Episode 49: Scaling Your Business By Creating A Franchise

Episode 49: Scaling Your Business By Creating A Franchise

You got your own business and when you start out, everybody is the CEO and Chief bottle washer. And I think that there is some weird pride for people, for entrepreneurs that say, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’m still CEO and Chief bottle washer.” I think there was a time in my life where I bought something that was very admirable and I thought that was really great. Now, when people tell me that they’ve been doing it for 20 years, you’re doing it wrong. If you need to scale, you need to give pieces to other people. You need to have employees. You need to have managers. You need to grow so that you’re not the one having to do the small pieces. You need to be thinking big. You are the person who is driving the train. You need to be the conductor. You don’t need to be the person who’s oiling every wheel at every stop. 

Susanne Mariga:Welcome to the Profit Talk show. In this show, we’re going to explore strategies to help you maximize profits in your business while scaling and creating the lifestyle that you want as an entrepreneur. I am your host, Susanne Mariga. I am a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Profit First Professional and a Certified Tax Coach. Today, we’re going to talk about strategies to help you maximize profits in your business. 
Susanne Mariga:Hello, Profit First Entrepreneurs. I am so excited today. We have a very special guest and we have Jeff Wheelock joining us from Dickinson & Wheelock, P.C. Now, Jeff is a Franchise Attorney. I know you guys have been asking tons of questions about franchises, so you are going to be super excited about this episode. Jeff has reviewed over 400 franchise systems, so he is not new to franchises at all. Today, we’re going to talk specifically for you, business owners out there, who have really mastered your systems on how to become a franchisor. So, please join me in welcoming Jeff Wheelock to the platform. Hi Jeff, how are you?
Jeff Wheelock:Thank you for having me. I’m well.
Susanne Mariga:I’m very excited to have you. I’ve got so many questions about scaling a business. A lot of times when clients ask me like, “Okay, Susanne, I think we’re ready for that second location. We’re ready to start a location outside of our city, outside of our state.” And I’m like, “Do you really want to start all over again? How are you going to manage this team that lives miles and miles and hours away from you?” And I think too, I said, “You’ve already managed to master the systems, you’ve already managed to master the profits because you implement a profit first, wouldn’t it be great just to consider creating a franchise, and becoming a franchisor and just really training others to do what you do?
Jeff Wheelock:That is certainly one of the advantages of being a franchisor or as the person who has the system and is selling it to somebody else. And basically, what I tell people is, it is a way for you to expand your empire using other people’s time, money, and energy. 
Susanne Mariga:I love that. So, Jeff, tell me, how do you know when you are ready to create a franchise out of your business? What is the perfect candidate for this?
Jeff Wheelock:That is a really good question. There is the legal part of it, the legal definition, the legal requirements, and then, there sort of the practical aspect of it. Legally, you can franchise even though you don’t even have your own story yet, you could franchise even though you don’t even know what it is that you are doing as long as you make all of the proper disclosures, you can start franchising. Anytime you feel like it. I don’t know who’s going to buy that franchise, but in theory, you could do it that way. I think that you are ready, as a business owner, you’re ready to be a franchisor when you have your processes in place. My father used to always talk about processes. When I was growing up, you would never say processes. It was always processes.
Susanne Mariga:He must be from Canada.
Jeff Wheelock:Oh! Long time ago. Yes, that’s right. So, when you’ve got your system, when you’ve got a business model that you’re going to be able to teach other people to do, some people are really ready to go and they’re ready to start franchising after they’ve had their own first location. That’s all. Sometimes it takes a few more. I was talking to Susanne a little bit about this earlier today and I think that some people are able to run their business just out of force of personality and force of will. They don’t really have systems in place. They don’t really have processes in place. They’re just really, really good at working all the time and making sure everybody is doing what it is that they say. Once you have a second store, it’s hard to run two locations on a force of will, but some people can do it.
Jeff Wheelock:By the time you get to three. By that point, it’s getting really, really hard. I suppose somebody could do it, but you’re going to have to be working 170 hours a week to be in three different places to make sure everything is just going because you’re demanding it. By the time you get to the third store, a lot of times the franchisor has processes in place. They have things that are required and they have systems. As soon as you have your systems, as soon as you’re going to be able to teach somebody else what it is that you are doing without you needing to be there, you’re ready to franchise.
Susanne Mariga:I love that. That is amazing. So guys, once you are at your profitability level, we call that “target allocation percentages” here in Profit First. Once you’ve got your systems in place that can be replicated, you already become a franchisor. Now, as Jeff says, “It’s good to have a few under your belt to prove that you have a proven methodology,” but definitely it’s important to get those systems in a place that really you can train and pass that down to someone else. So Jeff, tell me, what is the first step? What do we do when we want to become a franchise? Where do we start?
Jeff Wheelock:Well, we talked about the practical aspect of it. The practical aspect of it is that, well, let me take a step back. There’s the legal definition of what is a franchise that’s kind of irrelevant for today’s purposes. And then, there’s the practical aspect of what makes you a franchise. What you’re going to be is, you’re teaching somebody else to run their own business using your business model, using your brand and then, in return for that, business owner, you’re probably going to be receiving some sort of royalty stream. So, the practical first step is, you need to have your systems in place. You need to have that replicable business plan so that you can teach it to somebody else, so that they are in fact, going to be able to run the business on their own because it is going to be their business to run.
Jeff Wheelock:They’re not your employees. They don’t want to be your employee. You don’t want them to be your employee. It’s going to be their business. Unfortunately, this is a very highly regulated area of the law. So, before you’re able to franchise, before you’re able to start selling or even soliciting people, you’re going to have to create this big thick, hairy beast of a document called an F D D. And, when I say you, I really mean a Franchise Attorney for you. A Franchise disclosure document, I always refer to it as sort of a cross between a SEC, Private Placement Memorandum and cliff notes. It’s going to give a prospective franchisee due diligence information about who you are and what’s your background. Have you been involved in litigation or bankruptcies? Who are your affiliates? To give them some information. It’s going to give them summaries of the terms in the deal. It’s going to give them what it is that they’re really going to need in terms of initial investment.
Jeff Wheelock:It’s also going to include a copy of the franchise agreement word for word in the form that the franchisee is going to have to sign off on it. Then it usually is going to include some other peripheral contracts. It’s going to include some audited financial statements and some other very specific things like receipts that the Federal Trade Commission says that they have to have. And then, you’re going to give that whole big FDD to your prospective franchisee. They’re going to have it for at least 14 days. That’s a cooling off period. Then once they’ve had that, and they’re interested in moving forward, they’ll sign, probably they will pay you some sort of initial fee. Then you’ll start helping them. They’ll be starting their business. And, everybody’s off to the races.
Susanne Mariga:I love that. You guys heard that Audited Financial Statements. That’s going to be scary for some of you guys out there that haven’t gone through that process yet, but you’re playing with the big boys now. It’s a whole different story with that.
Jeff Wheelock:Here’s some good news for men and some bad news for Susanne. The first year, you’re not going to have audited financial statements. And so, there’s some ways around that either a new franchise or exception or we’ll set up a new business so you don’t have to have it in the first year. But eventually as you continue to sell from year to year, you’ll have to update your FDD, which means you’ll have to include the audited financial statements. Eventually, you’ll roll into having three years worth of audited financial statements in your FDD. But, for right now, everybody stays calm. You don’t have to have them audited yet.
Susanne Mariga:Darn. I was like cha-ching. All right. So Jeff, tell me in terms of the benefits of becoming a franchise, let’s talk about franchise fees, what you typically see, what that is from a revenue standpoint for someone that’s looking to become a franchisor, and what are the overall benefits of becoming a franchise?
Jeff Wheelock:Well, I said it before, and I guess I’ll say it again is that you’re going to grow your own empire using other people’s time, energy and money. The goal here is that you probably want to have 50, 60, a hundred franchisees in your system. Don’t really do this if you’re going to have two, don’t really do this if you’re planning on having four. I had somebody call me and they say, “I want to franchise my business and I really only want to have two franchisees.” Well, let’s find a different business mechanism for that because that’s not really appropriate. It’s not a good idea for you to spend all of this time, energy and money on your FDD if all you’re really going to seek is a couple of franchisees, but you do want to have a bunch of them.
Susanne Mariga:What are you seeing in terms of a franchisor revenue? 
Jeff Wheelock:What is it that they’re getting? People come to me and they say, “I know that this is a franchise because there’s an initial fee.” Well, that’s not what makes it a franchise. “I know that this is a franchise because there’s a royalty associated with it.” And, that’s not what makes it a franchise but those things are very common. Typically, what a franchisor will get is that, they will get an initial fee upfront. I would say that the initial fee most commonly is somewhere in the range of $30,000 to maybe $50,000 as an initial fee. Then on top of that, the franchisor is typically paid a royalty. The royalty is typically a percentage based on gross revenue, not net, not profits gross. And the reason that it’s based on gross is, it goes back to the concept of, this is their business that they’re going to run.
Jeff Wheelock:They don’t want you involved in day-to-day decisions. You don’t want to be involved in day-to-day decisions. Well, the problem is, from a royalty standpoint, if we, the franchisor, are going to get paid based on net or based on profits, well, profits can be manipulated. And, I don’t mean inappropriately manipulated or illegally manipulated, but for the purposes of reporting profits, and you’re all about profits. I can put my now 22-year-old daughter at the front desk even though she’s not an attorney and we can pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary. And look and behold, my law firm doesn’t have any profits this year. Well, we can’t do it that way in the world of franchising because the franchisor doesn’t want to be looking over the shoulder of the franchisee to make sure that they are running their business correctly, that they have too many employees and that they’re not overpaying people.
Jeff Wheelock:This is the franchisee’s business, and they don’t want the franchisor doing any of those things. That’s the reason that it’s based on gross revenues. Now, gross revenues do back out a couple of things, sales tax, obviously, we’re not going to be getting a percentage of sales tax that they’re collecting, probably going to exclude any sort of refunds. If it’s a business that might involve tips to the employees, we’re going to exclude the tips but everything else, every dollar that rolls in, sometimes whether collected or not, that’s going to be the gross revenue. And then of that, the franchisor is probably going to take somewhere along the lines of 5%, 6%, 7%, 8% of gross revenue. Now, there are some industries that are a higher number. There are some industries that are a lower number, but as a general proposition, the franchisor is probably going to get somewhere between five and 8% of gross revenues.
Jeff Wheelock:So, that’s what the franchisor is going to get on top of that. We’re also going to require the franchisee probably to contribute to the franchisor to hold some sort of additional percentage to go towards the National advertising fund or brand fund. Now, it’s being paid to the franchisor, but it’s supposed to be going off into a different bank account. It’s not supposed to be going into a slush fund. It’s not supposed to be going to the franchisor to use however they feel like it. It really is supposed to be used for branding. That’s probably another 1% to 3% that the franchisee will be paying. And then, on top of that, the last thing that the franchisee will be paying is that they will also probably be paying some sort of percentage of their gross revenues toward their own local advertising.
Jeff Wheelock:Because again, this is their business. Now we want to make sure that they’re successful. We, the franchisor, want to make sure they’re successful. And so, we’re going to require them to pay this percentage every month, more if they want, but at least this percentage every month. The whole point is, if you’re a franchisee, what is it that you’re getting? We’ve talked about what the franchisor is getting. What do franchisees get? Hopefully, they’re getting the replicable business plan that we talked about. Branding that, hopefully, at some point, there’s going to be a whole lot of these and so there’s going to be cross-branding that’s associated with it. And, there’s going to be this ongoing assistance from the franchisor. But things like, we’re going to make you spend X many dollars on your own local advertising.
Jeff Wheelock:Is that assistance per se? Kind of it is because I’m going to work really hard to have you be properly prepared to go out and succeed. And, we’re not going to let you just grow organically over a period of the next 10 or 15 years because you’re not going to make it. If it takes you 10 or 15 years, we’re going to jumpstart you. We’re going to teach you how to do this thing, which not only is just flipping the hamburgers, but it’s running the business itself. It’s going out and finding people to come in and eat your hamburgers. I’m just using hamburgers, obviously, there are all sorts of industries. We’re going to teach you how to market, how to hire people, how to oversee your staff, how to do billing, all of the business aspects of it, in addition to the thing that the business is about. 
Susanne Mariga:I love that. And, those are things that take a decade to learn.
Jeff Wheelock:Most of the reason that franchisees want to buy in I have found, I don’t know who I thought the most common franchisee was going to be, but I will tell you what my personal experience having done this hundreds and hundreds of times is, a very common franchisee is somebody that’s come out of corporate America to be perfectly honest. They are 45 to 55 years old. They’ve come out of a corporate environment for whatever reason that’s not available to them anymore, either there was a downsizing, maybe they just retired early, and then they decided, “Oh, you know what? I’m not really ready to retire early.” Well, they were working for Exxon. They’re not going to go start their own major oil company. And the truth of the matter is, they’re not really super entrepreneurial. They’re kind of entrepreneurial. I call them corporate entrepreneurs.
Jeff Wheelock:They want to go out and do something on their own, but they don’t really know what the thing is that they’re going to go and do on their own. And so, that’s what the franchisee is looking for a lot of times and that’s what the franchisor is going to provide. It’s going to give them the opportunity to have their own business, but they don’t have to start from ground zero and spend years and years and years both figuring out what they’re going to do and then how they’re going to do it and then how they’re going to do it well.
Susanne Mariga:Exactly. You’re a business owner just like I am. And, it took me probably about five years in business to learn how to manage people, and I made a whole lot of mistakes along the way. And then, at 10 years old, it was learning to manage people while scaling like when you can start to add on people and still make a profit with that, too.
Jeff Wheelock:I always say that I don’t think it’s really all that hard to do legal work. I think it’s hard to find legal work and it took me a really, really long time to figure out how to do that. And so, hopefully, those are the types of things; management, advertising, marketing, client development, those are the things that the franchisor is going to teach. And there is huge value to that.
Susanne Mariga:Time is money. And, to have those profits early on that you’re able to reinvest or to put towards retirement makes a significant difference, especially if you’re starting a business at 45, between 45 and 55. Those are your golden years that things need to happen fast.
Jeff Wheelock:There’s a statistic that I think something like, 80% of new businesses fail after five years or within five years. In the world of franchising, a lot of franchise professionals like to say that 80% of franchisees are still in business and successful after five years. So, it’s almost a complete flip. Now, I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that, but I think that it does make a point. And again, that’s what the franchisee is looking for and that’s what the franchisor can provide. And so, there is a huge value, which is the reason that they’re getting paid.
Susanne Mariga:I love that. So, you heard Jeff, the SBA tells us that, after five years, only 35% or is it 10 years, only 35% are left standing. And the franchisee rate of survival is much higher than the regular corporate, or a regular small business because they are getting from the start. They’re learning the pitfalls. They are learning the mistakes and they’re learning how to avoid that because they’re taking your systems and your know-how and really implementing that from the get-go. And so, they’re able to achieve that profitability much faster than how they started on their own, which is great. And, another thing that I love that Jeff talked about too is, as an accountant, I always look at the Duns and Bradstreet reports, the Industry reports, the Hoover reports, and it’s always been amazing to me. 
Susanne Mariga:Because when I look at what they’re seeing, typically on average business, you’ll see profitability rates of probably like one or 2%. Now, this is not the profit first world, but out there and the normal profitability rate is like one to 2%. Imagine being able to achieve profitability much faster and that is great. Not only that, as a franchise, the benefit is you’re not getting paid based upon profitability, like Jeff said, you don’t control the profits. You can hire your daughter and pay her six-figure salary, or they can do that, or they can manipulate earnings or just make bad decisions and not listen to what your recommendations are. But, to be able to take revenue from the top line, it’s a much more profitable item because you have less, what we call “costs of goods sold” or, “costs of revenue” because you’re literally selling your talent, your innate talent skill sets, and know-how. And so, it becomes a different generation of revenue source for you, which is really great. And so, Jeff, I have to ask because you’ve worked with like over 400 franchise systems, I have to ask, where does it go wrong? Where are the landmines with starting to franchise your business? Where do things go wrong?
Jeff Wheelock:Well, if you’re the franchisor we’ve talked about, you need to have your system in place or at least be heading in that direction. I do want to point out everything doesn’t have to be perfect by the time you start franchising. McDonald’s wasn’t McDonald’s when they started franchising. It’s developed over the years. You don’t have to have everything exactly right. You don’t even have to have an operations manual. You can just have all of these things in your mind. Now, you’re going to be teaching these things all to your franchisees. Where things start going wrong? I think the first thing that you’re going to do wrong franchisor is that you’re going to sell to anybody who tells you your baby is pretty. The very first person that comes along says, “I’ve got my initial fee and I want to be a franchisee.” 
Jeff Wheelock:Well, that’s a good start, but we need to investigate them a little bit. They need to do due diligence about you and you need to do due diligence about them. There’s the 80-20 rule. We spend 80% of our time on 20% of our problems. Franchisors are going to spend most of their time on a couple of problematic franchisees. Try your best. You will probably wind up. In fact, the more franchisees you have, the more likely that eventually one of them is going to give you some problems. Whose fault is that? I don’t know, but that’s just this statistically. That’s how this is going to turn out. But, bet these people before you let them into the system. One of the things that you don’t want is, you don’t want somebody who is sort of a cowboy and they want to do everything their own way.
Jeff Wheelock:I never really quite understand those people that buy into systems and they spend all of this money and they’re paying all the royalty and they want to buck the system and do it their own way. Look, you wanted to do it all on your own, go do it all on your own. You’ve paid all of this money, follow the system. That’s somebody else you might want to be looking out for, it’s not really going to be a very good fit. So, where else do people go wrong on this? Providing not enough support and trying to be too involved. A lot of entrepreneurs are used to running everything and this all being about them. And they’ve got control over everything. If you do want to be chief bottle washer, as well as CEO, that’s fine. I’ve got some thoughts about that, but go do that in your own business. You’re not going to be involved in their day-to-day operations. It’s about teaching them and then letting them. It’s like having teenagers who become adults. At some point, you have to let them go and they’re going to have to do all of their things on their own.
Susanne Mariga:I love that. That is some really golden nuggets there. Bet who you marry because once you’re in that franchise agreement, you are in a contract. It’s like a long contract with audited financial statements.  
Jeff Wheelock:At least a year’s agreement. And that goes both sides, the franchisee and the franchisor. You’re not business partners in a legal sense, but as a practical matter, you are business partners. These are people that you want both sides to want to feel good about the other side.
Susanne Mariga:Definitely! Your business is your baby. It takes you decades to build it and it can take you literally minutes to lose that entire reputation. So, you want to be careful about who you’re allowing into your franchise. It’s just like you want to be careful who you’re hiring because at the end of the day, they represent you and they become who you are. So, those are some really good golden nuggets, especially if you’re talking about a decade or longer relationship, you got to be careful. So, are there certain businesses or industries that are better to franchise versus others in your experience?
Jeff WheelockNo, not really. There are goods and products that are service businesses. Some of them are done at fixed locations, brick and mortar. Some of them are done out of the house. If you’ve got a brick and mortar, I think a sandwich shop is a really good example of a brick and mortar. We’re going to give them a brick and mortar. We’re probably going to give the franchisee some sort of exclusive territory. That’s going to be a circle around their location, maybe with a two mile radius or something like that. If you’ve got more of a service business, even if you’re providing a business to business, we’ll probably get to give you a territory that might be zip codes, or it might be a map with a yellow line around where it is the territory is going to be. So, no, I don’t think that really is there. There’s no limitation on what your business can do or what sort of business could be a franchise, as long as it’s replicable and you can teach somebody else to do it. 
Susanne Mariga:I love it. That’s amazing. I’m sure you’re starting to see that shift now since COVID, as we all started to shift towards that online economy.
Jeff Wheelock:It exploded. I think I’ve had more calls in the last 12 months from potential franchisees than I’ve ever had before. I think a lot of people are looking for alternatives. A lot of people lost their jobs. A lot of people just aren’t happy with what it is that they’re doing and they feel like they want to take control of their own destiny. But again, they’re not really entrepreneurial. They probably would have already started something so they want to go out and they don’t want to be held by the hand to do it, but they want to be given an opportunity and hopefully you can teach them and then they can go run the business. Then everybody will have this great synergistic relationship.
Susanne Mariga:I love that. I love that new industries are emerging because of COVID. And also new people are wanting to enter entrepreneurship. But like Jeff said, if you’re 45, 55, you got to get in their fast. So, there’s a lot of opportunity as a franchisor out there to really be able to grow your empire.
Jeff Wheelock:Another example, just to kind of give more illustrations. Sometimes people will incorrectly refer to franchises as businesses in a box. And, I guess that kind of makes sense from what I’ve talked about a little bit, but it’s not a business in a box. You don’t open up a box and I’ll pop a business and then money starts raining down from the business tree. You’re getting a toolkit. Franchisors think about it. I’ve talked about processes, but think about a toolkit. When I go to Home Depot or I go to Lowe’s and I want to go build a thing, well, I need all of the tools to build the thing. And then probably some instructions. I want the instructions to be really good. I want all of the tools to be really good. I want the toolkit to be complete. Now, I come home from Lowe’s and I’ve got my toolkit in a box. I’m going to have to pick up the hammer and sweat. I’m going to have to get out my level and use it, make sure that it’s all good. But what I’m hoping for is that I got good instructions and I got a complete toolkit with good tools. Franchisors, think about that in terms of what it is that you’re going to be giving to your franchisees.
Susanne Mariga:Yes. You have to have some really good SOP or standard operating procedures that you’re giving out because you don’t want anyone opening that box and go, “Where’s the instructions?” That is not a good thing. 
Jeff Wheelock:That’s right. 
Susanne Mariga:I love that. So, Jeff, one of the things that we love to ask our guests as we’re winding down today is, if you could leave us with one piece of advice and this can be personal, it can be business related that really will help take us to the next level. What would that piece of advice be? 
Jeff Wheelock:I think my piece of advice would be, and this is kind of trite and sounds like a poster that you see on a wall. Only do what only you can do. You’ve got your own business and when you start out, everybody is the CEO and Chief bottle washer. And I think that there is some weird pride for people for entrepreneurs that say, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’m still CEO and Chief bottle washer.” I think there was a time in my life where I thought that that was very admirable. And I thought that was really great. And now when people tell me that they’ve been doing it for 20 years, you’re doing it wrong. If you need to scale, you need to give pieces to other people. You need to have employees, you need to have managers. You need to grow so that you’re not the one having to do the small pieces. You need to be thinking big. You are the person who is driving the train. You need to be the conductor. You don’t need to be the person who’s oiling every wheel at every stop. So, stay on as CEO all the time, but get away from chief bottle washer as soon as you can. Now at the beginning, everybody starts off being chief bottle washer and that’s okay, but move away from that scale. Do what Susanne tells you to do. 
Susanne Mariga:I love that. You’re right because a lot of times when we start our business, it’s because we’re good at that. Maybe I’m a good bottle washer. That’s why I started a business to be a bottle washer. But, in order to really take your business to the next level, you can’t stay in the trenches, you’ve got to groom somebody else to do it. Just like Jeff says with the franchise. Having those standard operating procedures that you’re actually giving someone so they can become the next bottle washer being able to think from that level. So, I love that. That is a great piece of advice. And, I definitely appreciate that. Now, Jeff, how can we reach you? How can we contact you? How can we find you to work with you?
Jeff Wheelock:Texasfranchiseattorney.com. I am located in Texas. I’m a Texas attorney. I’m licensed by the state bar of Texas. Franchising is sort of a National industry. So, I help people all over the country. I’ve helped  foreign franchisors come into the United States. I’ve helped people from Germany and Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, and the far East become franchisees in the United States, but I am the texasfranchiseattorney.com. So, if you’re in Texas, you can even stop over and say hello, but go to texasfranchiseattorney.com. 
Susanne Mariga:Thank you. And even if you’re not in Texas, Jeff can still help you. So, I’m going to go ahead and put Jeff’s contact information in the show notes so that you can reach out to him and reach him to help you really establish your franchise in order to help other business owners grow. And at the same time, increase your own profits. Thank you, Jeff so much for being our guest today on The Profit Talk.
Jeff Wheelock:Susanne, thank you so much for having me. 
Susanne Mariga:I want you to have your most profitable year ever. Yes, no matter what’s going on in the economy, no matter what’s going on in the world, you can have your best year ever. And I want to show you how. Join me in our private Facebook group where I will be hosting our Free, Yes, I said FREE Profit First Masterclass on Facebook. Please join the Profit First Master Class with Susanne Mariga. I look forward to seeing you there and watching you have your best year ever.

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