True Confessions

Hats For Every Occasion

For most, being a franchisee means rolling up your sleeves and getting down to business. It means setting that alarm for 5 a.m. to get the store ready for the morning rush, cracking open the phone book and making cold calls for five hours straight, and skipping dinner with your family to pull together a last-minute proposal for a crucial client.

"Probably the most important characteristic of a franchisee is a [strong] work ethic," says Calvin Haskell Jr., president of Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based franchise advisory company Franchise Solutions. "It's the ability to get up and, day after day, work harder than you've ever worked before."

As a franchisee, you'll need to put your entrepreneurial drive to work to grow your business. And at no time will a franchisee work harder than during start-up. It's not unusual for new franchisees to pull 16-hour days, including weekends. Often, new franchisees handle sales, marketing, accounting, hiring and much more all by themselves. And for those who mistakenly think buying a franchise means customers will just roll in with little to no effort on their part, the harsh reality often kicks in-quickly.

After working in an office job for just over one year, 25-year-old computer science graduate John Brown was yearning to be out on his own. So in 1994, he purchased a franchise from Union, New Jersey-based Oil Butler. Today, Brown's Charleston, West Virginia, homebased mobile oil-changing business services about 70 accounts with the help of one part-time and two full-time employees as well as three family members who provide part-time assistance. While changing oil and checking tire pressure isn't something he relishes, Brown says he knows that's what it takes to succeed-and he plans to continue the grueling routine.

"It's really tough some days," Brown admits. "You're on call 24 hours a day, and sometimes you wake up early in the morning, it's pouring rain, and you really wonder why you're doing this. But I know that in the end, it will all pay off."

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This article was originally published in the January 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: True Confessions.

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