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Friendly Franchising

You know 'em. You trust 'em. Why not start a business with 'em?

Ah, the lemonade stand-the first beacon of the entrepreneurial spirit, bringing playmates together in pursuit of profits and the American dream. It's a heartwarming memory . . . until you think of the best friend turned bossy partner that soured the deal.

For franchisees Pam Chesney, 44, and Jill Kurowski, 39, it's different. The two friends opened their first Jersey Mike's submarine-sandwich franchise in 1998 in Nashville, Tennessee. They've since added a second location and plan to open a third this fall. Against conventional advice warning against partnering with friends, they've found business success with their friendship. "This is someone you'll have to work with every day. It's crucial that you really like and trust them," says Kurowski.

Jeff Elgin, president of FranChoice Inc., an Internet-based franchise referral network, agrees. "The secret to success is upfront communication that provides clear expectations of exactly what each [partner] will be contributing to the business' success," he says. "Most franchisors encourage partnerships among friends if the combination fills a need and they believe the friends will make stable partners."

To prevent potential problems, Chesney and Kurowski set up an agreement detailing all expectations for the franchise. "It worked better for us this way-there aren't any hidden agendas or secrets. If we don't communicate with each other about the good, the bad and the ugly, we're going to have bigger problems down the line," explains Chesney. "The best part about our partnership is that we know each other so well. If one of us is having a down day, the other is there to pick up the slack."

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This article was originally published in the June 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Friendly Franchising.

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