How can you spot a franchise buyer and know their ambition is genuine and not just blind hope?
It’s vital at the outset to explore and understand franchise applicants’ motivation i.e. what’s driving them to you.
Inevitably it will be some combination of income, security, potential for growth and status – underpinned by degrees of self-belief, confidence and need. I think ‘need’ is the interesting one in that more often than not, the reasons applicants are prepared to thoroughly disrupt their lives by taking on a new career in business are emotionally based.
It might be that the applicant’s current income and prospects for advancement are just fine, but don’t stack up with the way they have imagined their future. It could be feeling unappreciated in their current role, knowing that they’re capable of much more.
It could be soul-destroying boredom with their nine-to-five or a thorough dislike of being told to do stuff that makes no sense. It might be envy of peers who are getting ahead. Concern over the return they’re getting on whatever capital they have accumulated. A desire to provide secure and meaningful employment for partners and kids. All these ‘drivers’ are valid foundations of entirely healthy ambition.
Practical assessment is built into our system. In our initial paperwork, we ask people to think about and express why they are doing this and then use our experience to read between the lines.
Occasionally it is apparent that they’re less up for a challenge with a defined outcome than looking for an easy way out of a pickle. Further in, we ask them to present for half an hour to our senior management group.
The topic is how they see their business – at whatever entry level – in just three years time. Those with robust ambition will have very clear goals and aspirations.
Those are obvious measures. But beyond that, throughout the entire process, we endeavour to gently tease from applicants the source of their current dissatisfaction – and you can be certain that some form of discontent is behind their decision to take on risk. It’s interesting that often the best-considered, most honest answers come from the female partner.
What needs to be established is whether your system, with its necessary restrictions, the feel of it and scale of opportunity – is going to scratch whatever itch is most in play. A need for status is unlikely to be satisfied by any business category involved in menial work.
And however well the books stack up, someone looking for an outstanding return on capital is not going to be content with the scale of a ‘nice little earner’.
It’s a curious thing. People can be furiously ambitious without knowing what it is they actually want, and are unlikely ever to be satisfied. I caution that the last thing any franchise system needs is to hero ambition to the extent that they import perennial dissatisfaction, with Buckley’s chance of requiting it.
- Understand the differences between ambition and motivation
- Very early in, ask the applicant ‘why’ and assess whether the stars align
- Seek to earn trust sufficient that you can unearth the applicants’ current source/s of discontent. Often this will come from the partner. Honestly assess whether your system has their answers
- Further in, ask applicants to clearly articulate where they expect to be in a given period of time – say three years – and relate this to your benchmarks
- Remember that it is easier to motivate than to rein in arrogant, directionless ambition.
Ambition is laudable and franchising is full to the brim of it. But when assessing applications, look more at motivation, and the outcome is likely to be happier.