July 3, 2017 | by Judy Mottl Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends
Beware of becoming a hugely successful female franchisor. You may just end up on “Undercover Boss,” a highly enjoyed television series in which top chiefs don disguises to ferret out problems and meet employees in the work environment.
That distinction is shared by two of three speakers that participated on the “Why franchising? How women can be successful in today’s franchising marketplace” panel at the International Franchise Expo held this month at the Jacob K. Javits Conference Center in New York City.
Both Shelly Sun, co-founder and CEO of BrightStar Care, and Catherine Monson, CEO of the FastSigns franchise, have appeared on the show. Sun is currently the chair of the IFA Board.
The duo, along with Susan Steron, who owns multiple Sylvan Learning schools in upstate New York, shared tips, advice, lessons learned and anecdotes of being a female franchise owner and operator.
Moderator Michelle Rowan, president and COO of Franchise Business Review, kicked off the talk by sharing some statistics:
- 90 percent of female franchisees enjoy operating the business
- 85 percent would recommend their franchisor
- 62 percent expressed overall satisfaction as a franchisee operator
- 74 percent would do it over again
- 88 percent enjoy being part of a brand
In addition, Rowan noted that a majority of female franchisees/franchisors are 45 years or older and have earned a bachelor’s degree.
She then outlined five tips for the women interested in franchises: make sure you get strong franchisor support, choose a progressive brand, ask lots of questions, seek advice and make sure the franchisor is actively seeking out insight form current franchisees.
Rowan then asked the panelists to offer up tips for women interested in franchising and lessons learned.
For Steron, her biggest challenges have varied and evolved over her nearly two decades in business. That’s because staffing, operations and contracts change over time, she explained
“The excitement is still there and it’s important to keep it fresh and new,” she said, adding that franchisees need to be able to “roll with those changes and to ensure the franchisor is one that is going to keep growing.” Support, specifically through the brand’s franchise community, has been very important for her.
Sun, who founded company owned locations and after finding success decided to franchise, also noted support is critical.
“It was very important to me, especially in early stages as we grew so fast,” she said. “We also made sure we were listening to our franchisees’ input,” she added, noting the brand surveys franchises every six months and does a customer survey every year to make sure that priorities of brand are first up.
She follows the motto of “listen, learn, lead.”
For Monson, who started in franchising 37 years ago, franchising has been a career dream come true.
“All my life all I wanted to do was be a CEO and I worked harder than any competitor. To be successful, you work hard and you work smart,” she said.
All the panelists agreed that new franchise operators or brand owners must network with others to learn as much as possible as early as possible.
“You need to be knowledgeable about it all and you need to believe in yourself, and don’t let a lack of knowledge scare you away. Go get the knowledge,” Monson said.
A very early key to success is making sure the chosen brand, the franchisor, is supportive. After all, the growth of a franchise should be paramount to a brand’s strategy, she added.
Monson then shared an anecdote of how one of her franchises secured a huge display signage deal — one that would push his $900,000 revenue to $3 million in just 18 months.
“We sent a team and helped him change his workflow and helped him attain the equipment he would need. We gave him that support because the growth potential was there,” she said, adding, “I like knowing I’m making a difference in people’s lives.”
All the panelists acknowledged that running a brand or franchise isn’t all happy days and warned there will be some down days. A good strategy to deal with those times is to reach out to an advisory board or reach out to those you’ve networked with for support.
“I’ve reached out to the board to get a pat on the back, to help solve some business problems. I focus on reaching out to positive people,” said Sun.
One reason women like the franchise opportunity is the flexibility provided for those with families, noted the panel. It can help ease the day care scenario and stress in trying to balance all the moving parts in running a business.
And while there are learning curves and obstacles, none on the panel would make a different decision than the one to work in the franchise industry.
“Not everything will be a win, but you learn from it,” said Sun. “You can learn anything if you put your heart into it.”