Fact: Most people dream about being their own boss at some point in their lives. That said, the thought is usually fleeting and typically comes to mind after a long day at work or tough conversation with the boss. Career frustrations aside, this idea has materialized more among young adults who have been forced to adopt a more entrepreneurial spirit after entering the workforce during one of the most difficult economic periods in recent history. The passionate millennial generation (also known as Generation Y) sees the opportunity to start a business as a learning experience that teaches them to be creative and nimble.
For those who have the courage and persistence it takes to make this dream a reality, several options are available from freelancing, to consulting, to building a startup from scratch. However, another path to becoming your own boss -- and one that may not come to mind right away -- is to open a franchise. The perk: he groundwork has already been laid by a trusted brand. The potential downfall: Not everyone is cut out to launch a business, even with the support network of a franchise.
From one entrepreneur who started at a young age to others who might be considering the same move, here are three pieces of advice to consider before signing the franchise paperwork.
But first, why should you believe me? Long story short, at the age of 24 I purchased my first franchise with Batteries Plus Bulbs, the nation’s only franchise/retailer for batteries, light bulbs and smartphone/tablet repairs. Thirteen years later, I’m now the proud owner of three stores, one of which has the highest sales performance in the entire company.
1. Be a pusher.
Even though franchise ownership requires a financial investment up front, you need to ditch the “I bought myself a job” mindset. Think bigger than that or you will always be working in your business and not on your business.
In addition, you need to invest a little more in the beginning to gain a lot in the long run. For example, paying employees extra to extend store hours, until sales ramp up, might be necessary. Don’t be afraid of the initial investments because, if done right, they will pay off.
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I meet many new business owners who are hyper-focused on things like inventory accuracy, cost reduction to serve commercial accounts and lowering the amount of electricity their store uses each month. None of this is important in the beginning. The focus must be singular: Generate as much revenue as you can, and everything else will eventually fall into place. Saving your way to prosperity doesn’t work with a franchise business model. There is so much opportunity to be had, and it must be seized as early and as often as possible.
Lastly, remember that you have a built-in support system with a franchise. You’ll receive training, toolkits and all kinds of resources to help you be as successful as possible so you don’t have to face new business challenges alone.
2. Troll the marketplace to create breakthroughs.
The ability to recognize opportunity is an important quality to have when starting a franchise. For example, identifying a consumer need in your market and how you can fulfill that need will lead to long-term success. How do you do this? Find a retail industry or category that interests you and talk to other franchise owners in the area to understand what has driven growth and the challenges they have faced, as well as key learnings.
Once your franchise is up and running, the opportunities are endless if you to continue to stay relevant. Understand your market and its demographics to keep up with the latest consumer trends, monitor competitor initiatives and always swap knowledge with employees and customers to continue learning about your business.
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I constantly push myself to advance my business based on industry trends and ever-changing customer needs by taking advantage of new products and services the franchise offers. For example, when I opened my first Batteries Plus Bulbs store, we only sold batteries. Fortunately, our product base continued to evolve. Beyond batteries, the franchise now sells light bulbs (including LED) and has opened We Fix It Repair Centers within the stores for device repair and battery installation service. These changes have brought education opportunities for me and my employees that have allowed us to progress from a battery company to a company that focuses on technology-based product innovations and services.
3. Always be learning.
Knowing the first year will be the hardest and that owning a franchise will require a steep learning curve is imperative. No matter how much experience you have in related fields or running someone else’s business, nothing prepares you for the first time the buck stops with you.
As the business becomes larger, you realize it’s no longer just about you but also -- and even more so -- your employees. The key is to continue providing paths for them (and you) to learn and thrive. Without this mindset, your business will either stagnate or implode.
If you’ve read this far, you know that starting your own franchise takes sacrifice, persistence and determination to become profitable and then sustain that profitability over a long period of time. However, with the right outlook and attitude in the first year, the ability to spot and take advantage of opportunities, and the willingness to continue learning year after year, the satisfaction of being able to rely on yourself and reach your personal and professional goals will be worth it.