Franchise thoughts & career changes

NicheAuthor and consultant Dr. Lynda Falkenstein is the expert behind Ask the Niche Doctor, a Vancouver Business Journal business advice column. Do you have a question for the Niche Doctor? Email drniche@vbjusa.com.

Dear Niche Doctor,

I’m thinking about buying a business and want to know what your feelings are about getting a franchise. I’ve done quite a bit of research already and have several options in mind. What do you recommend?

As a former franchisor, I definitely have some opinions on this subject. However, the most important thing for you to consider is your personality and your needs. 
If you are a died-in-the wool entrepreneur, franchising is definitely not for you. In fact, it will likely be a disaster because you’ll feel constrained and, at times, at odds with your franchisor.

A major reason to buy a franchise in the first place is that the startup work has been done and the concept has been tested (or at least should have been). So when you buy a franchise, you get a whole package and you don’t mess it. Those rules are usually pretty clear.

Problems often arise when the franchise honeymoon is over; when you get ideas of your own that you think might improve your opportunity and/or make the product or service better. Unless the franchisor has a system for this to happen, you’ll be against a brick wall. In a very real way, a successful franchise is a partnership between you and corporate. The question is, “do you want a partner?”

Another area where potential franchisees get caught is in assuming that the franchisor will be doing their major marketing. This is often not the case. You’re buying a business, but you still have to get the business. Be sure you know yourself with respect to this issue. Find out what kind of marketing would be suitable for your franchise and be certain you’re up for making it happen. Like other businesses, a franchise can have the best widget or service in the world, but if you’re invisible, it won’t matter.

The good news is that in today’s world, franchising has mushroomed and there are many options to choose from. If you go down this route, remember that buying a franchise is like joining an extended family. Again, the question is, “Do you want more family?”

Dear Niche Doctor,

I’m a medical doctor. Yes, the kind that went through many years of school, and spent lots of money getting where I am today. Well, where I am today is unhappy. I really don’t like my work, and I fear that this career choice was a mistake from the start. At this point, I see no way out. What’s your take?

One of my clients had a similar experience, and his story may help you sort out your own path. My client, aka “Unhappy Doc,” had also gone to medical school – not for himself but for his mother. Instead of pursuing his dream of being an artist, he succumbed to the pressures of getting a “real job.” Before long, he was worrying about throwing away all the years and money spent in medical school.

Realizing that things weren’t going to improve by doing nothing, Unhappy Doc began a serious look at how his skills as an artist, a runner (one of his other talents) and medical doctor could merge into something resembling a serious job – serious enough to support his wife 
and children.

Voila! It worked. Once he dumped the traditional thinking mode, he realized he really could have it all.

Today, “Happy Doc” is a senior-level designer for one of the world’s leading manufacturers of athletic shoes. He loves his work because it builds on the best that he already is. His medical background is used in a completely different way than he would ever have expected.

Now it’s your turn. Start by asking yourself what your greatest skills really are. What do you enjoy doing the most? Next, think about where those skills could help someone else achieve his/her own goals. It’s an exciting world out there, but it’s up to you to muster some courage, get out of your box and build on who you really are.

Dr. Lynda Falkenstein, business consultant and author of “NICHECRAFT: Using Your Specialness to Focus Your Business, Corner Your Market, and Make Customers Seek You Out,” invites your questions and comments. Reach her directly at: drniche@vbjusa.com or 503.781.0966. Please note that the Vancouver Business Journal reserves the right to publish your letter or an edited version all print and electronic media.

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