Surprise, Surprise! The right business for you might not be the one you’d guess!

In all our lives, there are defining moments. There is the moment when we decide where we are going to attend college, the moment when we decide to get married, the moment that we accept our first real job, and the moment we decide that we want to work for ourselves and own a business.

Dry Cleaning BusinessWithout a doubt, the decisions that we make at these critical junctures in our lives can, to a large degree, determine the quality of the life we have in the future. These decisions are ones that will not only shape our lifestyle, but also much of the fabric of our life. One of the greatest challenges each of us faces is to make sure that when we have the opportunity to make a decision during a “defining moment,” we make a decision that we will be happy with for the rest of our lives.

In plain English, we need to be sure that we do it right! Of course, we should do it right, you think. But, this is often easier said than done. We are sometimes afraid of hindsight being 20/20, and we don’t want to be second-guessing our decisions. I see this in my clients all the time. They avoid the risk of making the critical decisions they need to make regarding business ownership simply because they don’t wish to deal with second-guessing or 20/20 hindsight.

Well, here’s some good news! If you are thinking about getting into business for yourself and you have made the decision to investigate franchise ownership, you have the opportunity to turn hindsight into foresight. If you do your investigation carefully and properly, you can give yourself a better chance of making a good decision regarding the business that is right for you and that will give you the best chance of success.

How, you may ask? The answer is relatively simple. When you make the decision to go into business for yourself, of course you want your decision to be a good one. This is a big step, and not an easy one to take. Your new business must give you what you want in the short term and in the long term and must ultimately prepare you for another “defining moment”, the moment when you decide to sell it and transfer control to someone else. You need to have a plan that will allow you to find the business that will help you achieve your goals and get you to where you want to go. So, you should start on the road to making a good decision for yourself by recognizing these two things:

  • A business that you may like emotionally (“They make the best yogurt in town!”) may actually be totally unsuited to help you achieve your real goals, and may not be a good business for you to own.
  • On the other hand, a business that might not seem appealing to you at first glance (“What, me cut hair?…clean laundry?….clean buildings?”) may turn out to be the ideal business to help you to achieve your goals.

When I work with new clients, I suggest to them that the first thing they need to decide is not which business they think they would like to own, but rather what they would like to achieve through business ownership. Ask yourself this question: “If I am successful in the business that I select, what will it give me and what do I want my life to be like?” Once you are able to answer that question, you can “reverse engineer the process” to find the business that gives you the best chance to achieve the success you want. Too often, people don’t know where they want to end up and so they don’t select the best business to get them where they want to go.

What does all this really mean? Let’s take a look at a couple of examples I often use during a client interview or when I am giving a seminar. I might start by asking this question: “How would you like to own a dry cleaner or a hair salon?” The initial response of most people is that they would not like to own either. They’re thinking to themselves that it wouldn’t be fun, that it could be boring, or they don’t want to deal with someone else’s dirty clothes or they don’t want to cut hair.

Then I ask them two more questions: “Would you like a business that you can eventually operate at a distance, that is, a business that can grow and be managed without your constant involvement? And, would you like to own a business that can grow large by allowing you to establish multiple locations that are easily managed?” Almost without exception, the answers I get to these two questions are YES. I am told that multiple unit ownership is important and so is the freedom and independence that come from owning a business that can be managed by others.

I then ask again whether a dry cleaner business model or a hair care business model might not be a good one to help them achieve their goals? After all, these two businesses operate with relatively simple business models. Employees can be hired and trained to run the business without significant owner involvement, and the simplicity and easy replication of the model allows for easy expansion through multiple unit ownership.

Then I sit back and watch the lights go on! All of a sudden, my client (or audience) realizes that while they might not like to handle someone else’s cleaning or cut hair, they might very much like to own a dry cleaner or hair salon. They now understand that these are business models that can help them achieve their business ownership goals.

As soon as they separate the business they work in, from the business they work on, their strategy changes. They look at a business as something they are going to manage and grow, and realize that the product or service they choose may not be as important as the opportunity the business can offer.

I know, I know… you’re simply not going to get into a business unless you like something about the product or service you are selling. No problem! With all the choices that exist in franchising today, you have many possibilities. However, no matter what business you choose, I’d be willing to bet you that three years into your business, what will matter most to you is not what your business is called or what it makes or sells, but whether or not it gives you the things you most want to have in your life.

If you don’t have the security, freedom, independence, success, recognition, fulfillment, time for family or whatever else you personally want as part of your life, you will not like the business you have chosen. On the other hand, if you do, you will count your many blessings.

So, how can you make this happen for yourself? Plan ahead. Look at every business you are considering, and compare it to an entry strategy that will allow you to safely enter the world of business ownership, a long-term strategy that will allow you to have the kind of success you desire, and an exit strategy that will allow you to leave your business and add to your net worth. Pick the business that strongly matches up with the parameters that define your three strategies and you will be well on your way to realizing many of your dreams.

Of course, you need to make sure that any business you look at is a good business and is in a good industry where the franchisor is a leader in that industry. You want to make sure that most of the franchisees are happy, and would repeat their decision to buy that business. You want to make sure that there is opportunity for the business to grow as much as you need it to grow. The franchisor should be someone you would like to work with and has a “vision” that you believe in. And, of course, you should be able to make as much money as you want and need.

So, which franchise or business opportunity should you buy? The “hottest and newest” concept? The one with the most locations? The one with the biggest brand name?   The one that makes the best yogurt in town?   NO! Not necessarily. The business you should buy is one that has the best chance of being successful and that will get you where you want to go. After you complete a careful and well thought out search, you may be very surprised at which business that turns out to be!


Michael Hall is President and owner of FranNet Carolina, a consulting company that specializes in matching potential business owners with the right business opportunity. He can be reached at mhall@frannet.com or 704-522-9394.

Mike Hall

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