10 Tips to Go From Employee to Boss, From Franchisees Who Did It
"Did I want to take my future into my own hands, or did I want to leave it to someone else?"
As a former warehouse worker, Matt Black took the leap from employee to boss when he became a franchise owner of Authority Brands' Benjamin Franklin Plumbing.
"I had to make a decision," Black says. "Did I want to take my future into my own hands, or did I want to leave it to someone else?"
Black purchased the location from its previous owner, who had been his boss for nearly 20 years. Originally hired in 2000 — with no plumbing experience — he handled purchasing and change orders for the warehouse and quickly built a reputation for creating efficient, valuable systems. Black was promoted through the ranks — from service manager to general manager — before the owner approached him about acquiring the company in 2019.
With support from Benjamin Franklin Plumbing's franchise consultants, Black is optimistic about the future. "We exceeded [our five-year] plan and met our goals in three years," he says.
Ten franchisees with similar experiences to Black weighed in on the crucial steps it took them to make the jump from employee to boss. The one thing they all have in common? They spent years as employees before transitioning into the role of franchisee.
From operating with a no-fear mindset to finding great mentors, these bosses are dishing on everything you should know to reach franchise success.
Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now and take this quiz to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.
1. Embrace the employee experience
"Learn as much as possible, grow [your] knowledge of the industry and stay up-to-date on the latest technologies. Becoming an owner requires a leap of faith, so it's important to find something that you have an interest in," says Jeff Hartsfield, a franchisee with Pinch A Penny who spent 17 years as an employee before he jumped into franchise ownership.
"Starting a business will consume a lot of your time, so I would advise finding a company that aligns with your values. I personally know several Pinch A Penny franchise owners that have transitioned from an employee role, and each has been successful," he adds.
2. Operate with a no-fear mindset
"Fear will hold you back to your day-to-day job and what is comfortable and predictable," says franchisee Michelle Amacker with American Family Care. "Stepping outside of your comfort zone and taking calculated risks — paired with the right team — is the recipe for success. Surround yourself with people who have done it, and learn everything you can from them."
Related: Busting Franchising Myths and Choosing the Right Opportunity
3. Data is key
"Consider the data that exists to support the industry you're looking to invest in. For example, seek out recently published data about the trends and challenges in the automotive industry or restaurant/food service industries, if those are the franchise concepts you are interested in," says Lisa Marie Swiatkowski, a franchisee with BrightStar Care. "Industry data will help you determine your new business' five-year plan, projected growth strategy and opportunities and challenges that exist in the marketplace. It will also help determine how fast the industry you're interested in is growing or transforming."
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4. Feed your passion and prepare for leadership
"All franchisors have a business model that makes money, but are you passionate about their industry? And can you be good at it? And do the franchisees love them? Interview franchisees for different companies and find out if they love their franchisor," says Matt Tibbetts, a franchisee with Express Employment Professionals.
"I did my best to master every job in the franchise as an employee," Tibbetts adds. "Studying in advance and becoming ready to step into leadership was key. I knew that I had to set the vision, set the culture and set the tone when I became a leader. And because I had a clear vision of how each job needed to be executed, I could coach our team to success."
5. Find great mentors
"Spend time with other people who have worked with the company for an extended amount of time," says Emily Gray of Chicken Salad Chick, who worked her way from an entry-level restaurant position to franchisee. "I took advantage of learning from the best while I was working inside the company, and I took the knowledge they had to share with me to heart."
"You will be inspired by their passion and by how smoothly their stores run," she adds. "Having the right support system around you is key, so start by finding an amazing team to work with, and knowing who you can go to when you have questions or need help. Then be that person for the next new franchisee."
Related: The 4 Biggest Myths About Franchising
6. Look for advancement opportunities
"Find the brand that you are in sync with. Look into their core mission, vision and education opportunities," says Tiffany Hook, a franchisee with Hand & Stone. "Some of the reasons why I chose Hand & Stone were because of the education they offered and the schedule flexibility. The vendors that we are partnered with offer amazing incentives for our service providers, and they provide an excellent source of education. There is always something new to learn or a way to advance your career. I was both a massage therapist and esthetician prior to opening my own location, and that past experience shows my employees that they don't have to remain stagnant in their careers and that there is room for growth within the company."
7. Be ready to put in the hours
"To become an owner, you never stop working. I am technically always on the clock because I am always looking for opportunities for the business to grow," says Caley Bergeron, franchise owner of STOP Restoration. "You can make all the money in the world, but if you are miserable doing it you won't ever feel satisfied."
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8. Lean on support
"Finding a franchise that has the resources in place to support you is very important. I already loved working for Always Best Care, so I knew once I was owner, I would be able to lean on the franchise for more support with the resources they had available," says Samantha Loy of Always Best Care.
"I also think it's very important to look for a franchise that adapts to changes and growth within the industry and the marketplace," she says. "Whether that's changes in technology, labor or adjusting metrics to help you manage your business data, being nimble and in tune with the changing times is vital."
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9. Don't be afraid to ask questions
"If I had to narrow it down, the single most important thing I did was ask questions. I truly began to understand the ins and outs of operating a franchise business when I asked colleagues, our leadership team, fellow franchisees, and even franchisees of other brands questions. Asking too many questions is better than asking none at all," says Nick Ransom, franchisee of Playa Bowls.
10. Be proud
"I think society has put an age on career growth, but I was determined to never stop improving my position. [As a franchisee], not only do you represent the franchise, but the franchise now represents you. It has to be something you are proud to tell your friends and family about," says Tiwana Davis of The Cleaning Authority.
Related: Owning a Franchise Could Be Your Fastest Route to Business Ownership. Here's What You Need to Know to Succeed.