Q: I'm thinking about buying a franchise business, but I'm not sure what it takes to succeed as a franchisee. What are some of the characteristics or skills I need to increase my chances of success?

A: This is a marvelous question, and one of the most important things to focus on as you contemplate a move into franchising. There are five key characteristics that, more than any others, determine success as a franchisee. They are:

1. Risk aversion: Many people think that to succeed as a franchisee, you need to be a gambler. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you want to gamble, go to Vegas.

Successful franchisees are risk averse. They are willing to take some risk but want that risk to be as small and controlled as possible. Any business start-up involves some risk of failure, but a strong franchise with a proven track record of success will minimize this risk. Successful franchisees do their homework, so they know what they're getting into.

2. System orientation: Don't shy away from franchising because you assume you need a burning entrepreneurial spirit to become a franchisee. That's simply not true.

Entrepreneurs have an almost uncontrollable urge to reinvent the wheel based on their incredible confidence in their ability to figure out how things should be done to maximize results. Successful franchisees, on the other hand, want proven systems. They don't want to have to figure out the best way to do something. They want a system of operation that tells them the best way to do anything associated with the business. They are willing to learn from others to avoid making mistakes, so they can be more successful more quickly.

3. Coachability: The motto of franchising is "In business for yourself, not by yourself." Successful franchisees look for opportunities to learn from others in their franchise system. Their philosophy is: When in doubt, ask. They constantly ask advice of the franchisor support staff and other successful franchisees and follow the advice they get. They understand that they don't know all the answers and are willing to ask for help when they need it.

4. Hard-work affinity: Successful franchisees have a willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done. This attitude shows in their every action--putting in long hours, handling multiple tasks. No matter what franchise you're interested in, you can be sure it's going to take work to make it successful. The best franchisees know and accept that fact.

5. Strong people skills: Successful franchisees always have excellent interpersonal skills and can effectively interact with their employees and customers. They use these skills to create loyalty, value and trust. Though this characteristic is listed last, it's probably the most important of all.

As you review this list, be honest with yourself. Do you already have each of these characteristics? If not, can you focus on applying yourself to developing and effectively portraying these characteristics through your actions?

If the answer to either of these questions is yes, you're on your way to becoming a successful franchisee in your own right. As always, take the time to thoroughly investigate any franchise opportunity to make sure the track record is strong and dependable, and you'll be set.