Why Mentoring Programs Work Express Personnel Services finds the best teachers are current franchisees.

By Devlin Smith

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

To help franchisees, some of whom have no prior entrepreneurial experience, various franchises are creating mentoring programs. These programs match new and prospective franchisees with experienced operators, who can teach them all the ins and outs of running a business.

Franchise Zone spoke with Linda C. Haneborg, international vice president of marketing/communications for Express Personnel Services, about Express' mentoring program.

Franchise Zone: Can you describe Express' mentoring program?

Linda C. Haneborg: It's actually unofficially been in existence for about 13 years, and it's done several different ways. The best example of our mentoring is through what we call the developer program-these mentors are currently either franchisees or have been Express franchisees in the past, so they very much have the hands-on experience and history to mentor others.

Do all your franchisees have to have a mentor?

Not necessarily. I'm sure some of them have done it informally, as we have a very strong network of fellow franchisees who help each other tremendously. But it's not a structured program, per se.

Have you compared the success rates of those who have and have not had mentors?

No, we haven't. But I know overall our franchisees who do work with the developers are extremely pleased with the experience.

What are some benefits of these mentoring programs to new franchisees?

Often, experience is the best teacher. It helps tremendously to be able to work with someone whose problems and successes you can relate to.

People in the program are relating to someone who's been there, done that and, therefore, has tremendous insight into different ways of building the business for that new franchisee. The mentor can tell the franchisee what works and what doesn't. He or she is also a great person to bounce ideas off of and help them try a new or different way of doing something.

How does the mentoring program benefit the mentor?

Since the mentor is a solidified part of the Express family or Express system, certainly they're happy to see someone coming in with an improved chance of success.

What are some issues franchisees discuss with their mentor?

Their business plan, the actual running of their business-even specifics such as how to set up their office and the cost of the equipment. A mentor's suggestions can make a big difference to a franchisee's start-up costs and their bottom line.

When prospective franchisees are deciding between franchise opportunities, do mentoring programs come into play?

We don't advertise it, so it's not something that necessarily draws prospective franchisees in. It is, however, mentioned during the discovery process, and when people hear about it, they do consider it an added value.

Many [prospective franchisees] hear about it as part of our Total Career Path program, in which employees of a franchisee or of headquarters are selected and mentored by either their supervisor or the franchisee. After they meet a series of qualifications, they're eligible to become a franchisee themselves.

Should prospective franchisees ask whether a mentoring program is offered?

That's an excellent idea. Anything a prospective franchisee can take advantage of to help them to ramp up faster in the business is a plus. Having the opportunity to work with someone who has had proven success in that particular franchise system falls under that category.

What's one example of a successful mentoring relationship?

We have an interesting situation in which our first franchisee, who is today a developer for us, has a son who was an Express employee. Now he's a multiple franchisee. So the parent, a developer, mentored a successful employee, who in turn became a successful franchisee.

Are mentoring programs a good idea for all types of franchises?

I can't think of one that wouldn't be. There has to be opportunity for face-to-fact input and relationships in order for mentoring to really work.

We've found mentoring programs can be very valuable in any association, or at any level. Our franchisees tend to really listen to franchisees who have been successful and have had similar challenges.

Wavy Line

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