Why This Franchisor Invests in Franchisees Who Have No Experience Home Franchise Concepts CEO Shirin Behzadi knows what it's like to be underestimated -- so now, she gives everyone a fighting chance.
Shirin Behzadi knows the importance of being able to take care of yourself. As a teenager, she emigrated to the United States with her parents at the height of the Iranian Revolution and worked as a gas station cashier to help make ends meet. Today, she's the CEO of Home Franchise Concepts (HFC), a family of direct-to-consumer home improvement brands including Budget Blinds, Tailored Living and Concrete Craft, with 1,400 worldwide franchises. But her gas station experience still stays with her, driving a core mission at HFC: She wants to turn what she calls "everyday" entrepreneurs -- millennials, seniors, single parents, veterans and anyone else who may appear inexperienced on paper -- into business owners. To make it happen, her 25-year-old company offers in-classroom training, coaching, webinars and area meetings to help develop new franchisees.
How did your background prepare you for franchising?
Since I was 17, I've been working to support myself. During the chaos of the Iranian Revolution, many families' finances were frozen -- and mine was no exception. I know what it feels like to not have money. I know what it feels like to have to find ways to support yourself. And I know there's a way out. Franchising is the best of both worlds -- it allows individuals who have an entrepreneurial spirit to get into business, but it also allows them to take advantage of systems that are tried-and-true, like marketing, training and support. Even our purchasing power is extremely powerful -- we have folks who run around the world sourcing products and programs on behalf of our franchisees, because they get to negotiate on the collective whole of the system.
What are some ways the company empowers franchisees, especially if they're new to business?
As soon as a franchisee enters our system, we have what we call pre-classroom preparation -- essentially, reading assignments. Then we hold two-week training sessions here in Irvine, Calif., and we pay for our franchisees' hotel stays to make sure they're all taken care of. We teach them how to sell, how to install product, the A-to-Z of our business. After that two-week period, we have folks who provide post-classroom training locally. The first six months of business are critical. After that period, we stay up close and personal with coaching programs and webinars.
In effect, you're teaching people how to be leaders. Did you always believe you'd be one yourself?
If someone had asked me if I'd end up in home-improvement-related franchise systems, of course I couldn't have predicted that. But I knew at some point I'd create things for others. In school, I would always take some kind of a leadership position in any activity I could get my hands on, from drama club to choir. I liked solving problems, creating systems and managing and empowering people, providing opportunities for them to blossom. If you add all those things together, it's not unusual where I ended up.
HFC supports a lot of female franchisees. As a female CEO, what's your advice for other women in business?
I went through life -- and my work life -- really not focusing on the fact that I'm a woman. I was aware that I had to work harder and smarter than my peers. The key to unlocking my own power was to own it. You declare it. As women, we may not necessarily be as up-front when it comes to promoting our own strength. Over the years, I've gotten better at it. Every time I'm been faced with a decision, I always go back to my own core values and principles: trying to do right by others. I wake up every day and say, "Let's just do the right thing today." The rest of it will follow.