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Fabulous franchisees: fawn over franchising. What makes these achievers tick?

When asked how they do it, successful franchise owners consistently say two things. First, franchising is the secret of their success; they couldn't--or just wouldn't--have gone into business without franchising. And, second, no bones about it, they follow the system they're given.

To discover a little more about what makes a franchise owner "fabulous," Franchising World interviewed five performers. The first thing noticed was the "no-pattern pattern." Is it possible to profile a successful franchise owner by age, gender, race, business background, type of industry, number of units owned and so forth?


As the stories of these five "fabulous franchisees" demonstrate, achievement comes in every shape, size, age, geographic and demographic design.

So what does make these achievers tick? Personal qualities--attitude, drive, determination, integrity--plus significant help from the franchise system itself.

Franchising Makes It Work

Lisa York at Link Staffing describes what franchising does for her. "[Franchising is for people who want a] business in a box. Instead of going out and building your own cabinets from scratch, you go out and buy a kit. [With Link Staffing] I still built it, it's still mine, it's still beautiful, and it shows my craftsmanship, because I built it correctly. But it was already cut, so I don't have to worry about the little things."

Moreover, franchising puts a tiger in that kit. "[Franchising] gives me the power to go out and get new clients. I'm a little Chihuahua with a big Doberman behind me. If I'm in front of a client who says, 'Can you do this?' I can say yes. [Without Link] I'd have to decline; I'd have to go after the onesies and twosies, rather than the two hundreds," says York.

Julie Jordan at Sylvan agrees. "Sylvan has such a brand recognition that--without it--[this education business] would be very, very challenging. The fact that franchising provides people an opportunity to start a business with an already recognized brand is huge."

Chester's International owner Anthony Rahming says he wouldn't have even tried to open a non-franchised chicken restaurant. I wanted to give myself every opportunity for success, which is why my wife, Vanessa, and I looked at something that was already up and running."

The quality of the product also convinced the Rahmings. "People love it. They come in saying, 'Hey, we heard about your chicken.'"

Bill Free, who owns six Curves franchises in Florida, says outside support gives new business owners a serious advantage. "I've seen people in business for five or six months. They open, then they close. Number one, they don't have the support."

Even vast experience won't necessarily make up for the level of support a franchisor can offer. Frank Zbiegen, a Valpak franchise owner for 27 years, says after owning franchises in Florida and then relocating to Cleveland, he had the industry and business experience to open his own non-franchised direct mail company, but he chose instead to buy another Valpak franchise. "I wanted to work for a company that takes a leadership role in the industry--one that's invested in the future. On a partnership level, they will help me grow as I want to grow. If I were out there by myself without a franchise, I couldn't put together one-tenth of the programs I can offer clients who work with me."

Use the System For Everything It's Worth

Free's advice to franchise owners is "Follow the system set up by the franchise founders, and don't try to reinvent it. Stick together with other franchisees as a team and you'll succeed."

Free points to the features common in a good franchise system. "Curves gives us fantastic Web-based support, with all of the answers and tools we need to run the business--a system for advertising, marketing, administering, and training the business at the staff level."

Zbiegen says his company offers the same. "Valpak has very strong programs--top-of-the-line on technology, sales design, marketing and order entry systems--and all are Web-based systems, which means I can access them from anywhere. In their production and training of franchise owners and the account executives who work with them, this partnership makes it very successful for both sides."

Advice from the Stars

Be flexible. Rahming praises the support he's gotten from Chester's International. "They have been absolutely helpful and receptive to us from day one--pretty much at our beck and call. All we have to do is make a phone call and someone is available or gets back to us right away. I am a chameleon. I deal with the ups and the downs."

Stay positive. York tells new franchise owners not to get discouraged. "As someone coming in, I have definitely ridden the roller coaster. That's okay, you have to go through that. Work the same level, regardless of results. You just have to be patient, you have to earn [client loyalty]. My biggest reminder for someone buying a franchise? Sales and morale ring the cash register."

Do the Due Diligence. Elizabeth Cooper tells prospective owners what to look for. "First, make sure the franchisor's business model works. Second, consider brand and brand awareness. Third, try the product to make sure you are [committed to it]. Anyone who starts a business has to work very hard hours."

Zbiegen echoes the advice. "I would look for three things in a franchise: their leadership, the support they offer, and the partnership they build with franchise owners. Those are the things that, over the years, have made the Valpak network of franchise owners--and Valpak very successful."

Hire Good People. Free advises prospective franchise owners to hire quality people who share the franchise owner's values.

Stockpile Financial Reserves. Finally, this advice from Free, who suffered setbacks and membership cancellations during the round of hurricanes hitting Florida last season: "Have enough money to sustain setbacks in your proforma and projections."

Who Are These Successful People?

Anthony and Vanessa Rahming opened their Chester's International franchise just four months before being interviewed for this article. Anthony, 42-years old, came into franchising with a background in law enforcement. Also, as a young man, Anthony took a shot at entrepreneurship when he assumed ownership of a chicken franchise, which eventually went out of business. Vanessa, who is keeping her full-time job for the time being, has 20 years experience in the restaurant business. Anthony says the couple looked at eight franchises--all fast food--before settling on Chester's. "We looked for something that would allow us the opportunity to hit the ground running and we thought franchising would give us the greatest opportunity for financial success."

Who Are These Successful People?

Lisa York owns two Link Staffing franchises in southern California. Lisa came to Link with some 12 years of staffing industry experience in both management and sales. After successful stints helping other companies open offices, Lisa realized she had the experience to establish her business. She opened her first Link Staffing franchise in spring, 2004. Her second unit opened less than 18 months later. In the past year, Lisa has done $4 million worth of business and has five employees. "We represent the blue-collar workers who normally don't represent themselves. At least once a day someone will come in the door who's just a bail of fire. We get on the phone and talk to every client we have and we find them a home. I like feeling I make a difference to someone."

Who Are These Successful People?

In August, 2005, Julie Jordan and Elizabeth Cooper opened their third Sylvan franchise in Mississippi. Julie graduated from Mississippi State with an engineering degree, married, returned to school, did some teaching, started her own Internet company in the mid-nineties, and sold out. "I realized I liked teaching and education and began looking around. Franchising was important because I had been through the route of starting up without any guidance, support, marketing or branding---and that's extremely difficult." Elizabeth met Julie at a networking function and the two began a consulting business soon thereafter. When Julie suggested they franchise together, Elizabeth jumped in. "I was immediately attracted to the Sylvan proven-business model because they are passionate about what's going on in schools. I love working with children and Julie and I have very complementary personalities. I'm the one on the outside of Sylvan Center, and she is the one on the inside."

Who Are These Successful People?

Bill Free, a construction company owner for 25 years, began purchasing Curves International franchises after a three-month ordeal with a staph infection. "I came out of that wanting to try another business that my wife could run if something happened to me." Today, Free owns six Curves International franchises in the Fort Lauderdale area. In addition to his wife, he also has involved his daughter and a neighbor in the business. "Franchising has allowed me to build a fairly good-sized business (six separate fitness companies) in a short period of time--17 months--using someone else's business model and just requiring my own hard work, determination and money to turn it into something great."

Who Are These Successful People?

Frank Zbiegen owns a Valpak franchise in Cleveland. He's been in the business since he graduated with an accounting degree from college 27 years ago. Zbiegen started with the direct mail marketing company in Florida, and, in 1993, relocated to Ohio, selling his Florida franchises. "When I moved back to Cleveland in 1993, I was older and I really chose franchising. The first time, in 1978, I was 23 and franchising sounded like something good to do. But the second time I got involved, in 1994, I really understood what the business--and franchising---was all about."

Nancy Rathbun Scott is a freelance business writer in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. She can be reached at
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Author:Scott, Nancy Rathbun
Publication:Franchising World
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Previous Article:Franchisees lead the way.
Next Article:What makes a franchisee successful?

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