First Financial CEO Cindy Watson Urges Women to Seize Opportunities in Franchising

Watson Believes Women Succeed in Franchising Because They are Realistic About Risk

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First Financial CEO Lucinda “Cindy” Watson describes the franchise industry as a gold mine of opportunity for women. She built her career by walking clients through the complex SBA loan process to secure capital and has seen many female franchisees achieve satisfying careers and financial independence.   

Watson co-founded Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based First Financial in 1997; it makes loans of up to $5 million for start-ups, purchases of existing businesses, working capital and equipment leases. She is the majority owner of First Financial and director of its SBA Division. She has dubbed herself First Financial’s SBA guru.

Watson theorizes that women soar in the franchise industry partly because “they tend to be more realistic about business risks. Franchise opportunities offer a relatively low-risk profile compared to traditional start-ups because their products and services are already established. After 10 years, a franchise is five times more likely to still be in business than an independent start-up.” 

“I advise women to speak up
and express themselves and see the value of their opinions.
They should never hesitate to use their voices.”  

Watson believes women’s psychological makeup may give them a business advantage. “I once heard that you shouldn’t expose your feelings at work because it demonstrates weakness, especially coming from a woman,” but Watson disagrees. “I see emotion, passion and compassion as valuable assets, not things to be ignored or hidden. They should utilize their experience, knowledge and emotions to lead their companies.”  

Empowering Women in Franchising

First Financial supports women in many ways, Watson says, and she frequently goes the extra mile to help a sister entrepreneur. “When I meet with female franchisees, I like to educate them on their financing options. Education is empowerment, and empowered women empower others. I advise women to speak up and express themselves and see the value of their opinions. They should never hesitate to use their voices.”  

Empowerment intertwines with Watson’s mantra, which is: Learn how to say yes. Be receptive to new ideas and explore ways to make them work, she says. “This does not mean you implement every idea, but by being open to new ideas and working through them, your team members will come to you with their best thinking. The more ideas you kill with no, the fewer ideas you will receive.”

Watson advises female entrepreneurs to “find a strong network of women and run ideas and concepts past one another. One favorite quote, from Muhammad Ali Jinnah, is, “There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women.” Watson urges women to “actively pursue what you want from your jobs and careers. Don’t wait for it to come to you.”    

For more information, visit First Financial. To contact Watson, email or call 1-800-956-7313.

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Mary Vinnedge is an award-winning writer who has served as editor in chief, managing editor and senior editor at national and regional publications, including SUCCESS and Design NJ magazines. A seasoned journalist, Mary covers the latest industry news in her role as staff writer for FranchiseWire.
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