“I don’t know what I don’t know.”
Back when I was a franchisee for a Major North American fast food brand, I remember thinking this about every five minutes or so. Needless to say, I became overwhelmed with what I didn’t know. Arguably, a remarkably difficult theory to grasp for just about anyone let alone a first-time franchisee.
Beyond overwhelmed soon became the norm. My franchisor appeared to be focused on quantity instead of quality and detailed step-by-step processes meticulously outlined well in advance. Perhaps too “in advance.” I remember learning about 85 ways to prepare for the Easter rush. What’s so overwhelming about that? The fact that it was only August and Easter was still nine months away may have contributed to my state of mind.
“Let us know if you have any questions.”
That’s how my franchisor’s support representative concluded virtually every one of our conversations. A noble gesture. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to ask questions I knew I didn’t know. Most importantly, if I had known what I didn’t know, I still would not have known where I was or where I needed to be in order to succeed.
For me, I began looking for reasons to not get out of bed in the morning. There seemed to be no point. I realized there was no master plan that was based on my personal goals. When I was investigating buying a franchise, no one mentioned “exit strategy” to me. There were plenty of “enter” strategies, just nothing I could focus on and works towards afterwards.
“Bite-Sized vs. Super-Sized.”
It was only after weeks of trial and error, and months of therapy that I realized it’s all about expectations and milestones. Specifically, incremental expectations and milestones. Understanding that even the longest journey begins with a first step, my journey to becoming a successful franchisee began with removing my pillow from my face and launching myself out-of-bed.
I learned I was overwhelmed because I could not see the tunnel, let alone the light at the end of it. I also learned I could handle bite-sized tasks that were associated with bite-sized goals. My business knowledge, my self-esteem and ultimately my success as a franchisee was based on simple math. Despite knowing there were 4,324 steps to follow to grow my business and I was only on step 8, I learned to focus on the next step and remove step 1,231 from my mind, at least for now. Before I knew it, I’d advanced ten steps and was able to pat myself on the back at each milestone.
“My ‘why’ became my light.”
Applying incremental expectations and milestones, I quickly found the tracks and ultimately I found the tunnel. However, I didn’t see the light until I sat down and mapped out where I wanted to be, or what I wanted to achieve after “x” increments. This gave me perspective. This fueled my drive to succeed. Indeed, it fueled my passion. My passion was formed through achieving incremental milestones I set for myself and recognizing my “why.” Taking care of my family, achieving a level of financial security, paying off my credit cards and covering my child’s’ college tuition: these became my why.
“The theory of relativity.”
Everything fell into place when I told fellow franchise owners how I got past feeling so overwhelmed that I practically could not get out of bed each day. I found out they too felt overwhelmed. They didn’t know anymore about what they didn’t know than I did. We sat down, adopted an incremental approach and compared notes and that’s when it finally made sense. We all had a point of reference, a relative understanding of where we stood compared to each other. Previously, none of us knew if we were doing well or not. Now, we had some level of understanding of how we were doing.
“Hindsight is 20/20.”
If I had to go back and do it again, find the tracks, the tunnel and the light, I would keep the following lessons in mind:
1 – Develop your exit strategy. Determine what you’d like to achieve and why. Your why should be your passion. It’s what drives you to take the first step. It’s what drives you to take the last step.
2 – Think in increments. A five-year exit strategy plan consists of 60 increments called months. Month three does not start until you’ve achieved your milestone for month two. Don’t get bogged down preparing for Easter when it’s still midsummer unless it’s part of the plan you’re applying at that time. Step 49 can wait until you’ve achieved step 48. There’s no sense in focusing too many steps ahead. It can be counterproductive and overwhelming.
3 – Pat yourself on the back. Each incremental milestone gets you one step closer to your why. That’s worthy of a pat on the back. Take a break. Take some time for yourself. Breathe.
4 – Focus on focus groups. Establish a focus group and online forum with other franchisees. Recognize that a) you are not alone; and b) that perspective and a relative understanding is critical to your setting and achieving incremental milestones.
5 – Continually re-motivate. Even when you’re targeting incremental milestones, there will be times when you wonder off track. Think of your why. Think of how you felt when you first thought of your why. Write your why down. Associate your why with an image, a drawing or a photo. Place the image you associate with your “why” on your computer monitor or refrigerator; any place that will remind you what it’s all about.
6 – Pay it forward. There’s almost nothing more motivating than the feeling you get when you give to others. Tell your story. Share your why with fellow franchisees. Help them to see their own light at the end of their tunnel.
About the Author:
Dan Martin, CFE is President & CEO of IFX Online (www.ifxonline.com), a Strategic Franchise Management Firm servicing 200+ franchise brands and 30,000+ franchisees since 1996. IFX’s Strategic Division and IFX’s Technology Division work hand-in-hand to assist franchise organizations in implementing key growth management strategies and applications designed to maximize operations and boost ROI.
Mr. Martin has 30 years of experience in franchising, serving in the roles of franchisee, Area Developer and Advisor. He has served on the International Franchise Assocation’s Board of Directors, Executive Committee, Membership Committee and Technology Committee. Mr. Martin was Chairman of the IFA’s Supplier Forum Advisory Board and is a Certified Franchise Executive.
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