By L. Drew Gerber
A bear market is the time to buy, whether you are looking for a bargain in stocks, real estate or other investments. Opportunities abound during times of economic uncertainty for those willing to find them. The same is true for those considering starting a franchise business.
The recession is driving more and more people to go into business for themselves, according to news reports. When job security with a long-time employer isn’t so secure any more, starting a business becomes more attractive.
Thousands of employees who have been given pink slips or early retirement are looking for opportunities to become entrepreneurs. Many of them will choose to open a franchise as a way to test the entrepreneurial waters without having to start a business from scratch.
Franchising offers a lot of opportunities and advantages, among them training and support, an established customer base and product name recognition.
But, no matter how great or well-known the product or service is, the franchisee is not guaranteed success. He or she must possess ambition, drive and business savvy, just like any other entrepreneur.
The keys for success lie in several areas: knowing yourself, knowing your business and mentally preparing yourself to succeed. So how do you, the aspiring franchise owner, know if you are cut out to run your own business? Some attributes for building a successful franchise include:
- Ambition ? Successful franchise owners are willing to take risks because they have confidence in their product or service’s ability to succeed in the marketplace. Like any successful business owner, they must have a passion and drive for building their business
- Independence– Also like other independent business owners, franchisees place a high value on being in control of their own destiny. They like the feeling of accomplishment and independence that comes from building a business and not having to rely on someone else for employment and income.
- Planning for success — The person looking at opening a franchise must be willing to invest the time and energy into researching all aspects of their business. This means getting out and talking to other franchisees, researching the target market and checking into training and support services offered by the franchisor.
- Sales sense — The most successful and visionary business leaders are known for their intuitive business sense. Walt Disney took a plane ride over a scrubby, marshy section of central Florida and saw a spot where his vision of multiple interconnected theme parks could grow unencumbered. Location, location, location is just as critical for the aspiring franchisee, whether it’s for a restaurant, tax service or fitness center. Just as in any other independent business, you must make it your business to know your customers’ needs, target market and competition.
- Listening skills — The ability to listen and really hear the needs, desires and values of customers is a top tool for success for anyone who works in sales. It allows the franchisee to exchange valuable information with the franchisor in order to adjust the product or service for maximum appeal.
- Partnership ? To be successful, a franchisee should value working with the franchisor on the shared goal of growing the business. Through training, support and constant feedback, they work together toward the common goals of quality control, customer service and profitability.
- Motivation ? Franchisees must be self-motivated. This means having the discipline and drive to do what is necessary to keep the business running smoothly and growing. As with any independent business, this usually involves investing long hours and dedication during the startup and beyond, both in running the business and continued training.
- Pride — Successful franchisees must have confidence in the brand they are selling and take pride in their products or services. Upholding high standards set by the franchiser, they build, not only their own business, but the brand as a whole.
- Personal considerations — Just like anyone considering whether to start their own business, the aspiring franchisee should determine in advance how their family will adapt to the always demanding world of self-employment.
The person with all of the attributes listed above now faces the added challenge of opening a franchise during a recession. With customers holding on tightly to every dollar, that means finding ways to position your product or service to appeal to value-conscious consumers.
Franchisees starting new businesses can’t wait for the gloomy economic forecasts to abate. Instead, they must look at the recession as another opportunity. This is a challenge as credit remains tight.
No doubt it is a good time to start businesses that don’t require large sums of venture capital, such as the myriad of online business opportunities. But all businesses can use lean times to strengthen themselves, increase efficiency and improve customer service. In doing so, they position themselves for success as the recession eases and consumers begin to spend more freely. The companies that can build customer loyalty during lean times are first in line for growth as the economy recovers.
The key to a successful startup during a downturn is attitude — “recession-proofing your perspective.” Following are some ways to mentally prepare for success in any economy:
- Be skeptical of skepticism. Take a fresh look at opportunities out there. Find ways to make your product or service attractive to consumers, not just in spite of, but because of the prevailing economic conditions.
- Interrupt old thought patterns. Remember that old adage “you get what you pay for”? Say “no” to negative thoughts, and look for opportunities in unlikely places.
- Put other people first. Look to see how you can make a difference for others before you look at how you can make a difference for yourself. You’ll be surprised at how many people return the favor.
- Do it yourself. Take a close look at how you spend your time and your money. Evaluate your efforts and ask: “Is there an easier way?”
- Be creative. Look at situations from a fresh perspective. In what are arguably our nation’s most trying times, necessity has always been the mother of all invention. These times are no different.
- Take action. Many business owners spend way too much time planning and thinking about what they should do at the expense of actually doing it. They try too hard for perfection, and this often results in no action being taken at all. Success depends upon action. Ask yourself “What can I do to bring prosperity to myself and those around me right now?” and then do it.
There are many other considerations to weigh. Do you have the skills for your career as a franchisee? Talk to other franchisees in the same line, as well as those who know you well for candid answers. Make sure the franchisor you are considering offers the training and support you need to succeed.
Of course you also must have a financial plan for getting started and growing your business. New franchisees must also be willing to sell and market their products and services, knocking on doors and cold calling if necessary. They must possess a drive to continually keep themselves informed of the latest trends in their business.
People looking to start franchises during a recession face many challenges. Fortunately, the franchise system is geared for success through the mutually supportive relationship between franchisee and franchisor. The bottom line for both is to be passionate about the brand, committed to its growth and willing to invest the time, energy and money needed for success.
L. Drew Gerber is CEO of www.PublicityResults.com and creator of www.PitchRate.com, a free media connection service for journalists, experts, and publicists. Sign up now for free publicity advice including a free online marketing course. Gerber’s business practices and staffing innovations have been revered by PR Week, Good Morning America and the Christian Science Monitor. His companies handle international PR campaigns and his staff develops online press kits for authors, speakers and companies with Online PressKit 24/7, a technology he developed (www.PressKit247.com). Contact L. Drew Gerber at: AskDrew@PublicityResults.com or call him