From franchisee to franchisor and from both sides of the Atlantic, Jim Hunter has seen all the faces of franchising.
Through it all, the president and CEO of the handyman franchise operation House Doctors, has observed some secrets to success that are steady across oceans and industries.
“Most successful franchisees have energy and enthusiasm and pride in their business,” says Hunter, a native of Scotland who oversees the national operation made up of around 450 employees in 103 territories. “If you get that in your office and in your team, then that overflows.”
So Hunter starts with enthusiastic franchisees. Then he accelerates the training process to get them up and running before their energy has time to fade.
Since he started this “Fast Start” program, his franchisees are opening their operations 70 percent faster than before. And last year, the program paved the way for both the fastest-growing and the highest revenue-generating franchises in House Doctors’ history.
Smart Business spoke with Hunter about how to build enthusiastic franchises.
Find enthusiastic candidates. I’ve seen some great franchisees who have built a fantastic business and went on to create great wealth. All of these very successful franchisees had three main traits: One, a very strong determination to succeed that enabled them to overcome any challenges that they had. And they had a real energy and enthusiasm and pride in their business and what they were doing. Finally, all of the really successful franchisees are able to work in partnership with franchisors and follow a proven system.
[We] always start with a discovery process where the franchisor is learning as much about the candidate as the candidate is learning about the concept. It’s very much a two-way interview process, first by telephone and then when we meet during discovery day at our home office.
As part of our discovery day, we have the candidate complete a personality profile questionnaire. We compare the results to existing successful franchisees and look for similarities. We’re not only looking for the personal traits like determination and enthusiasm for the concept but also certain business skills based on their work history.
We start off with an overview of the company: how it started, where it came from and where we’re going. The vision and the buy-in really start with the discovery day. [You can see] they’re excited and they’re giving a response like, ‘Oh yes, I see what you mean,’ and, ‘Yeah, I agree with that. Wow, that’s the way to go.’ They’re giving positive responses to what we are telling them. If they didn’t, then we wouldn’t award them a franchise.
Get details out of the way. Training starts before the actual classroom training. We have to prepare the new franchisee for business ownership. The Fast Start program is made up of over 100 items on a checklist, and we go through every step with new franchisees over a four- to five-week period before they come to classroom training.
It covers everything from putting together your business plan to ordering your first van.
The Fast Start includes things like, ‘Have you got an accountant?’ and helping them set that up, right through to starting to do their business plan and the marketing plan.
It’s all in order of when you need to get it. For example, you can’t get your fliers or your business cards printed until you have your telephone numbers.
A CEO probably has had the experience setting up a business or being involved in these types of things before. But you’ve got to imagine that the new franchisee may not have. Based on our experience of what’s needed as someone sets a business up, we started right from the basics. It could be something as basic as registering your computer and ordering fliers that are going to go out after you open. But they’ve all got to be thought of and done prior to you starting the business. If you start up your own business without something like this, then possibly you could forget something.
Attention to details is important and getting the details in the right order. We’ve done a lot of the details before our training so when they’re coming to train, they’re already enthused.
Involve your team in training. When they go into the classroom training, it takes them right from the basics to completing their business plan, completing their marketing plan, completing their budget, and everything to do with personnel to marketing their business to dealing with customers. We term it as, ‘How to run your business.’
We use all our internal staff because these are the guys and gals who will be working with them. Obviously, the marketing manager comes in and does some marketing. The graphic designer will come in and do the stuff on controlling the logo, for example. We have the legal department tell them about insurance and trademark stuff.
Each member of our team takes part in the training. We don’t have a trainer, per se, but that’s good because it obviously gets them familiar with the people who they’ll be dealing with.
Hit the ground running. Everything is aimed at opening them as soon as possible after training because we don’t want to lose the vision. We don’t want them losing excitement. We want them to get out into the marketplace fresh with what they’ve learned.
We intend them to go straight from training. ... They have everything they need to start their business as soon as they finish their training.
Other franchise systems struggle with getting their people out and up and running quickly after training. They would be sitting in training and still trying to organize their company, still trying to organize the fliers and still trying to order their van. They’d be coming out of training still trying to do these things.
By doing that Fast Start, they’ve done all that stuff before they go into training. During the training, they’re focused. And then when they finish training, they can actually hit the ground running.
How to reach: House Doctors, (800) 319-3359 or www.housedoctors.com