What To Look For In An Operating Partner

The allure of franchising can be intoxicating. Many young people (fresh out of college or with very little business experience) see franchising as a logical shot at owning their own business. Franchising can also offer a fresh start following corporate downsizing. So long as the required financing can be worked out in advance and the franchise agreement approved, the next major step is operations. It's where the rubber meets the road.

The early days of operating a franchise can be stressful and filled with long hours. After all, you're trying to get a new business off the ground. That's no simple task for any business person. Depending on the franchise brand and your own skill set, it may require more than one person to get the business off the ground. You may need an operating partner. But do you know what to look for (and what to avoid) in a partner? Finding a talented and complementary franchising partner to help you run the day-to-day business is an important decision and it can be challenging.

If this is your first go around with franchising, it probably makes sense to at least consider an operating partner. You'll want to look hard and carefully to find a good partner. It's possible you just may need a partner more than you even realize.

If you're just out of college you're not going to have any significant business operations background or experience. Sure, you may have studied business marketing, management, and accounting, but theory does not always meet reality. It could be a huge benefit to you to find a partner who has some experience "in the field." Likewise, if you've spent that last 20 years working as a structural engineer, you're going to lack some fundamental business skills. But that's okay. Here's where finding a good operating partner comes in to play. Here are 3 important strategies to consider if you're looking for an operating partner:

Shared goals/objectives

Common goals and objectives are imperative. You will want to make sure that your partner shares your same sense of urgency at getting the business up and running. Do you share the same business and personal philosophies? Are you both willing to work 18-hour days in the beginning? Are you both in this for the long haul? Are you both interested in long-term growth? Obviously, you don't need a clone, but you should have enough in common with your operating partner that you're not butting heads two weeks into your new venture.

Complementary skills

This is a biggie. Honestly examine your skill set. Think in terms of marketing, managing, finances/accounting, customer service, technology; but also your personality type, demeanor, operating and management style, etc. You'll want to identify the areas where you are strongest and feel most confident. Now, look for a partner that can fill the gap in the places where you are not as strong. Working together, you'll form a well-rounded management team.

Local market knowledge (people, places, and things)

When searching for an operating partner, look for someone who has deep knowledge and understanding of the local market where the franchise will be located. This can help in everything from site selection to marketing. As a franchisee, you need to know as much as you can about local demographics. If you don't know, find a partner who does. You're going to need vendors and suppliers. You'll need full and part-time employees. Someone with a deep knowledge of the local market can help in these areas. Again, the point is to complement any weaknesses you may have by finding a great partner.

Next time we'll take a look at what it's really like once you've teamed up with a partner and opened that first unit. This is where you will discover if you and your partner have the ability to implement the plan and stick to it. The success of your franchise could be determined by this.

16.2: Franchising With Operational Partners
16.4: How To Work With An Operating Partner

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