Multi-Unit: Building Franchisee Skill Sets: Franchisors must test franchisees' ideas and protect their best interests to gain long-term respect.

Author:Baber, Tom

Evolving from a single- to a multi-unit operator has its obvious challenges. The skill sets are different and the need to develop and train talent becomes not just important, but essential. One obviously cannot be in multiple places and fill multiple roles at the same time. It would be an amazing thing if one could do so, and not have to manage all those other people.

The first lesson I had to learn was that those "other people" are not going to be you, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. What can be a tough pill to swallow for some of us "strong, capable, sure of ourselves" people is that sometimes, other people have better ideas and maybe even a smarter way to do things. "Checking the ego" is not always easy, but the magic lies in knowing when to stand firm, and when to listen and adapt.


When I started my Money Mailer franchise 24 years ago, I had already been exposed to a variety of small businesses, and a nice gentleman approached me about an ad. I inquired about his business and how it worked. Quickly, I realized that handling just one side of the business--sales and design--was better than handling it all--fulfillment, delivery, support, and so on. Needing to handle only one part allowed for tremendous focus. The set-up of a company handling the back end--my first exposure to franchising--resonated very well with me, and off I went. As I developed clients, I started to learn about each of their businesses and realized there was a common theme among those that were expanding. Let's call that my first multi-unit exposure.

Whether it was a second retail location or a contractor moving from one crew to two or more, the struggles were similar, and the results were spotty. Some figured it out and built big businesses, and others made less money doing a whole lot more volume with the associated workload and headaches, while wishing they could turn back the clock.

Were there common themes? What made one work and one fail? There were some businesses that were easier to multiply than others, but that is not what stood out to me. First, there were the obvious skill set issues mentioned previously, such as hiring, people development, system development, and avoiding micromanaging--something more aptly defined as controlling every part of the business or process. And, most importantly, there was the need to allow for and absorb ideas that are not your own, when appropriate (that "magic"). Without all or most of these traits...

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