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Tips for Surviving Your First Year as a Franchise Business Owner

That day when you sign the paperwork and become the owner of a franchise business is an exciting one and worth celebrating. It’s the beginning of a dream fulfilled, ownership not just of a business but also your schedule, your income, your future.

The day after you sign the paperwork is when you roll up your sleeves and get to work and that first year can be a steep learning curve for those who have come from being an employee, not an employer. As Vice President of Operations for the senior care franchisor, Homewatch CareGivers, I have over 20 years of experience with helping people survive their first year of franchise business ownership. Here are some tips that I think are important to know and execute on from the start:
  1. Take the time to assess your market and formulate a go-to market plan. Who is your target audience? How will you get your name out? Who are you competing against and how are you better than the competition? Many franchisors will already have the brand’s unique differences identified, and will have marketing to back it up, but don’t forget that YOU as the business owner are responsible for executing that market plan locally. If you’re not sure about competitors, secret shop them to understand them better. Assess your own strengths and knowledge to gain a leg up in some way to differentiate your business. The top franchisors in your industry should have help for you in the area of strategic market planning.
  2. Start talking to people that you already know by asking for referrals and letting them know about your new business. Continue to build this list of contacts through networking and referrals. In my industry for example, in-home senior care, even if someone does not currently have a loved one in need of our services, there is a chance they might in the future, or know someone else who’s loved one needs help. Keeping this audience engaged allows your brand to remain top of mind. This warm market is also a good way to hone your elevator pitch.
  3. Implement and refine processes. Your franchisor will be educating you on processes, but you can also adopt your own to streamline daily activities. How do you create checks and balances in the business to know that all processes are being done correctly? Inspect what you expect. Develop a weekly meeting agenda to discuss challenges in the business and how process needs to be refined to address those challenges.
  4. Build a team of experts. The value of your business increases when you learn to work ON and not IN your business. Thus, you will want reliable staff to be fully trained and in place. It’s also important to understand from the beginning that you cannot do it all, and you’ll need to hire people with different skill sets than your own. As an example in the home care industry, if an owner excels at operations but not customer service, I coach them to hire a reliable and dedicated employee to answer phones, greet new hires, and work directly with the clients. The first year of business ownership is the time to recruit, train, and establish your team of experts.
  5. Hire future ambassadors. Your front-line employees can help build your business. By showing them respect, valuing their contributions, and recognizing good performance, they will spread the good word about your business just like customers. They’ll also be a great resource for referring additional employees. For example in the senior care market, we offer professionally-developed, ongoing training to caregivers in a market that doesn’t often take the time to invest in caregiver’s continuing education. It’s a differentiator for our brand, gives peace of mind to clients, and in turn caregivers feel valued and empowered.

The bottom line is, during a period of time that feels like you have to do everything at once, remember to pace yourself for long-term business building by following these tips.

For more information on Homewatch CareGivers franchise support please visit our franchise website.
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