Successful franchises boast passion and a marriage-like partnership
If Seth Berkman's wife hadn't broken her cellphone, it's likely he wouldn't be operating multi UBreakiFix franchises in New York and planning to open four units in Portland, Oregon.
While he had been looking to start a new business six years ago after selling off one of two privately-owned companies he had been running and knew about the UBreakiFix store in town, it wasn't anywhere on his radar in terms of business interest.
"When my wife broke her phone, I sent her down there and she came back so happy, she had had such a great customer experience, I thought to myself 'this is a great business,'" he told attendees during the "The Franchisor-Franchisee Relationship: Striking the Perfect Balance," session at the International Franchise Expo held this month at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.
"But I didn't think it was a franchise business, and when I did find out it was, I saw it was perfect and it hit my passion," recalled Berkman, a self-described techie whose earlier businesses were both related to technology.
Berkman said he had considered both food and entertainment franchise options.
"But I had no passion for them. I couldn't see myself doing something I didn't really know about," he said.
Passion, according to the panel's speakers, is essential to franchise success.
"It's definitely about passion as you need to sell authentically, like it, believe in it and know that it is the perfect business model for you," said Susan Steron, a multi-unit franchisee for Sylvan Learning in upstate New York.
But while passion is critical, the relationship between a franchisee and franchisor is just as important for success.
"We [her and the franchisor] work as a team," said Steron.
While his wife's experience with the franchise truly sold Berkman on UBreakiFix, everything clicked into place after he met with the franchisor.
"When I talked to the CEO and VP and we talked about their priorities, they matched exactly with what's important to me," said Berkman.
And obviously UBreakiFix is very supportive of its first-ever "outside" franchisee. UBreakiFix opened in 2009 and expanded into 47 corporate stores before moving into franchising in 2013. It sold off 21 stores to managers who had been running the company-owned units.
For Berkman, who opened his store in July 2014, if it wasn't for the franchisor's support, he likely wouldn't be attaining his goal to operate and grow in Portland. An earlier franchisee deal with another entity initially eliminated any possibility of Berkman operating stores in Portland, but Todd Evans, vice president of franchising for UBreakiFix, made it happen.
Both Steron and Berkman also noted that if money is a new franchisee's only goal, success likely will prove to be elusive.
"If you put who you are trying to help [customer, client] as top priority, you'll be successful," said Berkman.
"We are all in this together and it's not just selling. You want a franchisor who will keep the brand strong, and then everyone wins," noted Steron.
Evans of UBreakiFix noted that franchisors should be as picky, or even choosier, than potential franchisees.
"We say 'not' to a lot of people and pull weeks out of the franchise organization's 'garden.' You want to look for transparent all the time, and what's going right and wrong. We want financial success, but we had to find those like Seth who get what we're all about," he said.
"Yea, you want a franchisor to be picky, it's a good thing," chimed in Berkman.
In simple terms, said session moderator Lane Fisher, attorney and name partner at Fisher Zucker LLC, both franchisees and franchisors should view the business union much like a marriage.
"Both are dependent on each other to succeed. There are boundaries and everyone has to stay in lanes at times, and there must be respect on both sides," he said, advising that both need to do soul searching, take a personal inventory and do due diligent.
"You need to do all that to make sure it's a good fit."
Berkman noted that the effort Evans put into his Portland quest is a perfect example.
"You need to support franchisors as they support you. In my case, they moved mountains to help me expand."
Looking for more great insight and expert discussion on franchising? Attend the upcoming Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit (RIS) taking place July 18-20 in London. This event will feature innovative chains and their strategies in growth, from menu innovation and beyond. The Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit will help franchisors be more progressive in many areas of their business to attract both investors and customers.
Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.www