Being an area developer, most outsiders would think, is a guaranteed stress-builder. After all, minding a number of businesses--let alone starting them up--has more problems in more directions than your average C-level exec faces every day.
Not so, say those who know: Success in franchising does not have to translate into a formula for stress. In fact, the most successful franchisees and franchisors live a relatively stress-free existence. They know themselves, their needs and desires, and conduct their business accordingly. If you're feeling a bit over-extended these days, their insights might be a comfort.
Jim White is an area developer for The Entrepreneur's Source (TES). Prior to taking on a two-state region for the consulting franchise system, White was working a corporate job with lots of travel. He was turning into a stranger to his growing family and wanted the chance to know his newborn son.
"I'd already raised two daughters and missed most of their formative years," he says. "I wasn't going to miss out on my son's growing up."
White looked at buying different small businesses, but says it was always difficult getting accurate numbers from them. "I wanted a franchise because they had already worked out so much of the start-up frustration." He also knew he needed to oversee a larger operation.
Becoming an area developer with TES answered all his needs and provided the challenge he craved. TES is a franchise that offers consulting services to people interested in opening a franchise. White's territory is North Carolina and South Carolina. He still travels, but now on his schedule. And most of his oversight is done by telephone and online.
"Knowing yourself, your needs and desires, your abilities and what drives you are the first steps to finding the perfect place for you," says White. "Stress levels are equal to an individual's choices and personality."
Today, it's his job to fit prospective franchisees with the correct franchise system in whatever capacity they need to thrive. Some people only want a small shop. Others, like White, need a larger scope of responsibility to remain motivated, and they fit well in the area developer role. Still others need more structure and should not purchase a franchise, White says.
"The hardest thing we have to do is to get people to see themselves correctly and see themselves doing a certain thing," says White, who also works with franchisors to help them sort out the multitude of inquiries they receive.
"It's not like it used to be, where there were only a couple areas of franchising to get into," he says. "It used to be fast food, automotive, and hotels, and that was it. Now there are more than 85 niches in franchising. Making the right choice for your kind of style is tantamount to success and having a good life that you enjoy."
White wanted the flexibility of having a job he could do anywhere, any time. "I knew that I didn't want a retail type of business that was more demanding of my time with set hours, managing a lot of people," he says.
Because he remained true to his goal of being more available for his son, White says he doesn't get stressed these days. With his priorities clear, he doesn't have to question himself and his daily decisions. He taught his son to play golf, a game he loves, and takes him to tournaments all over the country.
White says that most people are looking for flexibility. As a consultant, he consistently has to remind potential franchisees of the initial goals they told him about when they first contacted him.
"It hurts to see so many people make decisions based on emotions," he says. "On days when I'm on the pity pot and things aren't going well, I think of the people in the airports and what they have to go through, and I'm grateful that I'm not there with them every week flying all around for some big corporation. I remember why I got into this in the first place--for more flexibility-and I get grateful real quick."
Valerie Gallagher, with one unit under White, looks to him for guidance. Gallagher also wanted to spend more time with her family after 14 years in banking. In February 2004 she opened the Raleigh, N.C. office of TES.
"I think I'm pretty normal," Gallagher says. "I wanted the same thing that most of my clients look for: a change in lifestyle, flexibility, and more control over my life." She says that life change is more important than money for most people looking to buy a franchise.
Brian Miller, president of The Entrepreneur's Source, has been selling franchises for nearly 20 years, three in his current position. And he's been a franchisee himself. Miller sees changes in the workforce that are not necessarily good for peoples' health. To explore this further, TES has hired a third party to analyze what he calls the "New Career Economy."
"The study is proving what we have only anecdotally known until now: that the idea of going to work for a company for 20 or 30 years and retiring with a pension is no longer valid," Miller says. "Security is no longer available to folks who choose the corporate path. And that is causing a certain amount of stress."
Says Miller, "Dangers lurk everywhere in corporate America. I call it 'social insecurity.' People are forced to work longer hours, and face layoffs and cutbacks--and many are not prepared."
He says the report is helping TES educate people and let them know that they are not alone when they find themselves wrapped up in the rat race and in the same situation as others out of work. They need to explore different options.
Franchising can provide that option for many. "Building a business through a franchise doesn't mean that you won't have to work or feel some pressure," Miller says. "But you can look at the plan provided by the franchisor and know how long your ramp-up period should last."
The key to long-term quality of life is that once up and running, you must scale back, he says. "But scaling back means different things to different people. Once you understand yourself better, you are better prepared to answers these questions."
John Hoose knows that he has to have a lot going on to feel alive and successful. A single unit would be like standing still for Hoose, who finds the adrenalin that accompanies stress spells success.
Hoose started working after school and summers at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He can't envision life any other way; anything short of full throttle is not an option. As the creator of Auction It Today, Hoose has applied his energy to selling more than 150 franchise units in one year and to growing from three to 16 employees since May 2005.
He says he has a hard time balancing work and family. His passion for success that drives his days. "It's a delicate road to walk," Hoose says. "Couples get in trouble all the time. The only thing you can do is hope your family respects that you're working hard."
Hoose says you can't get ahead of the game by being average. "But I'll probably be one of those guys who, when I'm 60, looks back and says 'I wish I would have spent more time with my family.' I don't know if you can have both."
The only way Hoose has found to release some of the pressure is to completely isolate himself from his growing business. "I go to Africa every year," he says. "I go game hunting. It is a motivational tool for me, because I look forward to it all year. There are no phones and no computers in Zimbabwe, but I know it will all be there for me when I get back."
Hoose admits that his work ethic drives him as much as his desire to be on top. "I see something I want and I work my ass off to get it. I pretty much don't have a point when I can let it go. The most successful people I know keep pushing and pushing and pushing."
He likens his franchise system to a body builder's team. "They have to put everything aside to become what they are," he says. "I've been lucky to erect a team of superstars who've taken my dream to the next level."
And he makes them all take vacations. "They will be better people," he says.
Hoose says that Auction It Today is a meat-and-potatoes organization, with a reasonable start-up cost. Working with eBay as a middleman, the brand offers consumers a safe, easy way to use the Internet to sell items.
He believes in training and more training to insure his franchisees success. And he pushes his franchisees to get the most from their business too. "I'm pretty hard-nosed," he says. "I believe that the more training we have, the less human error we will experience. We all have a common interest here, and if we can correct issues before the house falls, we'll be successful."
Gerry Rhydderch is probably the corporate antecedent to Hoose. Rhydderch is vice president of franchise development for PrideStaff, and while he too loves the challenge of finding and developing new talent, he's happy putting in a 40-hour week at the corporate office. Working with powerhouse franchisees, many of them female, Rhydderch is impressed with their ability to handle stress.
"I have a great respect for the professional women who also juggle families," he says. "I couldn't do that. I'm a guy who likes to punch a clock and walk away at the end of the day." But not everyone has the luxury of making those kinds of choices.
Dean Drennan owns five Mr. Goodcents units in Kansas and nearby in Missouri. Prior to becoming a franchisee, Drennan would have been content to remain in his corporate role. But when his company began massive layoffs and reorganization, they made it clear it was time for him to move on.
As a corporate employee, "I didn't work too many weekends," he says. "But all that changed when I got in business for myself." To help make the adjustment work for him, Drennan has learned to rely on his employees.
"In 13 years, I've been blessed with really great people," he says. Drennan admits that it took him some time to learn to let go of the reins of the day-to-day control of his business. Now he's grateful that he did.
This allows his employees to shine as well. "It's very hard to turn it over," he says. "But if I didn't trust my employees, they would never be able to rise to the occasion and become great."
When he's not working, Drennan eases his controlling mind and keeps the pressure off by employing a system of "trust but verify." He's the kind of guy for whom trust is earned. "I just figured it out as I went along," he says. "It's been a learning curve, but I just had to let go of some of the control or I would be much too stressed. You can't have your thumb on every decision."
He likens the process to raising his kids. "You can't always be in the backseat with them," he says.
Unlike Hoose, Drennan prefers long weekends to cutting out for weeks at a time. And he's always ready to step in when necessary. "Trying to get 15- to 25-year-olds to practice good customer service can be difficult at times," he says. "So I try to build a rapport with them, develop a relationship so the job can be more personal."
His corporate job loss "shocked me into reality," he says, but being in a franchise system helped soften the blow. "You can share with other franchisees, and they can relate and tell you how they worked through issues. All I need sometimes is to be reminded of why I'm doing this and how I am on the right track. Then all is good again."
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