Learning From College-Age Franchise Owners

Higher Power

If cramming for finals is the most pressing item on your agenda, don't automatically rule out becoming a franchisee. Gough explains, "For Juice It Up!, if franchisees have the financial capability and broad business experience, that's good. We don't expect any industry-specific experience." The most important factors for promising Juice It Up! candidates are the right background and attitude.

Gough says someone can learn how to manage the finances of a franchise like Juice It Up! without a business degree or an accounting background, but he recommends that franchisees have a legal representative as well as some kind of financial consultant or accountant. The biggest challenge for younger franchisees who don't have a lot of experience is working with employees. "Managing people is critical," says Gough.

Smith was only 21 when he purchased the Cypress location in 1998; he had his father and his father's wife sign on as partners, though he was the owner/operator. His father, who had recently retired as president of a shipping and transportation company, helped Smith handle the paperwork and some financial aspects of the business. "I was good at running the operations," says Smith, "but I wasn't educated in [those areas]. He made sure everything was in order."

While working at a location of the franchise you're interested in does provide experience, be cognizant of the increased responsibilities that await you as owner. When Smith first ran the store as an owner, he had to make a few adjustments since he no longer had a superior to turn to. "I had to take care of any situation that arose, from the time I opened to the time I closed," says Smith. That included the unpleasant task of firing employees. His Cypress location employed many people who were either relatives or friends with each other, and Smith himself had worked with some of them as an employee. Though he admits firing someone for the first time was strange, he says, "It didn't really bother me. I knew it had to be done."

While Smith's operational challenges have been minimal, the work hasn't. Smith, with his partners, purchased a second location in Orange, California, in 1999. He's since hired a manager for his Orange location, but still spends time at both locations seven days a week. And even in his off hours, Smith is on call. "When someone calls in sick and it's a Friday night, I can't go out. Sometimes you have to sacrifice."

And when it comes to vacationing, Smith warns other young, would-be franchisees, "It's definitely hard to do. You have to have people you can trust to take care of your business while you're gone. If something goes wrong, you need to have someone there who can handle it, or get back in time to take care of it."

And don't let your youthful appearance fool anyone. Advises Smith, "Be firm, and stand up for yourself, because people might try to walk all over you."

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