Are you the Perfect Franchisee?

David T Banfield, President, The Interface Financial Group

This article appears in the May/June 2014 issue of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand


As a franchisor I can confirm that we are looking for ‘the perfect franchisee’. It has also come to my attention that every other franchisor is also looking for the very same perfect franchisee.

Analysing franchise websites, it soon becomes apparent that franchisors are really all looking for similar, if not the same, characteristics in their would-be ‘perfect franchisee’.

David Banfield, The Interface Financial Group

If you are reading this article as a prospective franchisee you might want to dwell on some of the common traits that franchisors look for in their perfect match. If you are not already perfect, maybe this will help to get you there before the  all-important qualifying interview for the franchise award!

A quality that comes up many times as a required attribute is that of being an excellent communicator. Most people see themselves in this category automatically. Franchise candidates invariably have the ability to talk about themselves and their  accomplishments, their background, their ambitions, and so on without hesitation. Most individuals naturally fail to realise that this ability ‘to talk’ is not what classifies them as a good communicator. The ability to listen and absorb information is of  equal, if not greater, importance to that of just speaking.

Most franchisees will have some interaction with customers or clients as they run their business on a day-to-day basis, so their lack of ability to listen to the client is often the start of their downfall. When it comes to providing a service, it really is ‘all  about the client’ and not about the franchisee. We need more listening in many cases, and less speaking - strike a balance to make it work.

Franchisors like ‘self-disciplined’ individuals – why, because they can be trained and basically left to their own devices. By definition, if they are self-disciplined they do not need a lot of franchisor input and support. Unfortunately there are few people  that are truly self-disciplined when it comes to running a business. This is in part because a business is a multi-faceted operation requiring multi-faceted skills and knowledge. It is unlikely that one person will be a provider of such a range of skills and, therefore, they will need help, guidance and support throughout their business life.

The other problem with too much self-discipline is that it sometimes creates a lack of output - the franchisee is caught up in their own world of organisation and is not getting the big picture information. Self-discipline is good but is not the total picture - we need self-disciplined individuals that recognise they are part of a bigger system and, therefore, need the ability to work within that framework.

We said that self-disciplined people could be trained and then left to get on running the business. That raises the issue of ‘are you trainable’? A franchise is a system, invariably one that is proven, written down and has been in existence for a long  time. Because franchisees all work within the same system they all need to be trained in the same way. Most people will admit that they are trainable, especially at the point when they are seeking a franchise award.

Often, however, that proves not to be the case, and while they can sit through hours of training sessions and extensive PowerPoint presentations; one questions if the information is really taking root. Does there come a point in time when our ability to absorb slows down while we are being presented with new and unique ideas and methods? We hear the story; the facts seem logical but are they being absorbed to later be put into practice - maybe, maybe not. As a potential franchisee one should  look at this aspect and determine if you are trainable and, if so, can you then put that training into practice. Maybe the question is also, do I want to be trained? Some franchisees enter a franchise system with little intention of absorbing the training sessions.

David Banfield, The Interface Financial Group

The ability to sit through a few hours of PowerPoint presentations doesn’t create a trained franchisee.

Maybe the topic of the ‘work ethic’ goes along with the self-discipline aspect. As with many other traits, real or imagined, potential franchisees will all attest to their extensive work ethic and their ability to make things work. Hard work is second  nature to many ‘corporate refugees’ transitioning from major corporate employment into the realm of self-employment and entrepreneurship. They are used to working a staggering number of hours every week. Now, in their new environment, they are probably not faced with the same challenge. Working ‘smart’ as opposed to working hard and long is the preferred way to go. Because, as we have stated, a franchise is a well-tested and proven system, the franchisee should expect to work smart  rather than hard and needs to have the internal ability to make such a transition.

That transition aspect often shows that some people are not perhaps as self-disciplined at they thought they were.

Consider a senior executive working in a multi-national corporation with hundreds of employees, many of whom report to the individual - a very structured environment with many ‘safety nets’ and procedures for everything. Now take that same  individual and place him or her in a franchise environment - maybe even in a home-based one-person franchise. This represents not just a leap into entrepreneurship, but rather a quantum leap. The franchisee will indeed have to muster all of their  self-discipline qualities to make things work.

In our search for the perfect franchisee we often use terms such as entrepreneur, entrepreneurial outlook, etc. implying that we would like to recruit entrepreneurs as franchisees. I question if that is really the case. By definition an entrepreneur is a person who organises and manages a business usually with some capital involvement. On the face of it the definition seems to fit our search pattern. In reality, however, a true entrepreneur is unlikely to be satisfied with a franchise environment. Entrepreneurs by nature are creative individuals that constantly want to re-invent the wheel and find a better way to do everything. This is not a set of circumstances that a franchisor wishes to encounter - they need someone who will accept their  already proven system and work ithin that, notwithstanding the occasional suggestion for minor improvement.

Maybe as a franchisor we are really looking for people that may have some entrepreneurial aspirations that have yet to come to maturity.

Where does all of this leave us in our search for the perfect franchisee? Probably with knowledge that we already possessed - there is no perfect franchisee. Therefore, if you are reading this article as a potential franchisee for any system, maybe you  can relax knowing that the qualities you bring to the table will be more than acceptable. If we cannot recruit the perfect franchisee, maybe we can create a perfect franchisee from our existing franchisees? Maybe as franchisors we can take the raw material that we have and create that perfect individual.

A franchise community is a complex microcosm of individuals that bring unique gifts, talents and experience to a franchise organisation. It’s when we see them as a group that we can say, “yes - we already have the perfect franchisee” - the sum of the parts is surely greater than the whole.

David T. Banfield is the President of The Interface Financial Group, a position that he has held for over 20 years. He is instrumental in taking Interface from a one franchise, one country situation to a multi-country international organisation with over 150 franchises and two distinct franchise offerings.

The Interface Financial Group currently operates in eight countries serving the small business market in each location. In many countries Interface represents the largest small business capital provider to the SME community. Their latest innovation  allows their franchisees to borrow from the franchisor to dramatically escalate the return they earn on their working capital.

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