Stay Off the Truck and Other Handy Tips for Franchise Business Success
Over the last decade meeting with many franchisees and candidates in the home services franchising business, I’ve had a lot of conversations with people who are searching for that perfect fit and wondering what it takes to be a successful franchise owner. Here’s what I tell them.
Franchisee, know thyself. A franchise business isn’t going to change to fit your world, so don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. Do you have an engineering background and a tendency towards introversion? Then that door-to-door sales business is never going to be a fit for you. When you decide on an opportunity, make sure you are embracing what the business is and what it will take from you to run it. It’s imperative that you feel comfortable now and in 5-10 years.
What’s the best way to do this? Dig into the due diligence. Talk with other franchisees and spend time with the franchisor asking lots of questions. During our first discussion with candidates, we typically tell them our franchise isn’t the right opportunity for everyone. We know the discovery process is the time to lay it all out on the table and help them get to a yes or no decision. And if it’s not a good fit for the franchisee, it’s not going to be a good fit for the franchisor either. It’s a shared relationship.
As a former wedding deejay, I learned that knowing what songs the bride doesn’t want to hear is often more important than knowing what she likes. In business, knowing what you don’t want is key. Be really honest with yourself about what you refuse to do. There is a franchise business for just about everything these days, so you can find the right fit doing what you really want to do.
Stay off the truck. Too often I hear from franchisee candidates who think they have to know how to hang a garage door or fix drywall in order to be successful at owning one of our franchises, but I couldn’t disagree more. A successful franchisee doesn’t need to know how to do the inner workings of their business. It’s about having a solid business plan and knowing what to do with it. Hire people who know the rest or let the franchisor guide you on those topics.
In fact, I would argue that the franchisee who does the tasks rather than focusing on managing the business is actually putting up a barrier to success. An owner’s time is better spent making sure they have the inventory of people on their team to meet customer needs and demand. That’s the way they can scale and grow their business. At Handyman Connection, I encourage franchisees to think of themselves as a business liaison or coach between their craftsmen and their customers. That’s where business skills like marketing, customer acquisition, managing and optimizing schedules and reputation management come in – the skills that are most important for any franchise business owner.
Interview weekly. The difference between a good franchisee and a great one is a great franchisee is always in recruiting mode. I tell business owners to always have one more employee than they think they need because someone inevitably gets sick, decides to go back to school or has a spouse who gets transferred to a new city. A good rule of thumb is to conduct one interview a week. When you have someone waiting in the wings, you can save yourself the heartache of making a hasty hiring decision that often goes wrong.
A good franchisor will have resources to help you keep building that bench with a multi-faceted approach. Many use software platforms that can manage the applicant pool at the front and back ends. For example, there are platforms that can distribute your job openings through social media and other digital channels and even “grade” potential candidates on their compatibility based on questionnaire answers. Hiring and training is an investment of time you may not think you have to give, but your business will still be there once you get them onboarded, and it’s imperative that you have the talent you need to grow it.
Follow the six Cs. The six Cs of brand experience is something we came up with at Handyman Connection, but the principles behind it are really true for any business out there: Cultivate, Contact, Confirm, Commit, Complete, Connect.
It begins with cultivating potential customers. Good franchisors will be working behind the scenes for you from the beginning, with a marketing team laying the groundwork with targeted SEO, direct mail and more. Leverage all of that because they know how to market with a laser rather than a shotgun. When you have a franchise marketing team to depend on, you can focus on being the face of your business in the community and building relationships with people who can refer customers to you. Join the Chamber, sponsor the local sports teams and give back to your neighbors. Remember, no one represents your business like you do.
Committing to the job and completing it are also two very crucial steps. Speed to the lead and delivering on the estimated timeline for customers is so important in these days of Amazon- and Uber-level quick service. More and more companies are relying on customer management systems to help execute the business correctly with texts, emails and other communication tools that create the right atmosphere of professionalism from the beginning.
Finally, connect back with the customer after the service or job is complete. Ask the all-important question “What else can I do for you?” Once you’ve earned their trust, they will be a customer for life.
Luke Schulte is the Executive Director of Franchise Development for Handyman Connection, overseeing the brand’s growth strategies and connecting franchisees with the opportunity to own a business in the fast-growing home improvement industry. He loves fostering relationships, sharing the experience he has gained over 10+ years in franchise development for several prominent home services brands.