As important as maintaining the expectations of the franchisor is understanding exactly what you want from the franchise. This is a timeless truth--no matter what the state of the economy. "To be a successful franchisee, you should always have very clearly defined personal goals," Tunmire says. "A business is simply a vehicle to help you achieve the quality of life you want, and that has to start with fully understanding what you really want."
Your personality can also influence whether you're going to succeed at franchising. "Franchisees have to look in the mirror and go through a certain amount of introspection. They have to ask themselves one question: Am I willing to be part of a team, or am I looking to create something?" Kaplan says. "If they're mavericks with a need to create, to re-engineer, to express their own creativity, they should not go into franchising. These individuals make the worst franchisees possible."
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By being part of a franchise system, you not only have the support of the franchisor but also access to an entire network of other franchisees who may be experiencing the same challenges. Asking for their help and offering your own is good for everyone. "Why else would you buy a franchise if you didn't take advantage of that benefit?" says Karen Peterson. "That's what you're paying for, and it's one of the most crucial elements of success."
Tapping into this network can save time and headaches. "If you're buying a franchise, information is available from the franchisor and all the other franchisees, whether it's about employees, marketing or technical issues," says Bill Peterson, 48. "If I have a technical question I think the franchisee in Dallas can answer, I take advantage of that."
What's the one key ingredient to franchise success in 2003? Everyone has their own ideas, but franchisee strength seems to come from a combination of a few essentials. "I wouldn't say there's one way to be a successful franchisee today. That's too narrow," says Whipple. "You have to have most of the package to make it work."