All In The Family: Getting Support From Your Loved Ones Before Opening a Franchise (Even Your Dog)
Numerous factors keep entrepreneurs from ultimately buying a franchise business.
There’s the financial uncertainty, in terms of not knowing how to confidently estimate the potential investment.
There’s the emotional overwhelm, in terms of being paralyzed by too much information and not enough guidance towards a firm decision.
There’s the operational anxiety, in terms of managing diverse responsibilities like hiring, payroll, inventory, marketing and business development.
But one critical factor that is overlooked is that of family support.
Not necessarily financially (although that does often come into play), but more about how you, as a potential small business owner, should present your business plan to your spouse, significant other, children or relatives. And possibly your dog.
Early in the franchising process, you will have to enroll your loved ones in this entrepreneurial vision so that they’re inspired to support your franchise endeavors emotionally, practically and otherwise.
In this article, we’re going to share four questions to ask yourself and each other:
How have you demonstrated that you’ve thought about your franchise opportunity in the long term?
Buying a franchise is a major life decision. It’s basically an additional child. You’re going to be writing big checks, modifying your work routine significantly and impacting everyone in your family in some way, for better or for worse. Particularly if you’re transitioning from being an employee to being an entrepreneur.
As such, it’s not enough to just dream about what you hope happens in the next six months. Do your due diligence on the estimated time, energy and capital investment needed to effectively launch a franchise. Make sure you have a full understanding of pre launch preparation, as it pertains to your business, so you can make your case to your family comprehensively.
If you’re opening a physical location, for example, then the most time consuming steps will most likely be site selection, lease negotiation, build out and permitting and training. This might take six to twelve months. On the other hand, if you’re opening a home based franchise that doesn’t require the overhead of a brick and mortar location, your launch window might only be a few months. Although you will probably have to snag that extra bedroom.
Whichever opportunity you’re ultimately pursuing, make sure you communicate how that journey will impact the day to day household life of your family in the next several weeks, months and years. Otherwise it will be an uphill battle from day one.
Are you prepared for their initial reaction of excitement, shock, sadness and worry?
Once your loved ones first hear about your new plan, skepticism is likely to come in, amongst a host of other difficult emotions. This is perfectly natural, as opening a small business is outside everyone’s comfort zone to some degree. Your dog will be ecstatic no matter what, since, well, it’s a dog. But other family members may not respond the way you think they will once they hear about your business ideas. It’s important to be ready to deal with that tension.
What’s important is communicating your entrepreneurial vision early in the research process. Because there’s nothing worse than learning your spouse or family member is pursuing a life changing career move without your knowledge. Be proactive and prolific in your communication. Otherwise resentment will begin to build.
One recommendation is to enlist your family therapist, mentor, relationship coach or trusted advisor as a facilitator early in the process. Counselors know how stressful work can be on close relationships, so don’t be afraid to broach the issue during a private session. It’s a safe space to process thoughts, feelings, fears and expectations long before the business launch has begun or been considered.
Just make sure you don’t ambush your spouse or family members in the middle of a session. Use counseling as a secondary step once the topic has been addressed.
How will you prove that you’ve done your homework, and not made a spur of the moment decision?
Fear is driven by the unknown, so part of your job as a future business owner is acknowledging and reducing your family’s uncertainty. Since you’re the one physically starting the business, not them, understand that they are going to feel out of control. Everything from the finances to new household routines to people’s moods are going to shift as you make your franchise investment, and that’s going to be challenging for everyone.
All the more reason to overdo your homework.
One key exercise in your franchising research process will be speaking with existing franchisees to find out how they tackled similar problems. It’s invaluable to connect with business owners who have already made the plunge you’re considering.
Thankfully, one of the unique benefits of the franchising business model is that every franchisor is require to list in their franchise disclosure document the business contact information (names, addresses, and telephone numbers) of all of its franchisees located in their state as of the end of the franchisor’s most recent fiscal year.
Now, the FDD won’t be delivered until towards the end of the franchising process, so if you want to ask existing franchisees earlier in your journey, you may have to do some leg work finding current franchise owners, reaching out on Linkedin, and asking for a few minutes of their time to learn how you can follow in their footsteps. It’s not going to be guaranteed as it will be later in the process, but it’s worth a shot.
If you are fortunate enough to get on the phone with these franchisees, find out how they initially approached their spouses and family members with their business idea. Did they call a family meeting? Write a letter? Make a full blown presentation after dinner one night?
Also, ask what tips they have for sustaining family support during the launch period and initial few years of franchising. Learn how they chose to include family members in decision making, but also ask how they set healthy boundaries to avoid breakdowns in communication.
Remember, there is no one way to start the conversation. Every family needs to do what’s right for their unique household values and culture. What matters beginning from a place of intention and empathy.
How will you keep them apprised of your progress along the franchising journey?
Once you’ve enrolled family members in your decision and gotten them excited about this new franchise opportunity, find a ritual to keep them in the loop.
Consider offering biweekly progress reports, just like you would send to colleagues, bosses or other stakeholders. You don’t have to make it as formal as a memo or a slide deck. This is your family, after all. No need to be overly professional.
But by setting a cadence of checking in, you accomplish several things. First, you keep yourself accountable to those who matter most. Two, you add a layer of connection to an otherwise lonely project. Three, you can get feedback from people you trust. And four, you reinforce your commitment to making loved ones part of your journey.
My entrepreneur friend, who bought an auto repair franchise years ago, told me that he actually wrote out a physical contract and reviewed it within his entire family before starting his business. There was no legal language on the contract, but rather, it was a private family agreement to his loved ones that, despite the roller coaster of small business ownership, he would always make decisions that were in the best interest of the group. Even if that meant making compromises so multiple career dreams could coexist.
Everyone in the family signed their name. Even the dog. Not sure how that last part worked. Must have been a paw print or something. But the point is, they did it together. And in fact, each year my friend’s auto repair franchise has been in business, the family has revisited the contract to make sure the owner is upholding his end of the business agreement financially, and the rest of the family is contributing support emotionally.
Deciding what’s best for your future
Indeed, opening a franchise is a big decision fraught with uncertainty. It’s one of the biggest moves you can make in your career. The potential upsides of autonomy, financial opportunity and career excitement are unlike any other. But it’s also essential to lower your risk by involving your loved ones early and often in the process.
With a combination of research, intention, communication and ritual, together you can decide what is best for your future.
Your dog will thank you.
The Franchisee & Franchisor’s Point of View
Many of the characteristics of the perfect franchisee are shared by both a franchisee and a franchisor, but there are also some slight differences. A franchisor is more concerned with how an individual franchisee will fit into their business as a whole, and not necessarily how the single franchise will operate on a day to day basis (although that’s still important to them). Meanwhile the franchisee cares almost exclusively about the success of that individual.
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