At Sparktank we focus on helping franchisors find quality franchisees to grow their brand. But finding your dream franchisee is just the beginning. It's critical to provide support to facilitate their success through technical systems, ongoing education and an established growth-oriented culture. We teamed up with an expert in this field, and one of our strategic partners, to look at ways to help your franchisees flourish.

CASSI NIEKAMP: National Relationship Manager


Cassi Niekamp - Cultivate Advisors - Franchisee Support

Cassi is part of a group of entrepreneurs, growers and experienced business operators with a passion for developing people and businesses. At Cultivate Advisors, Cassi and her team partner with Franchisees as a coach and consultant to provide the tools and skills that will lead their success, and ultimately the success of the Franchisor.

Briefly describe what you do/where your expertise falls.

We are a 1:1 small business advisory firm that helps entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses. In franchising, we help layer on top of existing support teams to help franchisees become true owners in their businesses, to drive revenue, profitability and unit performance forward.

What traits or qualities do you see most successful franchisees share?

What I love to see in franchisees is the characteristic of 'grit'. They have such a strong will to succeed or overcome a challenge, that they will move the needle strictly due to their determination. Truly encompassing a 'find a way' attitude. That grit, mixed with a receptive attitude and the openness to change is where the magic happens.

How can these qualities be encouraged and promoted both initially and on an ongoing basis?

Honestly, we've worked with franchisees who've been operating their businesses for 30+ years, and were hesitant to be open to change at first. We have to show our competence and establish that we're true partners in their businesses in order to establish trust. When that level of trust is built together, and there's clarity on goals and what we are collectively building towards, the satisfaction that owners reap out of the business is tenfold.

It's so fascinating that most of the owners we work with are so intently driving the business forward and engrossed with their day to day obligations and tasks, that it's been a good while since the last time they popped their head up to reestablish their vision and goals.

When we orchestrate our Peer Development Groups with franchise systems- which breaks out the network into 3 to 4 franchisees who virtually collaborate and problem solve; you witness some really neat network shifts begin to occur. At the top of my list to witness would be a cultural and developmental shift. Every month, the owner finds themselves with 3 other franchisees across the network that they may never have spoken to before, and then they're side by side in a brainstorming session discussing intimate details of the business together. When you get to share about what's working super well both regionally, and for different leadership structures, that's a rather bonding and intense experience for most. And out of all those combined experiences, collectively they walk away with some problem solving skills and new ways to approach the business than beforehand.

Describe the importance of establishing a growth-oriented culture within the franchise.

The old adage that "if you aren't growing, you're dying" applies here. I think it's very wise to reevaluate and uncover aspects of the business that have grown stale or overlooked. Having a third party, without a 'dog in the fight', to holistically look at what levers of growth could be obtained in the business is really impactful. And even if you aren't concerned about growth, the top talent you're hoping to recruit or retain certainly are.

What type of franchisee support do franchisors successfully provide and what needs improvement?

Where we see franchisors really excel is the technical training within a network. Franchisees expect that to be buttoned up and in the majority of cases, it is. However, what franchisees don't expect is that franchise networks provide opportunities to them and their top leadership teams in areas surrounding soft core business skills- such as Leadership, Financials, Recruiting, Operations,
Marketing & Sales. Most owners are typically naturally strong in only 2 or 3 of these categories.

What is your favorite/most interesting case study or story you've experienced during your career?

Our most rewarding thus far, is the fact that we've been able to grow a 350+ unit network by 18% year over year growth the past two years. What makes this even more fulfilling is that the network was super established, but had hit a rut as it pertains to the franchisor/ franchisee relationship and growth was stagnant and culture was starting to dip.

In addition, what made this relationship excel is our very intrinsic, unified partnership with the franchisor. We have super open lines of communication, are clear on their goals, and work within their ops manuals to guide owners. A really fruitful, wonderful partnership due to great leadership teams at the franchisor level.

What is the best piece of advice you could give a Franchisor looking to scale and grow their business?

Happy franchisees sell more franchisees. To pour into your franchisees in unique ways that truly impacts their performance and happiness as an owner, is worth it's weight in gold.