It’s a jungle out there!
A wise man once observed that everyone is an expert in at least two areas: raising your kids and leading your life. Maybe we should add: owning your business. It’s just human nature. We have opinions and we love to give them, valuable or not. The only event more flattering than being asked to give our opinions is having the requester follow the proffered advice!
Free advice is plentiful. The problem is it may be useless or even dangerous! It is not a matter of motives or good will – although sometimes envy or jealousy can taint a free-adviser’s remarks.
The motivation may be noble, genuine concern about our well being, but good motives do not change bad advice into good advice. The presumed good will of the advice giver presents another hazard: it causes us to lower our defenses, and to turn off our critical faculty. We accept the advice without proper examination. We are caught off guard. We are ambushed!
Most people give you their opinion with the best of motivations. That does not make the opinion valid. I once had someone tell me that he had decided not to go into a franchised food business because he was discouraged by a cousin who had operated an independent restaurant and had failed. This man had just had his dreams AMBUSHED and he did not even know it.
The fact that his cousin had failed should have meant nothing. His cousin may have been in the wrong business, the wrong location or may have simply been a poor business person. His cousin was an independent, and my client was thinking about joining an established, and successful chain. There was no relevance to the client’s decision.
A Dream Denied
Just like my client, many people find a franchise that captures their interest. The feel that at last they have found something that might, just might, be the vehicle for business ownership that they have been seeking. After a short time, a few days or a week at most, that interest and even excitement vanishes — even before they have done any serious research on the opportunity. What happened? They were ambushed!
Sound silly? Are you feeling just a little bit smug, confident that you would never step into an ambush? Do not smirk just yet. Ambushes come in many forms and from many places.
What kinds of ambushes are there? Unfortunately, there are quite a few. Below is a sampling of some of the most common ones.
The Spousal Ambush
This is a familiar event. The business seeker claims, “I’ve talked it over with my spouse, and he/she says it’s my call. Whatever I want to do is just fine!” Well, it is “fine,” until the hopeful owner comes home and starts talking about the franchise. Suddenly, the objections and concerns begin to flow. Soon, the task of business ownership becomes complicated by marital disagreement, and what was so promising now appears impossible.
Owning a business, franchise or not, is a family decision. If it’s scary for you, imagine how it must feel to those around you. They have less information about what you are thinking of doing than you do. You may have neglected to keep them informed. Even before the search begins, a married couple needs frank, honest discussions about the benefits and problems of business ownership. When there is agreement to go forward, both parties should attend any discussions so each has the same information. Added benefits include better retention of the discussion and a shared pool of knowledge for the partners to review.
The Friend/Neighbor Ambush
It is flattering to be asked for your opinion. Most of us readily respond, even if we do not know anything about the subject. So friends and neighbors will cheerfully provide their (uninformed) opinions when asked.
Without being rude or close minded, try to limit the input from well meaning, but non-expert people. Give each opinion the worth it deserves based only on the knowledge and business experience of the opinion giver.
The Trusted Advisor Ambush
Ah…our trusted advisers…we look to them precisely FOR their opinions when making big decisions. And it’s a good thing to have these people in our corner for their expertise! The problem here is that so often they also like to add their personal opinion, sprinkled in throughout the actual expert advice they are giving. Many years ago, I was guilty of this myself as an Outplacement Consultant – occasionally clients would say that they were looking at a particular franchise and, regardless of what franchise, my advice at the time was “oh, that’s risky, let’s work more on your resume!” That opinion was based on my own fears at the time and my own misunderstanding of the difference in risk between franchising and a pure independent start up. But it didn’t stop me from voicing my opinion…and probably discouraging some people in the process.
Pretty much the same as the “Friend/Neighbor” Ambush. Give each opinion the worth it deserves based only on the knowledge and of the opinion giver. But make a point to differentiate between their professional opinion within their area of expertise and the opinions they have that may have nothing to do with their degree, certification or professional area of expertise.
The Envious Associate Ambush
It’s not pleasant to contemplate, but sometimes your decision to explore new horizons may create envy, resentment, or fear, from people you know. It sounds silly. Why should someone else resent the step you are about to make? Sad to say, envy and jealousy are common human failings, and may exist even in your circle of friends and acquaintances. So, if you are taking a giant step forward, your “friend” may feel he/she is being left behind!
Rather than join you on the journey to new successes, however, the “envious associate” will find good sounding reasons to justify doing nothing. By stopping you from moving forward, your associate justifies his inability to move.
Keep yourself focused on your goals, and protect your goals from uninformed or ill reasoned advice, whatever the source. It does not matter whether the person who is trying to hold you back is doing it for the right reasons or not. All that matters is if the advice or information is accurate and solid. If it is, then pay attention to it. If not, ignore it.
The Cold Feet Ambush
This is the most common ambush, and it is a self-ambush. That’s right, we do it to ourselves. Most serious, major things that we do for the first time are at least a little bit scary. Going into business is a big thing, and it is definitely scary. So, we set up a way to avoid having to make a tough and scary decision. In this self-ambush, we find reasons to justify not going into business. We allow our fears to get ahead of our hopes. We deprive ourselves of the opportunity to achieve the very thing we most want…the independence, security and freedom that comes with being the boss of a successful business.
We must give ourselves permission to be scared, and use the fear factor to our advantage by letting it add an extra element of caution and care to our research. After you have clearly set your goals, you must compare several different opportunities to each other to see which one most closely matches your “perfect model business.” Don’t compromise on items like cost of acquisition, or what skills have been needed by those people who are already successful in that business
The ‘Looking in the Wrong Places’ Ambush
Often people destroy their own dreams of business ownership by confusing casual inquiry with real research. It is another version of self-ambush, a classic case of “shooting yourself in the foot.”
For example, a person considering a retail business tries to find out how many similar businesses are listed in the Yellow Pages. That is interesting — but tell him/her nothing about the true size of the market, or the market niche the retail business targets. It may be the market is under-served!
Another example: a person asks a competitor about the business opportunity. Does she expect encouragement to enter the field? Does she expect a favorable assessment of the franchise? What she should not expect is an unbiased opinion! Anyway, none of this “looking around” is valuable research. It falls into the “interesting, but so what?” category.
Another example: a person has a valid concern about a business. Perhaps he has heard that staffing is a challenge. Or maybe he fears the market is already crowded with competitors. Then, without any attempt to confirm the validity of these concerns, he concludes that they are accurate. He has not explored these concerns with the true experts in the business, the franchisor and the franchisees. Instead he makes an illogical leap to a conclusion without any intervening facts! And so his dream is lost.
This self-ambush reminds me about the hummingbird theory. Years ago, according to then current scientific theory, hummingbirds cannot fly. Yet, they can. The theory fails. So the rule is: the theory, or the assumption, or the concern, all yield to reality.
The person who is concerned about staffing at least owes it to himself to find out how the many franchisees do handle staffing. The prospective franchise owner who is worried about competition should not assume that competition is greater where he lives. Instead, he should talk to the experts — the franchisor and franchisees — and find out how they fare in competitive situations. He may learn that their superior marketing power is consolidating the industry.
You must do serious and intelligent research about the industry and the franchise. The best source of information about the franchise is the franchisor and the franchisees. To conduct that research, you must get a copy of the Franchise Offering Circular, which only the franchisor can supply. Not only does the Circular provide a good deal of information about the opportunity, it also supplies the list of current franchisees. You need to speak to several of them to get more data about the franchise.
Information about the industry size, stability, and growth may be available from business journals and books available at local and college libraries. Ask the librarian for assistance.
Paralysis By Analysis Ambush
Another form of self-ambush; this describes people who never make a decision because their research never ends. It is another form of avoidance. Now, we, at Success Franchising are devout preachers of the doctrine of doing intense personal due diligence on any business opportunity. We strongly advocate doing everything from talking to business owners in like businesses and/or franchises, to consulting professional advisors.
We are all in favor of you seeking out qualified advice. That’s the key! It must be Q U A L I F I E D. If you get advice from someone who is not qualified, then you are heading straight into an ambush. Guess who is going to be hurt? Of course, talk to others in the same type of business that you are contemplating. Seek out attorneys, CPA’s, and other qualified business experts. Stay away from “expert opinions” from people who are not experts.
There comes a time, however, when you have done enough research. It is time to make up your mind and make a decision. Acknowledge that research cannot answer every question. Some questions cannot be answered until you actually commit to a business and do it. To try to avoid this, some people keep looking for ways to do more research, even after they have uncovered virtually all the information that is available. These people let their caution overtake their vision! It’s a simple fact that the last piece of the getting into business puzzle, namely “How are you actually going to do in that business,” will only be answered when you have actually worked the business.
Clear focus on your goals and faith in your own judgment are the best tools to avoid the indecision that can come from over analysis. So, make a sensible research plan. Make it complete, and do every single step of your plan. After you have done them all, review the data, and ask yourself these questions:
1) Do I still want to go into business for myself?
2) Have I discovered what it takes to be successful in this business, in terms of others who have already done this business, and in terms of opportunity in my marketplace? If so, do I fit the business? Am I like the people who have already succeeded in it?
3) Assuming I succeed in this business, will it allow me to reach the personal, professional and family goals that I need from my business?
4) Is this the best business I have found to help me achieve my goals?
If the answer to all the above questions is “yes,” then we recommend you buy the business. If the answer to even a single one is “no,” then it is not the business for you. Only if the answer is “I don’t know,” should you do more research.
Knowledge of yourself, your goals, and your priorities is critical to making a good decision, and avoiding an ambush. Intelligent research is the greatest single weapon against ambushes. Include those around you who will also be involved. Avoid those who truly have nothing of substance to contribute. Seek out the professional and experienced advisers that can help you evade that ambush on the way to your goal.
Most of all, remember that you can only be ambushed if you allow yourself to be.
Going into business is about owning not just the opportunities, but also the responsibilities. One of the most basic responsibilities you have to yourself is to do your business search in the best possible way for you.
After all is said and done, remember that if you allow others to steal your dream, by scaring you away from it, you will have ambushed yourself! And instead of holding on to your own dream, you will be working for someone who held on to his.
Avoid the ambush, and seek out your dream.
If you do not seek out your dream, you will end up working for someone who did!