Finding your first franchisee is both exciting and overwhelming. The process can fill you with adrenaline, make you feel confused, and requires a lot of courage and trusting your gut!
When you decide to franchise your business you want to find an incredible person to be your first owner (and partner – your first franchisee will be a big advocate for your brand to all your following franchisees).
Franchise Development: Growing your franchise through awarding franchises.
If you’re researching how (and where) to find your first franchisee you are likely finding a LOT of answers as there are many channels that can be used for franchise development.
As an emerging brand, there are a lot of channels that won’t be useful for your stage of growth. You don’t yet have the data, franchisee testimonials, or budget to use some of the main franchise development channels.
At AC Inc we want to provide emerging brands with the most relevant, actionable information so you can create genuine, sustainable growth in your brand. We compiled a list of how to NOT find your first franchisee so you can allocate your time, money, and energy in the right places!
5 Ways to NOT Find Your First Franchisee
Paid Digital Marketing/Advertising
Your ideal first few franchisees need to not only be passionate about your offering, they need to also be passionate about you as a founder.
When your Facebook or other ad lands in their feed and they have no idea who you are, it doesn’t speak to them in the way it would if you were to find them in your network.
For someone to take the risk of becoming your first, second or third franchisee, they need to be totally bought into you and what you are offering, or else they will get disgruntled very fast when things don’t go their way.
Instead of spending money on paid ads, spend time and energy connecting with your network (customers, clients, friends, family, peers) to find someone who has a closer connection to you and your business.
When it comes to how to find your first franchisee, you may run into Portals.
Portals are known to bring in lots of leads but even established franchisors will tell you that the closing rate for portals is very low.
As a new franchisor, Portals is even trickier to close leads because most of the leads that get on calls with you will be looking for a proof of concept which you won’t have quite yet.
Sifting through the unqualified leads from Portals can take up your valuable time and energy (or your budget if you pay someone else to do it for you).
Most of the feedback we get about Tradeshows is similar to the point above about Portals. Candidates will be comparing your business to more established brands with a proven offering and they don’t know your story/you/your business on a deep level.
It’s almost unheard of to find your first, second, or third franchisees at a tradeshow. If you can afford it, they can be good for practice and exposure – but in the early stages of franchise growth, the ROI is negligible.
Brokers: Companies who help you find (and sometimes vet) franchise leads.
Brokers (sometimes also called consultants) represent a whole database of brands. They’re unlikely to send a qualified candidate to a new franchisor who they don’t yet trust to be able to close the deal.
They want to see proof that you can take a candidate through the recruitment process and close them because they don’t want to waste an opportunity with a qualified lead.
For your first, second, and third franchisee, you want to be heavily involved in the process of vetting the candidate.
Most early staged franchisors don’t know how to do this so they think the FSOs are the answer. The problem with fully relying on FSOs is that you’re putting all your trust in them to truly know your brand and the type of person who would be a successful franchisee in your business.
Unfortunately, we see many early staged franchisors get blindsided, thinking that using FSOs right away is the best option and they end up with a franchisee who is not the right fit for their concept and culture.
You’ll be far more successful if you learn how to take people through the recruitment process yourself (i.e. by hiring someone you trust to teach, guide, and coach you on the recruitment process until you feel more confident).
Let me reiterate that just because these channels are not the best ways to grow your brand at such an early stage does not mean they’ll never be useful!
Once you have your first franchisees you’ll have a refined recruitment process, a proven franchise concept, and owners to help provide assurance to all your future candidates! At that point, many of these channels can be invaluable.
But for finding your first franchisee it’s imperative to find someone who already loves your brand, your story, and is passionate about your mission. This means finding someone in your network like your customers, clients, friends, family, and peers.
Have more questions about franchise development and finding your first few franchisees? We discuss this and more in our free virtual AC Roundtables where emerging franchisors gather on zoom to collaborate and problem-solve together.
The AC Roundtables are a free resource we offer franchisors who are seeking collaboration and peer-to-peer learning. We’ve been running these virtual roundtables since 2020 and we always love to have new franchisors join us!