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You never know when you're making a memory!
by Jerry Wilkerson

I was fortunate enough to sit in on the final meeting of a recent franchise transaction. It was after the 10-day waiting period during which a prospective franchisee can change his or her mind and withdraw the offer to contract with simple notice. The franchisor is a client of mine. The Senior Vice President, a friend of mine, had invited me to participate as an observer at this meeting. It was a most enlightening experience.

Tom, the soon-to-be franchisee, admitted an anxious, yet ardent emotion coursing through him as he reached for the checkbook. "It's no that I'm nervous about the money and signing this check over," he fretfully stated. "What's bothering me is the fact that I'm about to give up my job, my income, my families financial ability to live on the chance that running this new franchised store, rather than my existing business, will be a better economic provider for us all."

A tiny line of perspiration beads blushed across his forehead. He loosened his tie and opened the shirt collar. I poured a glass of water from a chrome pitcher the franchisor had provided and handed it to the young man.

The VP leaned forward and rested an arm on the solid rosewood table. "We appreciate your concern," he said in an understanding, almost paternal, fashion, "and realize this is a big step. You're giving up the business you built over the past eight years and moving into a revolutionary new store within the same industry. It's a leap of faith for anybody. I want you to know that we'll always be there with you form this day forward."

The potential new franchisee was, in fact, an existing business operator who was joining the franchise chain as a conversion unit owner. During the ensuing conversation, he indicated his industry was changing so rapidly that he needed to revise the entire business system and improve his purchasing power to continue a thriving operation.

"We're going to bring you up to date on technology," the Senior VP affirmed. "You're never going to be behind the learning or market curve again. Our training continues for the life of this partnership. If you have a problem, we have a problem, and we'll be there to help solve it."

Having been in franchising for nearly two decades, my colleague clearly understands the value of a franchise and what he must do to embrace the new franchisee while alleviating his or her apprehension. As a skilled professional, he is also well aware that some people are so indecisive that their favorite color is plaid.

The VP then summoned some words of wisdom. "You know, Tom, the easiest challenges are the ones you dream up for yourself, the mountains you decide to climb. The tough ones, the lousy ones, are the ones you don't get to choose, the mountains that other people put in your way. Well, Tom, we are going to help you remove those mountains so you can climb as high as you wish in this industry."

The two men talked back and forth about the business, the retail environment, the technology updates, the manufacturing advances, the constant bottom line enhancement the franchisor brings to the system, and all of the continuous value enrichment a franchisor convey to the relationship.

For an individual working by himself, it is difficult to calculate with any resolve where business is going today. A sole proprietor in our consumer driven business world cannot gather, promote, or advance without steady and constant information, data, and marketing input form within his or her industry. The environment of the day's trade momentum changes a fast as tides of an ocean

I was reminded that the main business of a franchisor is not to see merely what lies ahead at a distance in commerce, but to do what lies ahead clearly with conviction and industry trade confidence upon which the franchisees can build their businesses.

The Senior Vice President added with enthusiasm, "You know you'll have other franchisees in your metro market to help pool promotion dollars which will enable you to advertise on electronic media as well as in print. Have your ever run a spot on TV Tom? As a single storeowner, you probably couldn't afford it before. That all changes today."

His words appeared to be reassuring and heartening to the new franchisee, who now seemed more at ease with himself. Yet, the check still lay unsigned.

It was then that I remembered something this franchise development professional had explained to me many years ago at an IFA convention. I wondered aloud, "What about never closing the deal? Remember, you have to get the check every month?"

He picked up on my comment. "That's right. With a franchise, you never really sell anything. You don't close the deal with this check," he stated, pointing to the man's bank draft with his index finger. "You simply start the relationship process. Every month we have to get the check, earn the check, give you a reason to send the check for your royalty payment. It is our responsibility to keep you in business, profitable, and persistently build your bottom line potential with new products and services." My friend was on a whirl. "This is what you're buying into, why you send us the monthly check, and what validates our franchise year after year!"

The young man turned to me. "My best advise: fall in love with what you do for a living," I told him. "If you've already done that, get on with your business at a higher level of awareness and added success potential through the franchisor's system. But I'm not listed on the UFOC, so, don't listen to me."

Then I recalled something very clever I once read that seemed to fit; "Life is like a moving vehicle with no brakes. If you spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror, you'll hit a tree out the front window. That's why your rearview mirror is smaller than your front window."

He signed the check. His grand opening is scheduled for late summer. I'm going to try and make it.

Reprinted with permission from Successful Franchising Magazine.
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Jerry Wilkerson is a former president and executive director of the International Franchise Association (IFA), in Washington, D.C., and founder of Franchise Recruiters Ltd.®, an international franchise talent acquisition corporation with offices in Toronto and Chicago. He recently marked his 32nd year in franchising.


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