Recently I had the pleasure of joining Chris Goethe, VP of Franchising at Primrose Schools, at the International Franchise Expo (IFE) in New York City. As the proud owner of a Primrose school in the Boston area, the panel discussion we participated in was especially meaningful to me. It focused on the relationship between a franchise owner and franchisor and how to find “the one.”
I met and spoke to many individuals at IFE who were seeking out their perfect business match. The advice I shared with them personally and that Chris and I discussed on the panel led us to a surprisingly accurate analogy: the relationship between potential franchise owners and franchisors is, believe it or not, very similar to a marriage. And just like marriage, you want to know what you’re getting into beforehand, so let’s take a look at the different phases on the franchisor/franchisee relationship and what you can expect for each.
Just like finding the one, it’s important for entrepreneurs searching for a franchise business to “date” their potential franchisor before jumping into a committed relationship. You should use this time to ask questions and get to know one another. It’s also important to find a franchisor that has a similar mission as you. For me, the dating phase of the franchise owner/franchisor relationship was a thorough, investigative process. My mission was to own and operate the best preschool in New England, and I knew I needed a partner that valued high-quality early education just as I much as I do. I also knew that I would need a lot of operational support, so I looked for an expert in business operations that would act as my “better half.”
At IFE, I spoke with many people who knew exactly what they wanted out of their future business ventures. Some wanted more day-to-day flexibility or a job that was financially beneficial, while others were seeking a passion-filled career. No matter your goals, it takes time to find the right business partner that will help you achieve your dreams and aspirations. The dating process is all about getting to know your options, so be patient and do your research when searching for your perfect match.
If the dating phase of the relationship goes well with a potential franchisor, they will share with you the steps to become an owner. Similar to filling out a prenuptial agreement, this phase makes sure that both parties are on the same page. (Clearly I’m skipping a few relationship milestones between dating and the prenupt here for the sake of the analogy.) During this phase of the franchise agreement, you may have to take many steps to prepare, including getting a background check, learning the ins and outs of the business, meeting financial requirements, etc. More extensive research on your franchisor and the opportunity might also be needed during this timeframe.
When I went through this part of the franchising agreement process, I called 35 Primrose Franchise Owners and listened to their experiences, victories and challenges that came with running a Primrose school. Primrose encourages those interested in owning a school to get as much first-hand knowledge as possible. You may want to do this too –getting to know a franchisor through the eyes of current franchisees can be the best way to get a sense of what your experience will be like as an owner before you sign on the dotted line.
Many of the attendees at IFE asked great questions, which is also crucial when on the path to becoming part of a national brand. When I was searching for a partner in the early education industry, I knew nothing about opening a school and relied on Primrose for their expertise and advice. A good franchisor will always be open to answering questions and providing pertinent information well before signing the official franchise agreement.
After the due diligence and paperwork has been completed, it’s time for the official ceremony. Signing the documents to become a franchise owner is a huge accomplishment after many months of work. Because the process leading up to it can be long, it’s easy to forget that the relationship with your franchisor is truly just getting started when you sign the agreement.
At this point, it becomes even more crucial to establish clear and open communication, particularly on the level of support your franchisor will provide and how you can seek help. For example, like many franchise owners across industries, I was not an experienced builder. So when my school was ready for construction, Primrose connected me to a trusted contractor. Know your limitations and never be afraid to ask for help. A franchisor should be your partner, as your personal success is theirs as well.
Anyone in a marriage relationship knows that after the ceremony, your relationship really begins and takes a new, more significant meaning. It’s the same for franchisors and franchise owners after the official signing. Keeping an open line of communication is still just as vital as it was in the beginning because it’s true that a marriage takes hard work and time to keep it afloat. My advice would be to remain open minded and ready for continued growth through your franchisee/franchisor partnership.
It feels amazing to have finally achieved my dream of opening a premier preschool, and the first Primrose school in my state! As with any new endeavor, I have learned so much. I heavily relied on the Primrose National Leadership Support Team to help in the beginning stages of opening my school and am grateful for their accessibility and guidance. Today I know if I ever have a question or need assistance, I can call them because they truly care about my success.
Coming back from IFE, I feel refreshed and excited – also very appreciative for the support Primrose has provided me throughout our relationship. They have always been helpful to me, which is one of the many reasons that Primrose is an incredible partner. In fact, because of our strong relationship, I’m currently working with them to open a second school in my area. Building a trusting bond like ours takes time and effort, just like a marriage. But if you do your part and seek support when needed, it can also be one of the most successful and rewarding relationships you will ever build.