If you are considering investing in a Business-to-Business (B2B) franchise, you likely have a lot of questions regarding how to get started and what your life will be like if you become a franchisee. To help answer them, Franchise Business Review asked three successful franchisees, Ron Buck, who owns a Murphy Business & Financial franchise, which specializes in brokering businesses; Matt Sorenson, who owns a Payroll Vault franchise, which specializes in payroll and workforce services; and Sally Hanson, who owns an Our Town America franchise, which markets businesses to new movers via direct mail, to share their experience.
1) What advice do you have for someone looking for a franchise? How should they proceed?
“There is almost an overwhelming number of choices available with a wide variety of models and approaches. The first thing to consider is whether or not a franchise is right for you. Do you need a little or a lot of flexibility? Do you value being able to leverage someone else’s work to create a brand, products, pricing, operations, and processes or do cherish the ability to march to the beat of your own drum?
If you decide a franchise is a good fit, seek help from a qualified business broker/franchise coach who can help you determine whether or not an existing franchise resale is appropriate for you, or if a new franchise territory is better. In addition, they can help you find a franchise that fits your strategic, lifestyle, and financial objectives by navigating and advising you as they help you narrow down the list from thousands to a handful that are a good fit for you.” -Ron Buck, Murphy Business & Financial
There are many franchise opportunities out there. It’s important to find a good fit for your own personality and goals.
“There are many franchise opportunities out there. It’s important to find a good fit for your own personality and goals. Spend the time to vet the organization and make sure their values align with yours. Start by defining your goals. Different businesses have different time and capital requirements. How soon do you need to break even/turn a profit? How much time do you want to spend working in the business? Once you define your goals, it’s time to start vetting franchises.” - Matt Sorenson, Payroll Vault
"Try to find a match with what your skills are and what you’ve been successful in. My husband has a different skill set than me. We are able to leverage his computer knowledge and attention to detail and my strong sales background for a perfect balance of talent that we need to be successful." - Sally Hanson, Our Town America
2) Why did you decide to become a franchisee?
“As I was transitioning from corporate America, I was considering buying an existing company, starting my own independent firm, or joining a small partnership. I couldn’t quite find the existing company that met my goals, and the independent start-up model and joining a small partnership both struggled with back office expenses and workload, lack of institutional backing, lack of brand awareness and presence, and longer time frames to break even. All things that you instantly solve by joining an established franchise. Financially, I like the unlimited compensation opportunity bound only by my own abilities and performance.” – Ron Buck, Murphy Business & Financial
“I wanted flexibility in my career. I didn’t want to miss any of my son’s baseball games, etc. Financially, starting a franchise was a pay cut. The 10-year plan however puts me ahead of my previous expected salary, so my goal was a play for the long term.” - Matt Sorenson, Payroll Vault.
Time isn’t defined by someone else’s schedule, or days or weeks anymore. It’s my choice how and where to spend each hour and what I spend it on.
3) Has owning a franchise met your work and personal/lifestyle objectives?
“Yes. I wanted a flexible work environment coupled with a strong back office and framework. I also wanted to be in charge of my own destiny, versus being at the mercy of a corporate parent half a country away. Corporate people, who don’t quite get owning your own company, often ask things like, ‘How much vacation do you get?’ The answer is that I’m simultaneously always on vacation and never on vacation. Time isn’t defined by someone else’s schedule, or days or weeks anymore. It’s my choice how and where to spend each hour and what I spend it on. I can tell you that while working more hours, I’ve also attended more of my kids’ games, concerts, and events.” - Ron Buck, Murphy Business & Financial
“Yes. I work hard, but the work is rewarding. I feel that I make a difference in the community and truly help our clients, while having time for family and hobbies.” - Matt Sorenson, Payroll Vault.
"We wanted to be free to travel and drive our own schedule. We wanted a work from home business with little to no employees. We wanted a franchise model that allowed us to ramp up quickly and become profitable within a year. We wanted a support team at corporate who was interested in our well being and growth and not just the bottom line. We also wanted stability with a company that knows what they are doing and has experience. We found all of this and more at Our Town America." - Sally Hanson, Our Town America
4) What experience did you have previously that you have found particularly useful when it comes to achieving success as a franchisee?
“I came from a mergers and acquisition background, coupled with being a Chief Operating Officer of an insurance company that went through some trying times during the housing crisis. These experiences help me relate to business owners facing significant strategic decisions, like whether to sell or not.” - Ron Buck, Murphy Business & Financial
“Oddly enough, my experience at a movie theater turned out to be quite helpful. I specialized in customer service and training new staff members. As a franchise owner, I am the company so I live customer service every day. Having that skill set and experience was a great starting point. I also worked in payroll previously, and for all the obvious reasons, that was useful as well.” -Matt Sorenson, Payroll Vault.
(Note: There are many B2B franchise concepts that do not require any prior experience as outlined within the article Traits of an Ideal B2B Franchisee.)
Always keep in mind the quickest way to success is to provide your clients with exceptional service.
5) What advice do you have for a franchisee in their first year of business in order to achieve success?
“First, pick the right franchise, do your due diligence, and talk with other franchisees. Make sure it is the right fit for you -- you need to light up a little inside when considering it or talking about it. Second, now that you’ve made the commitment, go all in, follow their system that made you chose that franchise in the first place. Often when I am called in to sell an existing franchise, the ones that didn’t do well only partially or half-heartedly followed the system and recommendations. Finally, work your tail off! The first year is hard work, but very rewarding. Always keep in mind the quickest way to success is to provide your clients with exceptional service.” - Ron Buck, Murphy Business & Financial
“Take the time to work ON your business, don’t just work IN your business. As a new owner, you will probably be in the trenches, calling clients, maybe even filling in for staff or working the register. Don’t lose sight of your vision and goals and set aside time to work on achieving them.” - Matt Sorenson, Payroll Vault.
"Make sure the franchise is a good fit for your skills and have a year’s worth of finances available. Reach out as much as possible to other franchisees and ask questions. Follow what you’ve been taught in training and don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Not having to do so is why you buy a franchise in the first place! Be open to learning from mistakes and rejections and keep going!" - Sally Hanson, Our Town America
The main difference is that all of your hard and extra work goes to your benefit, not someone else’s.
6) What should a franchisee expect their work and personal life to be like during their first year or few years in business?
“Expect to work many hours and at some point to question your decision to go into business for yourself. That’s just the inevitable ‘it’s darkest before dawn’, the sun will rise. The main difference is that all of your hard, and extra work goes to your benefit, not someone else’s.” - Ron Buck, Murphy Business & Financial
“That’s really going to depend on the franchise you choose and if you plan to work full time, or hire more staff. For me, it was two years before I took a proper vacation, but I enjoyed working remotely and long weekends. The biggest difference in my personal life is that work followed me home. I don’t mean I sat on my email at the dinner table, but I have a personal investment in the business so I would often think about work after work hours. Your good days will be even better, but your bad days can be worse.” - Matt Sorenson, Payroll Vault
"This depends on the skills of the franchise owner and also if there are a lot of other demands going on, such as children. I have more time of than I did while working in corporate America. I am my own manager, which means I can work as little or as much as I want. I don’t have meetings and reports to give to someone else every day and I do not have to manage people" - Sally Hanson, Our Town America
It’s important to use the resources your franchise gives you.
7) How hard was it to learn the business?
“I had a background in the business, so it was a natural fit. However, Murphy has an excellent initial and ongoing training program, along with access to fellow franchisees, that has allowed me to significantly expand my knowledge base and expertise.” - Ron Buck, Murphy Business & Financial
“With my payroll background, I had a good grasp on operations from the beginning. The learning curve for me was in sales and marketing. Other Payroll Vault owners helped me and the franchisor hosts multiple sales trainings a year and provides well put together marketing templates and guides. It’s important to use the resources your franchise gives you.” - Matt Sorenson, Payroll Vault.
"The Our Town America concept is easy one to learn. If the initial training is followed and your activity is high, I think anyone with a sales background can do this. We have a family type of culture and support is available from the other franchisees. It's not a competitive environment." - Sally Hanson, Our Town America
Now that you have an understanding of what it’s like to be a B2B franchisee, you’re probably ready to start researching brands. The first thing to do is to narrow down your search to ones that you’d enjoy doing for years to come. The second is to ensure the concepts you are interested in are likely to meet your financial and personal goals.
Only considering franchises with satisfied owners is a very wise move. The franchises on Franchise Business Review’s 2017 Top B2B Franchises list were selected based on data from Franchise Business Review’s survey of 4,934 franchisees representing 53 different B2B brands in the previous 18 months.
If you are finding the research process overwhelming, take heart. FBR’s Franchise Buyer’s Toolkit will take you through investing in and running a franchise business, provides you with an in-depth breakdown of the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD), which if you understand how to read it provides crucial insight into the franchise you are interested in, and features an online course that will enable you to make realistic, personalized financial projections in order to understand how much money you could make.
To further educate yourself about B2B franchise opportunities, we recommend you read: