The Care and Nurturing of a Franchise Whale

Whale:  A term borrowed from the casino industry and often applied to the segment of franchise owners that own, or have recently liquidated, large portfolios of existing franchise units.

These are the experienced players, the proven performers, that have worked a persistent plan of unit and portfolio growth.  They own what some might call a franchise “empire.” Their experience covers site selection, unit construction, new store openings, marketing, sales, managing teams in single units and multiple units as well as managing their people in diverse brands and geographies. 

In other words, they are the most experienced and capable in the franchisee universe. And for most of them the idea of growing is a current goal, they are not resting on their laurels!

But what do these most capable players require to continue finding success?

While they manage their team well, and the franchise brands they work with deliver the value they promised, the challenge becomes growing their portfolio in a way that does not upset what they have already built.  There is no shortage of optimistic sales pros looking to sell whatever brand they represent to a capable buyer and these candidates are on every radar screen.  Part of their daily activity becomes fending off the incoming barrage of sales attempts.

But they still need to grow…

The key for these operators is to find advisors that provide quality input and advice without a sales agenda.  Someone that understands what they do, how it works and what comes next.  Finding someone that can determine the ways a new business unit can dovetail into their portfolio and identify the next steps for these operators is a big challenge.  Few people operate at their level; there are fewer that can develop growth plans at their level from the outside.

I work with franchise candidates at all levels but serving the goals of these larger operators is a fun and challenging part of my regular weekly activities. 

The first step I take when meeting these operators is building trust, getting to know them and their business.  I can’t help them grow if I don’t know where they are, what they have, how it works and what their goals are. 

In these conversations I have to deliver value with no regard for selling something to them.  If they need resources, I deliver them.  If they need contacts, I deliver them.  A new funding source?  Done.  If I don’t have what they need at the tip of my fingers, then I will see if I can get to it through my network and relationships.

My role for the past 20 years in the industry is as a “Franchise Superconnector.” My first goal is to build value by solving problems and helping people pursue goals, whether or not what they need is how I make money.

For all of our franchise candidates we watch the entire franchise industry.  That big radar screen is filled with a barrage of opportunities that need to be sorted through and evaluated based on quality, experience, capability and market demand.  Additionally, we watch a number of skilled franchisor operatives to see where they are at any given point in time as they are difference makers and can influence the coming years for a franchise brand.  We also pay attention when those operators depart a brand.

Our candidates that have not yet achieved whale status sometimes wonder what our larger candidates are buying and if they get a better deal.

Put simply, they are often largely looking at the same businesses that the single unit buyers are considering, just more of them.  The deal they get is often an extension of the prepackaged multi-unit programs already in most FDD’s.

Here are the key differences we see in working with whales:

  • They are not afraid to engage franchisors
  • They ask more questions
  • They are decisive
  • They call, email and text us, a lot!
  • They follow processes well, though theirs may look somewhat different than yours
  • They are more focused on the “fit” of their next move than brand or industry
  • They worry less about what other people think
  • They focus a lot on the quality of the franchisor’s executive team
  • They are thinking 5, or more, years out
  • Before buying a franchise they already want to have an idea of what acquisition might come after that
  • Nearly all started with 1 unit at some point, but they started with big goals

All candidates come to me looking to solve problems.  For the first-time buyer, it may be solving not having control of their income or employment.  For the experienced multi-unit owner if may be seeking a sensible growth plan.

With the right team around you the biggest goals you can imagine are something you can pursue.

What is your success story?  Let’s go find it!

George Knauf is a highly sought after, trusted advisor to many companies; Public, Independent and Franchised, of all sizes and in many markets. His 20 plus years of experience in both start-up and mature business operations makes him uniquely qualified to advise individuals that have dreamed of going into business for themselves in order to gain more control, independence, time flexibility and to be able to earn in proportion to their real contribution. Contact the Franchising USA Expert George’s Hotline 703-424-2980.

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