Recruiting families into franchising
Poolwerx Corporation says its most successful franchises are operated by couples, with each partner taking responsibility for different elements of the business.
Typically one partner handles the more technical side and the other, administrative and marketing roles – the latter allowing a degree of flexibility with working hours, making time to attend to family needs.
"The amount of partner involvement usually changes with the various stages of development," says CEO John O’Brien.
"At the most basic level – a single mobile service unit – one partner might keep their full (or part) time job for the time being and help out with admin in the evenings and on weekends. As the business grows into a retail pool store with a fleet of service vans, it’s usual for the less active partner to become progressively more involved until both are pretty much full time in the business. In the interim – the development model says three years – they will have completed various training modules offered by our pool school to smooth the way."
O’Brien says that whatever the balance of participation, it’s essential that both parties remain equally enthusiastic and supportive.
At the outset of the recruitment process, the Poolwerx franchise development team insists on meeting both partners, inviting questions from each and quietly making an assessment of their levels of commitment.
"From time to time we find that while one person is wildly enthusiastic, the other has reservations and if we can’t resolve these, we’ll suggest they take more time to talk it over before deciding whether they wish to move forward," says O’Brien. "There are moments in small business when the positivity and emotional support of your partner can make all the difference not only to success, but enjoyment of the journey."
In some cases, partner participation will be minimal and remain so and O’Brien says that’s fine by Poolwerx.
"Some people are wedded to their careers. We find that nurses and those in HR roles, especially, can love their calling too much to give it up. But they still contribute to the balance and stability of the network. In fact 95 per cent of partners choose to attend our annual convention and we very deliberately make it family friendly so the kids can come along as well."
O’Brien says one interesting consequence has been the establishment of an informal partners’ network, which ‘pretty much created itself’. He says partners meet each other at various events and stay in touch, offering mutual support.
"I’m continually amazed by how many thorny issues are resolved quietly and sensibly by partners working behind the scenes."
It’s common for young adults in Poolwerx families to lend a hand in the retail side of the business. O’Brien says that some couples see this as a prudent path forward i.e. building a successful enterprise that, when they’re ready to retire or move on, the kids are equipped to take over.
"I wouldn’t be surprised if this starts to happen more,’ he says. "How much better if the Bank of Mum and Dad becomes the Path Into a Career in Business of Mum and Dad."
Four key pieces of advice
At the outset, be sure that partners are supportive and understand the challenges ahead
Make your network as partner-participatory as possible – room to contribute, meaningful education in how to, and invitations to network events such as (but not limited to) your annual convention
Encourage formation of a partners’ network – formal or informal
Establish a benevolent fund contributed to voluntarily by franchise partners, dedicated to helping any of them who might fall on (personally) hard times. It’s family gold.
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