-motivation, ambition and a positive outlook.
To be part of this highly successful franchise, a minimum investment of £32,000 and a total investment of £40,000 is required.
In a sense, previous industry experience is one of the least critical characteristics franchisors look for in franchisees. While experience can be useful, franchisors usually prefer to see franchisees demonstrate an intense passion for the industry and a willingness to learn. Drive, determination and ambition are all appreciated characteristics too.
Essentially, franchisors want a franchisee that they can shape and mould. While you can teach anyone necessary skills, it's not so easy to instil a capacity for self-motivation and determination in people. Consequently, experience is typically perceived to be less important than many other qualities.
Let’s now consider four other characteristics that franchisors look for in their ideal franchisee.
1. An excellent networker
Franchisors will look for your natural ability to interact with people and how likeable you are. You should demonstrate that you are a friendly communicator that has a positive impact on other people. This is particularly important for customer-facing roles.
The ideal franchisee will be able to build relationships with customers, clients and employees that don’t feel forced or fake. The franchisor will want to make sure that you will be able to deal with employee satisfaction and customer complaints in an effective and efficient way.
2. Confident multi-tasker
The franchisor will want to know that you are able to multi-task and will be able to run the franchise with minimal support once the training and initial start-up periods are over.
3. Belief in the brand
The ideal franchisee should be just as passionate about the brand as the franchisor is. Whilst many candidates will be drawn to opportunities because they like the product or service that is being offered, on its own, this isn’t a big enough reason to invest.
When you become a franchisee, you become a brand ambassador. Therefore, you will need to have a positive presence in every interaction with staff, suppliers, customers and clients. The ideal franchisee should promote the business at every opportunity in order to generate sales and increase profitability.
Some franchisors may choose to recruit a franchisee within their existing pool of customers or employees to ensure such brand conviction.
4. Entrepreneurial mindset
Every franchise candidate is likely to throw the same adjectives at the franchisor in the interview; namely, how motivated, dedicated and determined they are. But the franchisor will want to make sure potential franchisees actually possess these traits rather than simply saying what they want to hear. This highlights the importance of exemplifying how you have previously demonstrated these traits in your application and interview.
Often, franchisors will look for attributes in candidates that they consider themselves as having. This could be a keen innovator, ambitious leader and a hard worker.
Becky Martin, Point Franchise ©