Book Review January 2007
Street Smart Franchising
Authors: Joe Mathews, Don DeBolt and Deb Percival
Publisher: Entrepreneur Press
Reviewed by Patrice Toombs
Franchises are a common sight on the business landscape, from the McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts fast-food facilities to Merry Maids, Blockbuster and One Hour Photo services. In the United States alone there are some 2,000 franchisors representing more than 70 industries and accounting for more than 770,000 retail outlets. The outlets employ about 8 million people and account for more than $1 trillion in annual sales.
With such impressive numbers, one gets the feeling that franchising is a financially rewarding experience. It’s also a relatively pain-free experience. Indeed, those who aspire to own a business without having to endure the frustrations associated with building an enterprise from the ground up often choose franchising.
In their book, Street Smart Franchising (Entrepreneur Press, July 2006), masters of the trade Joe Mathews, Don DeBolt and Deb Percival offer readers a thorough understanding of the franchise business, from the exploratory stage to the actual opening of the outlet. They provide practical, in-the-trenches information through stories and actual experiences, leaving the reader with a healthy dose of “street smarts” rather than the standard “book smarts.”
Street Smart Franchising was written with six goals in mind:
• To help you decide if franchising is for you;
• To tell you, before you invest, all that you will see, feel and experience as a franchisee;
• To help you manage your emotions and perceptions throughout the investigation process;
• To help you determine what type of franchise is best for you, given your specific skills, talents and shortcomings;
• To show you how to accelerate your learning curve to reach peak performance;
• To give you real-world tactics and strategies to develop your own comprehensive plan for success.
An important theme throughout the book is the relationship between franchisees and the franchisors, which the authors describe as “highly personal, transcending the boundaries of any existing legal and business relationship.” Recognizing this relationship as one grounded in sacred trust and mutual respect sets the stage for what ultimately should develop into a successful endeavor, the authors suggest.
The book is divided into two sections. Part One, What You Need to Know before You Start Looking, contains chapters with such titles as “Understanding Your Behavior Style”; “What Does Winning Look Like”; and “What Does It Take to Win as a Franchisee.” This section forces readers to take a close look at their personality. It offers a SMART test (acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic Timetable) to help readers see how they could better manage their time when developing their enterprise. And it imparts secrets to success, using what the authors call the KASH (Knowledge, Attitude, Skills and Habits) model.
A chapter titled, “The Learning Curve of a Franchisee: From the Launch to the Zone,” describes in detail the evolutionary stages each franchisee goes through on the way to owning a business. These stages are termed “launch,” “grind,” “winning,” the “zone” and “goodbye.” Each is distinguished by a specific change in the franchisee’s results and level of satisfaction. “Launch,” for example, describes the period when the franchise agreement is signed, while “grind” describes the rigors of owning a business when the work no longer seems like play but is frustrating even when it is progressive. Winning is characterized by a feeling of empowerment, having emerged over time through small victories. Franchisees enter “the zone” when they produce outstanding results and in “goodbye” they decide to pursue other endeavors and sell the business.
Part Two, Investigating Franchises, describes various means of identifying franchise opportunities. A list of useful resources includes numerous Web sites, magazines, franchise expos, newspapers and franchise brokers—experienced business people who specialize in working with people looking to start franchises. The book concludes with the chapter, “Following a Six-Step Franchise Investigation Process,” which the reader can use as a guide in determining the franchise system that best suits him.
Street Smart Franchising makes it clear that while the business model may already be set, entrepreneurs still need to do a lot of homework before deciding to become a franchisee. In order to ensure a successful venture, tactical and thoughtful steps must be taken before making a decision.