With the right team behind you and knowing how to pick the best franchisee and location, it just might be a smart way to expand your business.
As South Jersey slowly emerges from the recession, an increasing number of local entrepreneurs may be devising a long-term growth plan for their business, which could include the idea of franchising. While some business owners might be hesitant at the idea of entrusting someone else with the company reins, in some cases, franchising can help a single South Jersey-based business venture flourish into a household name.
In 1986, John Scardapane came up with the idea of providing fresh, entree-sized salads for consumers on the go at the Cherry Hill Mall. Despite naysayers who insisted a salad-based restaurant chain would never survive, today, Saladworks boasts more than 100 locations in 12 states, with more than 20 currently in development across the country for 2012.
While not every business concept will likely achieve the same success, there are some steps local business owners can take to boost their odds of launching a profitable franchise.
Assembling your team
Scardapane recruited friends and relatives to manage Saladworks’ original dozen locations, but by the year 2000, he realized he would have to start franchising outside of people he knew to support the salad chain’s rapid growth. “I knew I wanted to deliver great service to every customer at every location,” Scardapane says. The challenge, he says, was assembling the right group of professionals who would nurture the business and care for the customers as much as he did.
Scardapane hired business coaches to assist franchisees at every location with familiarizing themselves with the company’s values, culture and operating systems, and continued building the company’s infrastructure by teaming up with knowledgeable professionals like Vernon Hill, founder of Commerce Bank, to further the business’ expansion.
Similarly, franchise veteran Todd Leff was called upon to help Hand and Stone founder and physical therapist John Marco soon after the company’s inception in 2005. Now led by Leff, the Toms River-based massage and facial spa has now grown into a franchise with more than 60 locations across the United States and Canada, including local spots in Cherry Hill, Delran, Deptford, Marlton and Voorhees.
Leff had recently retired from his 20-year post as president and CEO of franchise AAMCO Transmissions, and worked with Marco to recruit a management team of professionals that could handle every aspect of the business—from advertising to construction. “Franchising is a highly regulated industry, with lots of laws and rules to follow,” Leff warns. “You need some experts behind you.”
Finding Franchisees and Locations
Franchise owners agree that identifying potential locations and franchisees is just as important as assembling a winning management team. “A poor franchisee can hurt the rest of the system,” asserts Island Sun Tanning owner Mario Suarez. The franchise will have 21 salons open in South Jersey by March. There are already 10 locations, including one in Turnersville.
Some companies determine the best locations for their franchises right from the start. New to South Jersey, City Wide Maintenance only allows franchisees to open in metropolitan areas of 500,000 or more in population, while Island Sun Tanning has deliberately opted to remain a South Jersey-based franchise.
Likewise, identifying the best possible franchisees may also involve upholding rigorous standards. For the franchise owner, the value of lining up effective businesspeople to operate their various franchise locations cannot be underestimated.
“It’s easier to find a winner than to make one. You have to look into a potential franchisee’s past while giving them an idea of your expectations,” Suarez says. “You need to know that they’re ready to work hard and be successful.”
Suarez is also involved with one of South Jersey’s newest franchises, YoGo Factory, a Galloway-based chain of build-it-yourself frozen yogurt cafes. The company aims to open its third location in Egg Harbor by the end of the year, with others planned for municipalities including Somers Point, Linwood, Toms River, Bellmawr, Cherry Hill and Sicklerville.
One way to identify potential franchisees is through Discovery Days: on-site events that offer presentations, information sessions, one-on-one interviews and other opportunities to connect management professionals with franchisees like John Angelastro, who founded The Growth Coach after attending a series of Discovery Days for various consulting-based franchises.
“Discovery Days helped me find the franchise that embodied the business culture I wanted,” the Mount Laurel resident says. “As a franchise owner, you’re going to have to rely on your franchisees—so you want people who share the same goals and values.” Angelastro provides his business coaching services to South Jersey-based entrepreneurs, including those in Cherry Hill, Marlton and Merchantville.
“It also gives us an opportunity to evaluate a potential franchisee … we do have to turn down a number of franchisees, whether the decision is based on their geography or the fact that they don’t necessarily have the skills experience that we require,” Leff adds.
Preserving the Company’s Identity
In the case of Hand and Stone, customers don’t need to schedule appointments in advance; the company boasts same-day appointments for lower prices than many traditional spas. Franchise owners must communicate those differentiators to their franchisees to ensure the system does not change based upon what fits local needs—such as when a Hand and Stone franchisee in Arizona wanted to close on Mondays, ultimately contradicting with one of the other core tenets of the company’s business model: convenience.
Franchise owners must also provide ample support to their franchisees to assist them in managing the business’ day-to-day operations. City Wide Maintenance utilizes a sales and marketing support team to provide the tools in the field for franchisees to be successful.
“All franchisees receive an initial two-week training to help them better understand the City Wide story, how the company approaches sales, and most importantly, to help them understand our business model—the key difference between City Wide and other franchises in the building maintenance industry,” explains Abby Nicholl, marketing manager for City Wide Maintenance. Franchisees then receive regularly scheduled support visits and phone calls.
“When you develop all of these processes, you no longer have to micromanage,” Scardapane concludes. “You can let the people in the right positions make the right decisions, and feel confident because you know they understand your values and where you want the company to go.” w
Considering Purchasing a Franchise? How to Do it Right.
From choosing the right franchise to learning the day-to-day operations of a new business, potential franchisees must learn to navigate the waters of even the most profitable and recognizable franchise brands. South Jersey Biz asked some local businesspeople to share their insights on how to make their business succeed.
Invest Plenty of Time. That is, don’t expect to launch a successful franchise while you remain committed to another full- or part-time job. “There’s a learning curve as you figure out your market and what customers want … so plan on [dedicating] more than 40 hours a week in the beginning,” advises John Angelastro, Mount Laurel-based franchisee of The Growth Coach.
Identify support systems. A major benefit of purchasing a franchise is having access to support and training. Take advantage of the resources provided by the company. “You have a whole team of support available to you—people who have already been through the course you’re taking,” says Brian Custer, Westville-based franchisee of The Entrepreneur’s Source. “There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.”
Be Patient. It may take some time—and lots of marketing—to build up a regular client base. “As with any new business, success won’t happen overnight,” Angelastro asserts.
Seek Help. With any business venture, an expansive professional network can augment your company’s success. Surround yourself with professionals who can provide the support needed as you build the franchise, from CPAs to attorneys to business coaches. “There’s so much information out there, it can get overwhelming to maneuver it all on your own,” Custer says.
Choose What Suits You. Perhaps most importantly, potential franchisees should choose the franchise that most closely aligns with their values. “To ensure success, try to find a franchise system that has a similar culture and values to your own,” Angelastro says.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 2, Issue 1 (January, 2012).
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