Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email ktaylor@entrepreneur.com.

Every high school sports team needs a coach if they ever want to win a game. James Thomson is one of those coaches, but not the kind who wears a whistle around his neck. He's a fundraising coach for NFP Sports, a franchise that specializes in raising money for high school sports teams. Here's his insight into how to run your own franchise. 

Name: James Thomson

Franchise owned: NFP Sports in East Connecticut Territory

How long have you owned a franchise?

I have owned a franchise for a total of three years. I made the decision to become a franchisee in 2010 and it became official in 2011.

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Why franchising?

Franchising allows you to be in business for yourself but not by yourself. Additionally, it allows franchisees to build their individual businesses while growing the value and equity in the brand overall.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I was running the high school sports fundraising business as an independent company as part of a dealer model.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

We were established in the high school sport fundraising industry as an independent dealer and found ourselves in the unique position of our parent company going under. With that parent company going out of business, there was no company in the high school sports fundraising industry that offered a proven structure and fine-tuned systems that ensured stability and long-term success. Taking that into consideration, we made the tough (yet inspiring!) decision to make NFP Sports the first franchise system in our industry, and I became a franchisee myself.

How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

As NFP Sports’ first franchisee, we didn't have to pay an up-front franchise fee, but we were responsible for paying royalties and ad fund contributions – something very new for us after our experience as an independent dealer. As a new NFP Sports franchisee, we paid over $20,000 between royalties and ad fund contributions, in addition to paying an estimated $5,000 on all new forms and collaterals with new branding on them.

Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?

For us at NFP Sports, we relied on the iFranchise Group.  Since we were already running a successful business that we were looking to franchise, we wanted to make sure we understood what franchising was all about. With their guidance, we were able to jump into the franchise reality with our eyes open. They helped us understand how to successfully navigate the new reality of being both a franchisor and franchisee – very important considering both designations come with very different responsibilities!

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What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

The biggest struggle was focusing on execution versus innovation. As an independent business owner, you're always trying to come up with the newest idea. In a franchise system, you are assured that the ideas have been vetted and focusing on executing the plan is the surest way to succeed. As the franchisor, we’ve been working hard to retain our innovative cap and help move the brand forward. However, as a franchisee in a local territory, it’s been important for us to become the example the rest of our NFP Sports franchisees can follow. Balancing both has been a rewarding challenge!

What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?

If you want to own a business and work for yourself without shouldering all of the risk by yourself, a franchise is definitely the way to go. Choosing the right franchise opportunity is the key. You should find one that fits your interests and long term personal and business goals. Many franchise systems offer a great return on your investment, but if you don't enjoy the business you may lose interest and burn out over time. That’s what’s great about NFP Sports. Our franchise opportunity is most definitely a business for which so many people can have a passion. Clearly, there’s the sports element, but there’s also a very strong community service and child development/teaching element that attracts a wide variety of candidates looking to realize their dreams of business ownership.

What's next for you and your business?

There is a tremendous amount of growth available to us in our existing market. On top of that, the national NFP Sports brand is working on some exciting initiatives that could potentially create massive opportunities to grow sales and increase profitability in local markets. As a franchisee, we look to be on the front end of those initiatives and do our part to make the most of them.

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