Finding the Right Co-pilot to Run a Successful Business

So often, life partners go into franchising together.

Most are making huge career changes and knowing that their spouse is right there with them is a crutch that provides the confidence they need to achieve success. But, what about those opening a franchise alone – with their spouse staying focused on their own career? When I went into business as a sole franchise owner, the only fear I had was the unknown of what it would take to be my own boss. I would soon learn that investing in my own business wasn’t the hard part. Rather, it was finding the right support team within the franchise and—most importantly—finding the “yin to my yang” in a manager to help me run my business.

Following the Right Franchise System

I served as a police officer for eight years before becoming a franchisee of Once Upon A Child®, which is franchised by Winmark Corporation. I stumbled upon the franchise opportunity when a friend involved in my local church, who owned the Sacramento Once Upon A Child, mentioned that I would make a great store owner of the kid-focused resale concept. When I was ready for a career change, I went back to her to see if the opportunity was still on the table. I had zero retail experience and had never owned my own business, so I knew I would have to rely heavily on the franchisor. Though I was uneasy about my lack of knowledge on how to run a retail store, I knew the concept would do well locally since it’s already well known in the area.

A vital step in finding the right franchise to invest in is doing as much research on the franchise as possible. Look into the business model, seek out the success stories, talk to existing franchisees and visit as many locations to see how they operate. I chose to become part of the Sell.Buy.Repeat.® concept because I believe in their method and saw proof that their strategic road map works. Often people make the mistake of trying to create their own version of the system and take their own cuts and turns along the way.  However, if you’ve done the homework and have seen the formula, stick to the key ingredients. Follow the set plan, have key employees and have your finger on the pulse of the business at all times.

Being Honest About Your Capabilities and Finding the Perfect Match

Once I decided to take over the nearby Once Upon A Child store in January 2010, I was faced with the harsh reality that I am only one person and I needed a solid Manager if I didn’t want to run myself into the ground. In life, always know what you can bring to the table and be honest with your skill sets and capabilities.

When you know what your co-pilot is capable of and what you can do, you can distribute the proper roles and the progressive wheel of productivity will turn with ease.  When looking for the right sidekick, you want to seek someone that has a heart for the concept and is willing to work toward the same end goals. You both have to be invested and with that, comes trust. When teaming up with a manager, you’re expecting them to match your involvement level and you have to be willing to hand over a lot. If you’re micromanaging and hesitant to loosen up the reins, the partnership is going to be strained and/or fail before even giving it a fair chance.

When you know what is on the line, you want to be selective in picking the most compatible manager that picks up where you lack. If you’re exceptional at administrative work, then find someone who is strong on the operational side. Even if you’re good at balancing both, you will quickly risk spreading yourself too thin and putting your business in harms way.

In addition, it’s important to select someone whose skill sets match the business. Retail is an extremely inventory heavy industry, so I sought out someone with inventory management experience and strong customer relations. In this business, you can’t sell what’s not on the sales floor and excellent customer service is essential.

The Growth and Future

A reliable franchisor, quality employees, a trustworthy manager and the willingness to follow the system will get your franchise where it needs to be. When I took over the existing business, the annual sales were $325,000 a year. After the first year, we were up to $525,000. Within a five-year span, we became the first Once Upon A Child in California to hit $100,000 in one month as well as the first to reach the $1 million benchmark. I know the store can surpass that number, especially if the retail space gets expanded; the more floor space, the more inventory.

Mo Castro is a Once Upon A Child franchisee in Sacramento, Calif. With more than 325 franchised stores in the United States and Canada, the franchise leads the nation in the buying and selling of quality, gently used children’s apparel, baby equipment, footwear, books, toys and more. Once Upon A Child is franchised by Winmark Corporation, which also franchises Play It Again Sports®, Plato’s Closet®, Style Encore®, and Music Go Round®.

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