“I sold to the wrong franchisees.” What now?

May 26, 2014 3:11 pm Published by 10 Comments

“I sold my franchises to the wrong franchisees,” a franchisor recently lamented during one of our coaching calls.

I can’t tell you how often I have heard that statement in the last 30-plus years.

What can I say?

Shame on you?

“Yes, you did, and what a shame for you.” Or should I say, “What a shame for those franchisees”?

Because those franchisees are suffering. That’s what finally got my client’s attention. She said, “I run the same business that my franchisees are supposed to be running. I know it’s a good business. I kept asking myself, ‘Why do I succeed at this business and they do not?’ And finally it hit me. They are the wrong people for this business.”

It makes perfect sense, but it doesn’t work

Here’s how that happens. A franchisor of an accounting service sells his franchises to accountants. A franchisor of a pet industry business sells his franchises to people who love pets. A barbershop franchisee sells his franchises to barbers. A photography franchisor sells his franchises to photographers. This is like mixing apples and oranges, or oranges and lemons! It doesn’t work.

Franchisors are supposed to sell franchises to people who can learn how to operate a specific business. Just because you can shoot great photos doesn’t mean you can learn to succeed in a photography business. Those are two different disciplines, and they require different skills.

Learn this lesson and protect yourself

But franchisors are slow to learn this lesson. Therefore, you, the prospective franchisee, better learn the lesson fast. Do not invest in any franchise just because the product or service appeals to you, or because it’s a product or service that you know you can provide. That’s not why franchisees succeed! They succeed because they learn how to build a specific business.

A quick assessment of your skills

I cannot take award-winning photographs. I can’t do anyone’s accounting. I could not cut your hair to your satisfaction. But I could run a great photography, accounting or hair salon business. I know I could because I have the skills to run those kinds of businesss. Until you know what skills you possess, beware of buying a franchise.  And if a franchisor isn’t testing you for your skills in advance of you investing in a franchise – run from that franchisor.

By the way, you can find out your aptitude for operating franchised businesses by spending a few moments with the Franchise Navigator. The assessment will tell you the types of businesses that make sense for you.


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This post was written by Dr. John Hayes


  • Liam says:

    Well, of course you need good business skills to run a business, but at the same time having background knowledge of your area of expertise would definitely help smooth things along! Saying that doing so would be akin to mixing apples and oranges isn’t a fair comparison.

  • sarah says:

    well-written article! i agree with your points – running a business doesn’t just require professional-level talent, it also requires a clear head and good business skills. a lot of hobbyists excitedly start out their businesses founded purely on love for their job, and they crash and burn months later with huge financial repercussions. good points.

  • Michelle says:

    Yes, good article! My friend started a business around July last year, for hobbyist photographers like herself. They were all reasonably talented, and passionate about photography – but completely clueless when it came to running a business. Unfortunately, they couldn’t handle customers and deadlines and PR and all these unfamiliar concepts that came with their company, and they were forced to sell their business to a franchisee, who ended up being unable to salvage the mess and get them into shape. Naturally, the business ran aground only a few months after that. 🙁 If only they’d known about this sooner..

  • Emma says:

    Nice cautionary article. I’ve been looking into franchising recently, as my childhood dreams of becoming an entrepreneur have re-surfaced, and things like these will save me a world of trouble. Thanks a bunch!

  • Edward says:

    The Franchise Navigator looks tremendously helpful, thanks! And I wholeheartedly agree that evaluating your skills before you operate a franchised business is one of the most important steps (and sadly, one that is often missed out). Good article!

  • Linda says:

    Quite right, how can anyone expect to succeed in business without the necessary skills, experience or know-how. If you are a builder you know that a person cannot build a successful building without the right training or materials. As that builder you know that so why would you think you could be a business man without the relevant training or materials.

  • Audrey says:

    Yes, you make a good point. Nice article. I must show this article to my brother. He is convinced that his business will succeed and refuses to take even free business courses to help out. He thinks that because he has a niche angle he will win out against competition and is being a bit blinkered. I don’t want him to fail and the points you have made here will help me to convince him.

  • Doug says:

    I agree with Liam, real success comes from passion and I have to believe there must be an element of personal passion for a business to succeed. If you can’t see your way clear to be truly personally passionate about your business, it will never go as far.

  • Sophie K says:

    How about someone that has never run a business before? I desperately want to be my own boss and I have the capital to get me started, but I have no experience in it at all! Any advice would be great.

  • johnhayes says:

    Many franchisors prefer that you do NOT have a background in running a business . . . often times, people who have business operations experience have developed bad habits and franchisors know that bad habits are tough to break. They would rather teach you from the get-go about how to operate a business, and especially how to operate a business by their standards, which are generally created and tailored for success! Don’t worry about not having experience!

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