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2014 Franchise 500

What I Wish I'd Known Before I Franchised My Company

What I Wish I'd Known Before I Franchised My Company
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Considering franchising your company? In this business, you'd better be ready to listen to others' experiences.

Franchisors agree that individuals looking to franchise their businesses should look to established voices in the franchising business to find out how they became successful. "The best way to learn is to learn from others' success," says Marie DeNicola, founder of women's apparel franchise Mainstream Boutique.

Here, four franchisors have revealed their most important pieces of advice for business owners who are considering franchising - advice they wish they'd been told when they first entered the business.

Looking for opportunities in franchising? Our 35th Annual Franchise 500 ranking reveals the impact of the newest trends and the industries poised for growth.

1. Create a strong brand story.

Eric Ersher, founder and CEO of Zoup!, a soup-centered restaurant chain featured on Entrepreneur's 2014 Franchise 500 list

"One of the things that is really important is having clarity around the purpose or values of your brand," says Ersher, who founded the soup-centric chain after identifying a lack of high-quality soup on the market. "Having a really clear brand story and having that as a way to community the company values and culture."

Zoup! franchisees all learn the brand's founding story, which ties soup together with wellbeing, comfort and family. "A strategic and an authentic culture, a deliberate and positive culture is very often something businesses often do not use as a tool," says Ersher.

Related: Entrepreneur's Top 10 Franchising Articles in 2013

2. Realize you're going to need new skills - and new help.

Marie DeNicola, CEO and founder of Mainstream Boutique, a direct-sales company selling apparel and clothing, also featured on Entrepreneur's 2014 Franchise 500 list

"My passion for fashion is my core business," says DeNicola. "But I've learned to structure my time differently. And, to be honest, I'm still learning." Transitioning from spending time running boutiques to managing franchisees required DeNicola to branch out, as well as find individuals who can take on new duties. "You can't do everything at once. Remember, it's an evolution."

Franchisors also have to remember that potential franchisees need more than just a love for fashion or the company. "What we thought in the early years was, 'let's find somebody who is really passionate about our product,' which isn't necessarily who will be a successful franchisor," says DeNicola. "Many early franchisors don't know how to choose franchisees... Now, we look for business-minded people."

3. Hold your franchisees to higher standards.

Scott Nelowet, CEO and founder of French Fry Heaven, the first gourmet fry franchise in the U.S.

The biggest mistake we made was taking on franchisees before knowing what we were looking for, says Nelowet, who has blogged about the fast growing fry franchise's "1,000 Terrible Ideas onthe Path to Massive Success." "When we first started the process we weren't ready yet. We knew all the legal, the business stuff, but we didn't really know what makes a good French fry franchisee."

For Scott, a key aspect of finding the right franchisees was maintaining the charitable service clause in the company. "There's a lot of corporations that I've seen that once a year would show up with a jumbo check, get some PR firm to publish it, and it stinks," says Scott. Focusing on franchisees who put actions behind their words, French Fry Heaven franchisees are required to donate time and food to charitable causes. "It is my belief that's what makes a quality person [and] a quality franchisee," Scott says. "That's our corporate culture, that's who we are. That's got to be represented in our behavior."

Related: Report: Franchise Establishments to Post Biggest Growth Since the Recession

4. Remember that franchising is a marathon, not a sprint.

Jason Rivera, CEO and co-founder of Phenix Salon Suites, a salon franchise featured on Entrepreneur's 2014 Franchise 500 list

"The biggest advice I could give is just to be very careful in who your franchise partners are going to be," says Reviera, who founded the first Phenix in 2003, and opened the first franchised unit in 2012. "Some companies get hooked on selling franchises... so it's more about quantity than quality of the business." Phenix Salon Suite has focused on building out its business with both single and multiunit franchisees and plans to hit 100 salons this year. "It's a marathon and not a sprint," says Rivera. 

Related: 7 Tips for Women Who Want to Own a Franchise

Kate Taylor is a staff writer for Entrepreneur.com.

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