One of the fundamental questions for today's leaders is "What do you want and what are you willing to give up to get it?" If you want job security, get yourself a tenured position at a well-funded university. If you want complete control, start your own company from scratch. But if you want a balance of some control coupled with leverage, then franchising may be the way for you.
It certainly has been a good path for Ines Turus, Ron Zick and Greta Fowler, three entrepreneurs who have gained leverage from their franchises for their employees, themselves and others.
Leverage for Employees
Ines Turus had been growing Cruises International steadily for more than 30 years when she agreed to fold her business into Expedia Cruise ShipCenters, part of Expedia, Inc. Why? Because the Expedia franchise gives her the ability to increase her employee base from 20 to 120.
Expedia gives her leverage in three different areas she neither had nor was interested in investing in on her own: technology, branding/marketing and training.
Could she have built out her capabilities? Of course. But instead of spending her own time and money, she was able to leverage Expedia's technology base, brand and broad marketing clout, and training resources to scale faster.
Ines Turus' advice for small business owners: "Partner with people who do business like you do."
Leverage for Owners
When Ron Zick got out of college, he wanted to find a way to make money off his bird-watching hobby. When he found "Wild Birds Unlimited" and its backyard bird feeding and nature specialty retail franchises, he thought "this is so cool" and signed up almost immediately. It gave him a pre-packaged start up.
He's still doing it, though now he has expanded to two stores and created his own private-label birdseed. Along the way, he's figured out that "Running a small business is hard - no parachute, no healthcare, all our savings on the line." That is all balanced by the thrill he gets when he solves problems for the "fantastic" bird-loving people that come into his store.
Ron Zick's advice for would-be retail entrepreneurs:
- Money - Make sure you're capitalized well so you can sleep at night.
- Location - Make sure you've got pull up to the store parking - especially if you're going to need to get hundreds of pounds of bird seed from your store to your customers' cars. (May not directly apply to all of you).
- Work - Be prepared to work a LOT of hours (10-12 hour days six to seven days per week).
- Detail - Don't worry about people copying you. Focus on detail-oriented, high-quality products and services.
- People - You can't just open a store and step back. Invest in people that care as much as you do.
Leverage for Others
At Brain Balance Achievement Centers, Greta and Doug Fowler found a way to help children with academic, social or behavioral issues. They realized that the current education system is geared to the majority of children in the middle. Those who either are gifted or have something holding them back often find themselves "disconnected" from what's going on in class. The Brain Balance program helps those children reach their full academic, social and behavioral potential.
The Fowlers got so excited about the program's impact on their own child that they felt a calling to purchase a franchise to leverage the system to help others.
I asked Greta about her picture of success. "What would it look like if you were wildly successful?" Her reply, "We are already wildly successful. We're changing lives."
Greta Fowler's advice to others: "Do something you're passionate about because it makes everyday successful."
Application for Leaders
Make sure you're drawing the right conclusions. Know what matters to you and to the people that matter to you. Then, as you're looking at ways to get or do what matters, consider a franchise as one possible way to gain extra leverage.