Image credit: Zohar Lazar
Every employee has probably thought at some point in their career: I wish I was in charge.
In franchising, people often realize that dream. They can start out as a cashier, manager, or in some sort of corporate office position, and then rise to buy a branded unit on their own.
This is no coincidence. Franchises are always looking for qualified franchisees who value their brand and are committed to its success, and many of them encourage their best employees to follow that path. It’s part of franchising’s DNA. Some brands even have internship or financing programs to help their team members achieve the corporate ownership dream.
So, what’s it like to go from employee to boss? And what does it take to make the leap? In the following pages, eight people share the biggest lesson they’ve learned — and what enabled them to finally say what so many others want to say: “I’m the boss!”
Related: 10 tips for moving from employee to boss, from franchisees who’ve done it
Lesson 1: Ask for more.
Sam Cleavenger’s first job, at age 16, was at Jeremiah’s Italian Ice. He worked his way up from prep boy to general manager and then marketing manager for the brand. When he turned 24, he teamed up with his father and opened his own shop. Today he is working on opening more stores and has 12 partners under him who are also opening stores.
“Something that separated me from my peers would always ask what you can do to excel,” he says. “I used to ask my manager what I could do to get more responsibility. Before I became CEO, I said I felt I was doing great, and I wanted more. I said I wanted more leadership on me I think it’s simply the fact that you’re asking. A lot of people sit back and wait and think people are going to ask them. I think you need to express that you want to grow.”
Lesson 2: Be creative, within limits.
“Everyone has their own creative style,” says Bonnie Alcid. But as she has learned, creativity alone does not lead to success. It must be focused and utilized.
This is how she started her career in design and printing, but it really took off when she became the sports director of British Swim School. In that role, she says, she was able to think creatively, but with a very focused goal in mind: helping create lesson plans for new franchise owners and their marine directors. Then she became the school’s first franchisee and creativity took on a whole new meaning.
She learned to hire people who can have fun, then teach them how to be an instructor within the confines of the school. “I can teach a kid how to swim, and I can teach an adult how to teach swimming,” she says, “but it’s their personality that will be able to come out and connect with kids and make them successful.” to make.”
Related: Are You Ready to Be the Boss of Your Own Restaurant Franchise?
Lesson 3: Grow together with everyone.
Tracy Welsh has grown tremendously since the pandemic. But she also realizes: if she is the only one who grows, she will fail.
Her journey began at Massage Heights, where she was a director of two locations. Both had to close at the start of the pandemic and she was worried about losing her job. Then, much to her surprise, her boss offered her another option: Would Welsh buy the franchises where she worked? “I thought, My god, this can never happenWelsh says. She was worried about financing, but after meeting with a bank, she realized she could handle it.
“It made me grow in a way I never thought possible,” she says. As she built her team, she realized she was now able to help others grow as well. “You can’t just grow yourself,” she says. “You have to have the mindset that you want to grow other people at the same time, growing employees, growing guests, growing members. Doing the same old thing and never changing it is not the way to go as an businessroundups.org. You have to grow and evolve.”
Lesson 4: Make smart lease deals.
Ivette Escobar was an assistant to the founder of Sweet Paris Crêperie & Café in 2012 and eventually became the brand’s chief development officer. When she and her husband opened their own location, she knew the lease terms were key—because if she couldn’t control the environment her business was in, she couldn’t guarantee its success.
“We won’t take a location where we can’t do our facade,” she says. “If they just want us to put up a sign, we say no.” If you’re looking for a space yourself, she has some advice: ask for money for improvement from the tenant to upgrade the space. “If it’s a second-generation space, they’ll give you less money, but there you need a really good real estate agent to negotiate for you and advocate for you, show them what you’re going to do for them and it traffic you get.” so their investment will pay off. If it’s a first-generation space with brand new construction, or a four-walled hull and you’re really going to do everything in the space, you can negotiate more there.”
Image credit: Zohar Lazar
Lesson 5: Be the beginning of a virtuous cycle.
Joe Jaros started delivering for a Marco’s Pizza in high school, became a shift manager at 18, and told the owner he wanted to be a franchisee at 21. Eventually they became partners – and Jaros now owns five stores. Now he wants to keep the cycle going by being the boss helping the next generation of franchise owners thrive.
“I decided I was going to have my own internship program, taking on great operators and turning them into franchisees,” he says. But he does it in a very special way: he selects some of his best employees and helps them buy a piece its own stores. It’s just a good thing for him. “If it’s going to take me seven years to pay off a store, and the average general manager lasts about a year, I’m taking a lot of risks,” he says. “If I know I have a great operator that lasts the whole seven years, my risk factor is much lower. I thought, if I just make a little less in every store, but I reduce my risk, I’ll come out. ” ultimately ahead.”
Related: Is Business Ownership Right For Me? 4 questions to consider before taking the plunge.
Lesson 6: Take smart risks.
Kelli Amrein had worked in childcare for many years, including directorial positions where her job was to manage teachers and schedules. After joining the Celebree School staff in 2011, she finally got to see the business side. “They gave us full access to payroll and budgeting and all the financial reports that we could analyze to see where the company was growing,” she says. “I really liked that challenge.”
When Celebree started franchising, she was 41 and had three kids — but she took a chance and became the brand’s fourth franchisee. “I really wouldn’t have made this leap if it was in an industry I didn’t know enough about,” she says. “I knew all the risks that go on inside the building, outside the building, the marketing, how many hours a day it would take to do things. I knew I would have to be available after hours to answer questions – I knew the risks , I knew the industry.”
Lesson 7: Ask for help when others don’t want it.
Matt Peters was 16 when a friend got him a job knocking on doors and offering homeowners a free estimate for Weed Man’s fertilizer and weed control. It was a failure at first – he was too socially awkward and didn’t know how to sell. “I had to fall flat on my face a number of times,” he says.
Instead of giving up, he started asking others for help. That included a lot of talking to the supervisor who drove him and his fellow salespeople around. By following their advice, Peters grew into a winning salesperson – and at the age of 24 he bought his first franchise. Today he is 32 and owns two locations. “I still see other people who I think are much more talented than me,” he says, “but I learned from good people who were patient enough to teach me and cared enough to give me advice, feedback and coaching. potential in me or encouraged me to do it and supported me.”
Lesson 8: Make data-driven decisions.
Austin Clark played college football and had just completed his degree in exercise science when he suffered a career-ending wrist injury. So he changed paths: He earned an MBA, became a general manager at D1 Training headquarters, and eventually became a multi-unit D1 franchisee.
How does he grow his business? By constantly tracking key performance indicators: “Say, marketing: I know my cost per lead, my cost per 1,000 impressions, my funnel conversions, the percentage of my customers that make it through the marketing funnel, and ultimately schedule with us. By following through those KPIs in the data and being in a franchise system with other people following the same things, I can see what areas we’re struggling in. I can dig into the franchise and see who came up with those marketing pieces. Who’s ready? really good at generating more leads for less money on Facebook and Instagram? Then I can start looking for people who are good at it.”
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