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The Great Escape: From Corporate Escapee to B2B Franchise Owner

Enable your franchise to better attract and retain corporate escapees regardless of their backgrounds.

Every day millions of professionals creep outside the walls of their cubicles and dash toward the nearest exit sign. Stressed out, burned out and just plain bummed out, they run out the door and leap into the world of franchising.

In search of a way to leverage the skills and experience they acquired in the corporate world, many budding entrepreneurs seek opportunities in the business-to-business or B2B franchise sector. It’s a logical move for corporate escapees who want greater control of their professional lives. However, even with years of corporate experience, the transition to entrepreneurship can be a shock. B2B franchises are diverse and include varying degrees of franchisor support processes.

The common denominator is that B2B franchises present opportunities for franchisees to use the skills they have honed in marketing, sales, operations, management and mentoring at the corporate level in their new business ownership roles. One often hears of Fortune 500 mid-level managers moving into a B2B franchise, such as a 20-year health care industry employee joining a business brokerage franchise.

How do franchisors prepare corporate escapees to own and operate a B2B franchise in a field they know little to nothing about? Which skills are transferable from corporate employee to franchise owner? How do franchisors help franchisees apply these skills and years of professional experience to their new business ventures?

Here are three ideas for franchisors to keep in mind when guiding former corporate professionals in the launch and ongoing management of their new business.

Change Can be Uncomfortable

Years of growing comfortable in the corporate world make it challenging for franchisees to adapt to their new role as business owners. The process becomes even more uncomfortable for new franchisees when they choose to invest in a concept completely unrelated to their professional background.

Approximately one-half of our owners have minimal experience in providing IT services. Despite this divergence in background and skill set, a common thread links all franchise system owners. Our franchisees desire a fresh start, a professional rebirth. They crave wealth-building, independence, change and welcome the journey that lies ahead. They also long for the opportunity to work closely with small- and mid-size business or SMB owners, helping them grow and develop their business. All CMIT Solutions franchisees share this unique desire to form a connection with SMBs in their community.

Franchisors must provide the tools franchisees need to foster this relationship and consider developing training programs that embrace the skills their franchisees possess yet put your concept’s name into the process. For example, our organization spends time in the field with franchisees on sales calls. Along the way, we assess their strengths and weaknesses.

Franchisees with strong marketing skills are provided robust collateral and presentations on which they are trained. Those with strong sales backgrounds are provided our developed programs that guide them into more comprehensive networking initiatives to use their sales skills.

Finally, tapping into the franchise network is another way to help new franchisees transition. Most franchise networks are saturated with corporate escapees turned successful business owners who are often more than happy to help others become acclimated within the franchise system. Most owners understand that the growth and progression of each individual office establishes greater legitimacy for the brand, further contributing to the success of their business.

Once our franchisees have pushed beyond the breakeven point, they are matched into peer accountability groups called Mastermind Groups. A senior home office team member facilitates each group. A CMIT Solutions senior team member and eight franchisees make up the group that harnesses the power of peer accountability. Every owner in the group goes through a complete peer review to ensure he is using all of the system’s resources and best practices. The process looks at client acquisition, service delivery, finance and staff development and is one of the major reasons we have grown successfully throughout the past several years during the Great Recession.

Don’t Do It Alone

When it comes to preparing corporate escapees to launch a franchise, it’s important to remember to involve others in the process. Franchisors should have additional expert advisors at their disposal who can play important roles in the training process.
In addition to tapping into the franchise system, it is also central to utilize your vendor partners as key resources in the training process; we call ours Alliance Partners. CMIT Solutions works closely with Dell, Microsoft and several other key Alliance Partners that offer mentorship and tutelage on how to use and sell their products and services. Every franchisee should form a relationship with their account representatives and turn to them for ongoing training and support. These representatives will be key players in teaching the franchisees how to explain and sell the products and services they’ll be offering to businesses in their community.

Outside experts such as motivational speakers and sales and marketing specialists are great resources. Corporate world employees regularly attend seminars and workshops to receive ongoing training and expand their skill set. Corporate escapees will be familiar with this type of learning environment. For example, Lisa Earle McCleod, a sales leadership consultant and best-selling author, has become a mainstay at CMIT Solutions system-wide meetings because her guidance helps train our office owners to create passionate, sales-driven organizations.

Franchisees Don’t Need to be Experts

It doesn’t take a technology black belt to launch and manage our concept, and the same holds true in your business. A narrow, highly specialized skill set can be a detriment to those looking to launch a franchise because this tendency to be single-minded prevents owners from seeing the big picture.

It is important to offer customized training that plays to their established skill sets. Show new franchisees how they can apply their expertise to their new professional endeavor and use it as a strategic asset to grow their business. Going through this practice will reassure franchisees that they have the capabilities of running the business successfully.
Likewise, take time to train franchisees in the skills they need to refine. Generally, with a B2B franchise, this means refining sales and marketing techniques, as well as some reporting and accounting seminars. A CMIT Solutions franchisee may never know the technicalities of how to network an office. Whether or not they choose to gain that skill is up to each franchisee. What is more important is that they know how to communicate effectively with their clients, that they know how to express the benefits of working with CMIT Solutions and that they can manage a team of technicians that have the skills to get the job done. I imagine many of your businesses are the same: sales and marketing prevail.

In the end, it is important to help franchisees, new and old, cultivate an understanding of the intricacies of the products and services offered so they can expand their horizons. But, to truly grow their customer base and establish a more well-rounded reputation in the marketplace, hone in on the professional skill sets needed to make them more prolific professionals.

Jeff Connally is president and CEO of CMIT Solutions, a provider of IT services and products with more than 135 locations in the United States. He can be reached at 512-658-2535 or jconnally@cmitsolutions.com.

 

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