Whether you’ve been working on your franchise development for some time or are just starting out, finding the right franchisees and developing strong systems is critical to your success.
We met with Marietta Snetsinger from Ascend Franchise to gain her insights on franchising and the importance of preparing for every next step, whether it’s developing an operations manual or finding the right franchisees.
Marietta Snetsinger has more than two decades of franchise experience, helping hundreds of franchisees and franchisors build happy, profitable franchises that change lives and create personal wealth. Marietta brings a unique combination of franchise operational support as well as franchise recruitment and development. She is also an upcoming author and will be releasing her book “Ready, Set, Franchise – the 7 Steps to Convert your Business to a Franchise NOW” this Fall.
Watch the full interview here:
Juliette Schmerler (00:00):
Hi everyone. Thanks so much for joining us today. I am very excited about my interview. I am going to be speaking with a colleague of mine, Marietta Snetsinger. We have a lot of interesting topics to discuss today about turning your business into a franchise and how to look for good franchise candidates and more. So we’ll just start off with a little bio about Marietta. Marietta Snetsinger has more than two decades of franchise experience, helping hundreds of franchisees and franchisors build happy, profitable franchises that change lives and create personal wealth. Marietta brings a unique combination of franchise operational support as well as franchise recruitment and development. She is also an upcoming author and will be releasing her book Ready Set Franchise, the Seven Steps to Convert Your Business to a Franchise Now, this fall. So, very excited to see that come out. So, welcome Marietta.
Marietta Snetsigner (00:57):
Thanks for having me. Good to be with you today.
Juliette Schmerler (01:00):
Yeah, good to be with you too. So I’m just going to jump in and start asking some questions. I know you work with a lot of clients that are converting their business into a franchise, and I know you also have a lot of experience in franchise recruitment. So what factors should a franchisor consider to determine if a franchisee will likely be successful?
Marietta Snetsigner (01:25):
That’s a really great question, and there’s probably a couple of different ways that franchisors look at that, but I would probably go back to the franchisor and they probably have a pretty good sense of who’s gonna be successful in their franchise business. Part of the process of qualifying and making sure someone is a good fit is to really know who you’re looking for and have some criteria. One of the things I always think is really important, and I haven’t found a franchise yet, that this hasn’t been important. And that is a sales skillset. Every franchisee of every franchise system, as a franchisee, you’re going to be selling something. Even if you’ve got a restaurant and you’re overseeing a restaurant, there’s still a level of leadership and sales acumen that’s going to be required in order to operate your franchise system.
So I’ll say that because you’ll hear people say, “oh, I’ll just go get a franchise. I don’t want to do sales.” Well, you know, thinking that the sales will just come anyway. But I think that’s really important. I can’t think of a system yet where that’s not really important. And I think that a new franchisee has to be someone who’s willing to follow the franchisor’s system. The franchisor creates the wheel, creates all the systems and the process, and a successful franchisee is going to want to jump in and roll the wheel versus creating more spokes on the wheel. They have to be willing to want to follow the system as opposed to kind of creating their own system, if you will, their own business system.
Juliette Schmerler (03:05):
Yeah, that totally makes sense.
Marietta Snetsigner (03:07):
Yeah, and it’s really frustrating as a franchisee and as a franchisor if you’re not aware of that and you kind of get into a franchise system and that’s what you thought you could do. You thought you’d have a lot more flexibility, it’s really no fun for anyone if that’s not the case. So yeah, making sure that people understand expectations are managed on both sides.
Juliette Schmerler (03:30):
Yeah, definitely. Very true. And I know when we work with clients and we’re trying to figure out the persona, who we’re trying to target, a lot of franchises will say, even if say it’s a barbershop franchise, they’re not necessarily looking for a hairdressers, they’re looking for a leader. They’re looking for someone who can run a business. And yes, if they have a little bit of background professionally that matches the franchise, then that’s a bonus. But a lot of it’s about personality and just being able to kind of run a business and multitask and work with people and do sales, that’s definitely very important as well.
Marietta Snetsigner (04:03):
Yeah, I totally hear you. And to that point, just because you’re a barber doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good franchisee in a barber franchise system. You can hire barbers who can be trained in the business model or the way we do things around here of the franchisor, or you can get yourself trained in that way. I was working with a concept, it was a home organizing concept and originally we were thinking, okay, well we’ll just get home organizers to be our franchisees. But that doesn’t really scale well, just because they’re really good at home organizing, like you said, doesn’t mean they can organize or run and operate a business.
Yeah, and I think that the business model was better served by having a model that’s built around really what they needed was a franchisee or what they need as a franchisee who has the ability to network, connect, build, collaborative relationships, be able to get referral partners so that they can bring the business in and then they can hire people to do the work, you know, organizers in that case. But that can apply to many franchise systems.
Juliette Schmerler (05:19):
Yeah, absolutely. And that, it kind of goes back to what you were saying as well about being able to follow the system. Like sometimes someone who comes in and if they have a very strong background that is similar to what your franchise does, they’ve got a preset idea of how to do things. So that can be tricky with a franchise when you really need to be able to follow a system.
Marietta Snetsigner (05:37):
Yeah. They may have the bad habits if you will. It’s almost sometimes easier just to train them right from scratch, like where they have no experience, teach them in the ways of how you deliver the product or service, whether it’s food, lawn care, whatever it is, and then you know that they’re going to follow the way you do it as a franchise system.
Juliette Schmerler (05:57):
Yeah, makes sense. So what steps can a franchisor take to avoid unnecessary stress when choosing and working with franchisees? Because, I know you’ve been doing this for a while, finding the wrong franchisee can be very stressful and is definitely worth being selective. But what are some things they can do to kind of avoid that stress?
Marietta Snetsigner (06:20):
Well, I think it all starts with the franchisor being properly prepared and ready, truly ready to go to market. And the typical franchisee will hear, “oh, I need an operations manual, I just need to kind of go write down an operations manual and write down how we make the burgers, the recipes”, for example. But really, first of all, as a franchisor, you’re stepping into a brand new business as a franchisor, right? Like you are now all of a sudden going from being in the day-to-day of operating your own initial unit, now you’re stepping into a true leadership role as a franchisor, and now your role has totally changed. Now you’re leading other people in that way and you need to have a system for them to follow.
So I kind of look at it as, we’ve got the front office work, the way that we deliver the products and/or services to our customers, the people who consume and pay us for our products and services. So we can have operations manuals which will be able to help us teach and train our franchisees and their staff how to deliver on that. But we also really need to think about what is the behind the scenes, how we teach and train our franchisees and make sure that we have a proven model, that we’ve proven it our ourselves. Because that’s what we’re sharing with them, that we’ve documented that and we’ve got a system around that. I call that your franchise operating system.
How do we duplicate this business to unit one and unit two? What are the tools, the system, the process, the technology, all of the things that go into helping them set up for success so that they can step into that new role as a franchisee, knowing exactly what they’re going to be doing, what the franchisor is going to be doing. And again, just really set them up for success. So it really comes down to the franchisor understanding their role, the franchisee understanding their role and responsibilities, and having a system which actually fully documents that and allows the franchisor to teach the franchisee how to actually execute on that business plan. I know it’s a bit of a long answer, but I think a lot of franchisors kind of want to oversimplify and say, “oh, I just need an ops manual”. But it’s actually a lot more than that. You really do need to think about the bigger picture and the operating system and having that in place before you ever go to market to find your first franchisee.
Juliette Schmerler (08:52):
Yeah, I think that’s so true. And I think you’re right. A lot of people, when you run a business, you think about the technical side of delivering your product, your service, and you don’t necessarily understand that the person needs to understand how do we greet people? What’s our culture like? How do we manage our team? And all of the very important aspects of actually running the business.
Marietta Snetsigner (09:15):
Totally. Yeah. All the behind the scenes, the accounting, how do we manage the finances of the business, how do we manage the marketing of the business, how does that get duplicated? So like that is almost even more important than some of the front of the scene because if you’re franchisee is not set out for success in that way, and most of the times in a brand new franchise system, it really does start with the one unit mom and pop franchise.
Juliette Schmerler (09:41):
Okay. So do you actually work with a lot of franchisors on that piece of setting up those operation manuals and developing those systems?
Marietta Snetsigner (09:52):
Sure. That’s exactly what we do and that’s what my book is about. We have a program we call the franchisor, and it’s kind of an MBA in franchising for those folks who are in the very early startup. And sometimes I have clients who will kind of go out, go to market with an FDD, have everything done, and then come back and realize there’s some missing pieces. So we absolutely do that, and it really is about getting them ready, getting them set up and then going to market. So, the operations manual is a really great one because if you don’t have a franchise operating system and you haven’t really figured out what that’s going to look like as you duplicate it, it’s really impossible to write an operations manual.
Because to me, an operations manual is simply an outcome. It is the documentation of their franchise operating system, how we do things around here. So through our program, we kind of teach them what they need to get ready. And what do you need to get set up? And that obviously is the documentation of the operating system, the operations and manuals, the training that’s going to be required for those franchisees. And then we take them through a process called Days to First Dollar and that’s really around what happens when a franchisee says, “yes, I want to be your franchisee to the time that they make their first sale”. So Days to First Dollar and really having like a roadmap that a franchisor can take a franchisee through to opening. And it actually allows expectations to be managed on the part of the franchisee and the franchisor.
That can often be a very stressful time actually for both, especially for the franchisee. This is their probably first foray into a business of their own in many cases. And they get really excited and then they might get a little bit nervous. And sometimes having that kind of mapped out really helps a franchisee know they’ve made the right decision. It helps again, manage that expectation of what they’re going to do, what the franchisor is going to do, and they can see the path forward and where they are on that process or on that step. And then for clients, or for your clients especially, who are really in that franchise recruitment space and looking for those new franchisees, it can also be a really great tool and an asset that they can use as they’re actually in the awarding or selling process of the franchise recruitment. Because again, it gives the lead confidence that the franchisor knows exactly what they’re doing, and then they can also see themselves in that process and where they are now, and then what it will look like. They can almost envision themselves as the franchisee and what’s going to happen next.
Juliette Schmerler (12:47):
Yeah, I think that’s so true. I think that in any business, whether it’s a franchise or not, it does take a certain amount of time to be profitable and it’s not uncommon for it to take at least a year. And I think with many franchisees being new to business, they may go in and think, “gosh, I’ve invested all this money and I’m going to start making that back right away”. So if you say to them, look, don’t worry if for the first year you’re breaking even or maybe potentially less, because what we’ve seen is that in year two or three, you, people are really doing well, so then they can kind of relax and not put that pressure on and sort of know what to expect, right?
Marietta Snetsigner (13:25):
Yeah, totally. And, and it’s more to the opening. Like it’s more to the point where sometimes with a bricks and mortar franchise, it can take some time, right? And they’ve started the process, the clock is ticking, right? So you just want to make sure that they have to be careful around disclosure and earnings claims as well. So there are laws around that, so when a franchisee joins you, you’re limited on what you can say to them. Sometimes just even allowing them to see, what’s the next six months? Or when am I actually going to make at least that first sale and understand when that’s going to happen? That can be really helpful if they thought that they were going to get in there and start opening their business in 60 days. Well, that’s pretty unlikely in most franchise systems, unless the build out’s already been done. But if you have to go acquire real estate and then do tenders on construction and then it just depends. And certainly that’s been a challenge for many franchisors during this time and just kind of getting back into that space.
Juliette Schmerler (14:33):
So, definitely very important to set proper expectations. When you have a franchisee that’s sort of starting to get some momentum and they’ve opened and so on, what are some things that you can do to encourage franchisees to be part of the franchise’s growth?
Marietta Snetsigner (14:51):
I think that as a franchisor it’s not like you set them up and you kind of leave them to be. I think the responsibility is with the franchisor to really ensure that they’re successful and continue to support them. It’s not like, get the doors open and then off they go. And to your point on the franchisee, the franchisee really has to know that their success depends on their ability and it is their responsibility to roll out the franchisor’s marketing plan in their specific market. So that means they need to follow the marketing plan, make sure that they have the cash flow required and the financial ability to manage the business, like you said, until they are in a cash positive way.
And also I’ll say, listen to the franchisor, they’ve been down this path before, and talk to other franchisees in the system, other franchisees who’ve been successful, and stay connected to the franchisor. Talk to your field consultant or an operations person, stay connected with them. Listen to what they have to say, they’ve probably done this for some time, and they’re going to be cheering for you. They want you to be successful. And just make sure that you’re part of implementing the franchisors plan.
Juliette Schmerler (16:13):
Yeah, I think that’s really valid. I know that many of the stories that I hear a lot is with franchisees who kind of go rogue and they’re like, “I’m going to do my own marketing”. And it doesn’t have the proper look and feel, right messaging, and then the benefit of buying a franchise is you’re doing a proven system, right? You’ve been given a proven system. So rather than making those expensive mistakes of trying to figure out how to get your perfect clients, use that knowledge and that experience that the franchisor has gone through to kind of figure out what works for your target market and just get that going. Because I mean, when we work with franchises, a lot of times they’re testing things out on their own first location themselves to make sure it works before they go to the franchisee to say, this is what you need to do.
Marietta Snetsigner (17:00):
Exactly. If you’re going to be in a franchise system, be all in and otherwise you might as well start your own business. Like why are you going to pay them a franchise fee if you’re just going to want to resist and do your own thing anyway. You might as well save all of that energy and money and just do your own thing. I mean, not everyone’s meant to be a franchisee too. Like that’s, that’s the bottom line as well. And that’s part of the franchisor, having those conversations during the qualification process to make sure that you do truly understand what is involved, educating them about the business model.
Juliette Schmerler (17:39):
Right. Yeah, definitely. Very true. So, what would you say, and I know this is a bit of a very broad question because I know it depends a lot on the actual franchise, but you can even use some examples if you like. What are some things that the franchisee should do to get customers in general?
Marietta Snetsigner (18:00):
Well, I think to attract and retain customers is something that the franchisee and the franchisor, really that’s where they come together, right? Like every franchisee and franchisor, the common goal should be to attract more and more of our customers consuming more and more of our products and services on a more frequent basis on an ongoing basis. And I think, at the franchisee level, obviously making sure that your customers are satisfied and happy, making sure that if they have a good story to tell, that you’re asking for those reviews, those Google reviews, that online social media, social proof of their positive experience with you. And if things do go sideways or not quite to the customer’s satisfaction, making sure that you get that solved sooner than later, not going to battle with the customer.
That will never, especially in this day and age, it’s just not worth it. I know everyone gets kind of like the customer’s not always right. And neither are you as a franchisee, but is it really worth it to kind of go to battle? It’s kind of like a little bit of pick your battles, that exceptional customer service, surprise, delight, making sure that they have a positive experience and that they want to tell their friends about what’s happened as a result of doing business with you, because that will get you further ahead in the long run. Because the negative stories will also go faster than wildfire. So just making sure that you are really making sure your customers have a great experience when they do business with you.
Juliette Schmerler (19:38):
Yeah, definitely. And that’s all part of your small portion as a franchisee of building up a brand, right? I mean, the more franchises that open for a brand and the more people get, we build that reputation as a team together. The more successful you’re gonna be. And the franchisor has a responsibility to also do sort of more broad-based marketing in terms of the brand awareness. The franchisee’s going to be interested in trying to bring in those customers, but there’s also the brand awareness piece, which is part of what they’re paying for. So, I think that all kind of plays into the whole customer acquisition piece.
Marietta Snetsigner (20:22):
I think that to your point around that, the really important part of being a franchisor, and the franchisee has a role in this as well, is really around innovation and being a subject matter expert in your particular space. So the franchisor, and the reason why many people join a franchise system is because they know that the franchisor has figured out how to do this better than maybe your competitors or there’s something interesting, unique, different and better about the way they deliver on the product or service. And as a franchisor, you need to stay relevant. You need to kind of stay a few feet, a few steps ahead of the competition, be on the lookout for the next innovative ways and be able to adapt and pivot the business. If technology changes or if things come up, there are other products or services that you could be offering your customers.
You know, you as a franchisor need to be kind of aware of that. And as a franchisee you need to trust your franchisor that they are the subject matter expert. A bad / good example would be Blockbusters. Blockbuster does not exist anymore. There were opportunities that they had in the technology space that they could have possibly implemented to maintain their relevancy, but they did not and as a result they lost relevancy and are no longer a brand. In the food space, concepts I’ve worked with being aware of what the trends are around, for example, the breakfast category. Or the lunch category, like if the franchisor is really doing the research following the trends, they might realize that there’s a particular day part where there’s an opportunity and there may be products that they can add to the menu or revise the menu to have different offerings for their clientele.
And they would roll that out for the franchisees because again, they’re the subject matter expert. They know what’s going on, they know where the trends are, and of course the franchisee gets to hopefully benefit from that. Or new product offerings, special menus. Franchise systems are often off limited time offers are really popular in that space.
Juliette Schmerler (22:43):
Yeah, definitely very important to not be stagnant. I think that’s true for any business. I know that’s true for our business and especially in marketing, things are always changing, but I think it’s what makes business very exciting personally. But I think, sure, you always need to be on top of things. Don’t ever just sort of sit back and go, “okay, I’ve got it, it’s good. Everything’s good”. Because so there’s always going to be somebody who’s going to come around and have a better idea, a better way of doing things. So I think that’s definitely very true.
Marietta Snetsigner (23:09):
Yeah, just kind of being aware. I mean, look, with everything that’s going on in technology with AI, there are going to be some amazing opportunities that are going to present themselves. And I think a smart franchisor is kind of on that and following those trends and figuring out how can we integrate that into our system, how can we innovate around that and how we can improve the customer experience. I mean, it always comes down to, what is going to help and serve our customers because that’s what’s going back to how do we attract and retain customers? Well, it’s when we can be innovative and anticipate their needs before they even know they have a need.
Juliette Schmerler (23:47):
Yeah, absolutely. So tell me, what is a customer that comes to you look like and how do you help them get through the process? I know in many cases you’re working with clients that are wanting to turn their business into a franchise. So how does that look like, how do they come to you and how do you help them get through that?
Marietta Snetsigner (24:08):
Yeah, most of my clients come to me, usually lawyer referral, quite frankly. Sometimes they find me from speaking from situations like this, a podcast, but typically they have a really successful business and maybe someone’s asked them, oh, are you a franchise? Or it’s kind of been part of their master plan where they knew that they were going to grow this business with the eventual desire to franchise the business. And we help them really figure out five main things. The first one, and I’ve already alluded to it and share with you already, but we help them figure out what is your franchise operating system? What does that look like? We help them validate their fee structure, obviously in cooperation with their accountant. Figuring out what are the fees going to look like, the franchise fee, the royalty fee. What do the dollars and cents and financial metrics of the business look like?
We help them complete their operations manuals, teach them what they need to know. We’ve got really great templates and sometimes they just need a little bit of direction and support around knowing what to include and how to do it. We help them figure out that Days to Dollar pathway, which I already shared with you. When someone says yes, what does it look like from the time that franchisee says yes until they make their first dollar? And of course, that franchisee attraction plan, how do we attract the right fit franchisees, repel the ones who are not, and really truly add a system and process around that decision making piece. So we teach them a mini MBA, if you will, in how to become a franchisor.
Juliette Schmerler (25:43):
Yeah, that’s fantastic. And I know you have a really nice program with great systems, which is very appropriate for the franchising industry. We love it when someone’s worked with someone like you prior to coming to us because they really understand what they’re getting into and understand who they want to target and they’re so much better prepared for sure.
Marietta Snetsigner (26:06):
Juliette Schmerler (26:07):
Okay, so one final question, and again, this is a bit of a broad one, but what advice would you give to a new franchisor?
Marietta Snetsigner (26:16):
Well, okay, it’s kind of what I see as the biggest mistakes of emerging franchisors. The first one is they really haven’t validated the structure for their franchise system. They haven’t really figured out that franchise operating system. They don’t know what that looks like and they haven’t taken the time to do that. They’ve rushed to market more interested in finding new franchisees and they’re like, oh we’ll figure it out later. And that generally does not work well for a business model. They have unvalidated the fee structure. They haven’t really figured out the dollars and cents. They don’t know if they’ve got enough of a royalty. So, the metrics, the financial metrics, maybe it’s not enough to support the franchisee and maybe it’s not enough for them to be supported as a franchise or in the long run either.
So, you want to make sure you have a win-win fee structure. So kind of figuring that out, that they’re under-resourced, that they don’t have enough of a team or they’re financially not prepared as a franchisor. Sometimes it takes time to get all of these system processes in place before you find that right fit franchisee. You don’t want to be just, “oh, we have to take them, we need somebody”. You’re better off to wait for the right fit. You know, maybe it won’t be perfect, but you want it to be as perfect as possible. You don’t get a do-over on that. And I know when you’re under that kind of pressure, you want to do it, you want 10 franchises yesterday, but that may not bode well for you in the long run.
So you want to have the time it takes longer than you think to find those right fit franchisees. And sometimes franchisors underestimate the amount of time, energy, and effort it’s going to take to manage those ongoing relationships with those franchisees. And even around what it’s going to take to find a franchisee. So, so as a franchisor, being able to remove yourself from the day-to-day operations and really fully be all in on this new franchise model, those are kind of just a few of the challenges that I see and the things that you want to think about as a new franchisor. Or maybe you’ve already got your FDD done and you might kind of be going, “oh yeah, okay, I can totally appreciate and relate to that”. And I have clients who will come back and do franchisor after they’ve even got their FDD done because they may be spinning their wheels a little bit and they’re like, well, we kind of need to redo or revisit some of some of these things because we really rush to market.
But, if you can kind of get those things figured out, you’ll be a lot further ahead and more likely to be setting yourself and more importantly, your future franchisees up for success.
Juliette Schmerler (29:08):
Yeah, those are really great points. And I think it’s almost like the franchisor needs to sort of shift their mindset about who they are in the business when they become a franchisor. Because it’s not just about getting the work done and hiring and managing your own staff, it’s now about building a team and being there for those new franchisees. So it’s almost like, kind of going back to what you were saying about having a team, is you might need someone else to take over what you were doing and now your job, or vice versa, you’re looking for somebody who’s going to sort of oversee the growth and making your franchisees successful.
Marietta Snetsigner (29:46):
I think that if you’re going to move into the franchise space, you really want to have the right system and process in your current day-to-day operations of your current business, your current operating business, or at least have a mini me someone who can step in and replace you in that business again. So you can remove yourself from the day-to-day so you can be fully present and available and focused on growing, have the bandwidth to grow that business.
Juliette Schmerler (30:13):
Yeah, makes a lot of sense.
Marietta Snetsigner (30:16):
Juliette Schmerler (30:16):
Fantastic. So how can people find you? What’s the best way to reach you?
Marietta Snetsigner (30:22):
Well, we of course, we have a website, ascendfranchise.com. I am on LinkedIn, Marietta Snetsigner, happy to connect with anyone. And if you go to our website, there’s lots of good information and if you are one of those folks who are looking to be a franchise you can schedule a time to chat if you’re in the franchise space. I’m always happy to speak with you. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and happy to connect. I hope that your listeners found this valuable and helpful.
Juliette Schmerler (30:57):
I’m sure they will. I’ve definitely myself found it very interesting. And we’ll put all those links on the blog post and our newsletter, etc. And thank you so much for joining us today. It was wonderful talking to you.
Marietta Snetsigner (31:09):
Oh, thank you for having me. It was really great to be here and I truly hope this is a value to your listeners.