Franchise Buying Guide

Uncommon Currency

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Like IHOP, Fastframe is seeking experience rather than financial strength in its prospective franchisees. This franchise differs, however, in that it gives its corporate and franchise employees the ability to work toward, rather than invest in, a store of their own. With a goal of keeping talented framers and designers in its system, Fastframe instituted its managing partner program in 1998, allowing corporate and franchise employees to earn shares in their stores.

The program is based on "the fact that there are a lot of good people in this industry, both designers and framers, and quite honestly there's not a great career ladder for them," explains Brian J. Harper, Fastframe's president and CEO. "We want to give them a [true] career opportunity."

Greg Fournier was an ideal candidate. Working as an employee of an Orange, California, Fastframe store for six years, Fournier became increasingly frustrated as his employer seemed to lose interest in the business. "I saw the potential of this store . . . and the lack of what [my boss] put into it. Everything I tried to do wasn't enough, because I wasn't the decision-maker," says Fournier, 30.

Fournier explained his situation to Fastframe, which informed him about the managing partner program. He put in a small sum of money to buy the store, and the franchise put up the rest. Fournier was given certain sales goals that, when achieved, would earn him an additional percentage of the business. He's currently earned 40 percent of the business from Fastframe and has become managing partner of a second store in Yorba Linda, California.

Without the managing partner program, Fournier is unsure where he'd be today. He agrees with Harper's sentiments, though, that he probably would have quit working at Fastframe. "I might have moved to a larger company where I could have overseen more people, but I wouldn't have been happy. I always wanted to own my own [business]," he says. "That's why this is such a great program. It's ideal if you lack the funds to [buy a franchise], but you have the knowledge and the ambition to do it."

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This article was originally published in the June 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Uncommon Currency.

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