As a franchise consultant, I like to start my relationship with candidates with some simple questions concerning their life goals and dreams. Why do you want to own a franchise? What do you hope it will do for you? How much money are you willing to invest? What skills do you offer to a franchisor?
Thought-provoking as these questions are for a franchise candidate, there’s another one that generally gets the most provocative responses: What did your spouse say when you said you were looking into franchising?
Too often, married people looking into franchising fail to let their spouse know what they’re up to by the time they’ve contacted me. They think that if their spouse won’t be involved in the franchise, then they don’t need to know until the time comes to seriously explore a franchise brand. Wrong!
Few speed bumps turn into brick walls faster than a nervous spouse who has been left out of the franchising process up until it’s time to visit the franchise’s company headquarters. Suddenly introducing a major life change -- complete with a suitcase and plane ticket -- is a recipe for disaster. For a franchise candidate seriously considering franchising, even if only in the exploratory phase, the time to talk to the spouse about it is right now. Here’s why:
This is a major life decision.
Not a career decision, a life decision. Making the leap from employee to entrepreneur will affect your entire family on many levels. Regular income from a paycheck may cease. Health care coverage could be interrupted. Savings and/or retirement accounts will be tapped. Loans will need to be secured. Time commitments will change, so family schedules will be adjusted. Becoming an entrepreneur is an exhilarating experience, but failing to adequately prepare your spouse for what’s to come will create unnecessary tension at home, which takes energy away from your business. Ensuring that your spouse is prepared for the new set of challenges and changes that come with small-business ownership puts them in the right frame of mind to handle this new chapter of your lives.
You’re going to be writing a big check.
No doubt you’ve heard this before, but money is the no.1 argument that couples have. In fact, a recent study by a professor at Kansas State University found financial arguments to be the top predictor of divorce. If you plan on buying a franchise, you’re going to be spending anywhere from five to six figures in start-up costs. Regardless of what percentage of your liquid assets or net worth it is, that’s a lot of money to be spending unilaterally. Odds are, you’re spending money that your spouse had plans for as well, whether they verbalized them to you or not. Engaging your spouse early allows both of you input in decisions. These decisions include how much money you’re willing to spend, how you plan to finance the purchase, if necessary, and how much money you need to retain for living expenses while you build your franchise towards profitability.
It avoids hurt feelings.
Saying goodbye to a 20–30-year career as an employee for the challenge of small-business ownership is a big change. You’re charting a new path for yourself and family. You’re breaking out of a comfort zone for the chance at something bigger and better. People who make that leap are experiencing something big internally. They’re ready to take control of their own destiny. They’re excited about the possibilities. It’s a new chapter, a rebirth. For your spouse to learn that you were experiencing something this big without their knowledge is an emotional shock. It can make them question how well they know you at all. Don’t take that risk. Share what’s happening with you early and engage them in your restlessness and excitement.
Your spouse will offer new perspective.
Think about how often you bring up an issue with your spouse and they immediately offer insight that you never considered. It’s probably one of the reasons you chose them as your life partner. Seeing an opportunity through your spouse’s eyes can give you an entire new outlook. They will see different angles, different opportunities and different issues you’ll want to consider. Plus, allowing them to offer their perspective gives them emotional buy-in on the opportunity. That level of engagement will help guide you towards making a good decision for both of you.
You’re going to need the emotional support.
Starting a business is stressful -- even a franchise business that includes a proven model of success and support system. Keeping your spouse engaged in the process allows them to ready themselves to be your sounding board, your counselor, your brainstorming partner and your comforter. The last thing you want to be dealing with during a stressful period in the franchising process is partner insecurities about feeling left out. The quicker you bring them in, the better you’ll feel about your decision.
You’re doing something wonderful!
Exploring a franchise business is something to be proud of. It says that you’re thinking about the future. You’re trying to take control of your work-life balance. You’re taking stock of your worth and realizing your potential is best served working for yourself. You’re considering the risks which is why you’ve chosen franchising over a start-up. You’re setting up a legacy to leave for your children. These are all positive things, so why wouldn’t you want to share the thrill of that with your life partner? Certainly, they will have some concerns, but sharing a genuine excitement for the opportunity to start your own business will allow your spouse to express those concerns constructively -- because they want you to succeed.