Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @DinaDwyerOwens. She’s the Chairwoman and CEO of The Dwyer Group www.dwyergroup.com over such well-known service brands as Mr. Rooter, Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning, and Glass Doctor. She is also a past chairwoman of the International Franchise Association in Washington D.C., the world’s largest advocacy group for franchising. She’s the author of Live R.I.C.H.: How to build success in your company and your life with a proven Code of Values. And many people now know her form her appearance earlier this year on the CBS hit reality show “Undercover Boss” where she went on the front lines of her business in search of her company’s Code of Values at work. For more information www.dinadwyerowens.com
Smallbizlady: What exactly is franchising?
Dina Dwyer-Owens: Franchising is a business strategy — a method of distributing products or services. The “franchisor” lends a trademark, trade name and business system. The “franchisee” pays an initial fee and ongoing royalty for the right to do business under the franchisor’s name and system.
Smallbizlady: Where do I start if I want to buy a franchise?
Dina Dwyer-Owens: The best place to start is by finding something that you’re passionate about — something that you can look forward to doing every day. That is true of any career. But it is even more powerful when you plan to be your own boss and invest in a franchise! There are over 825,000 franchise businesses across 300 business lines, so the key is identifying which franchise opportunity best fits you and your personal and professional desires.
- Visit www.franchise.org — the website for the International Franchise Associate to look at franchise opportunities.
- Talk to existing franchise owners of concepts that interest you.
- Request a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD), a document required by law that details the franchise opportunity.
Smallbizlady: What does a franchise cost?
Dina Dwyer-Owens: Investment levels range from $5,000 to multi-millions. There are home-based businesses and then there are large retail opportunities. There is something for everyone and your ability to finance an opportunity will also help define the franchise that is right for you.
Smallbizlady: Am I more likely to succeed with a franchise?
Dina Dwyer-Owens: Franchising is not for everyone. And buying a franchise does not automatically guarantee business success. The system works IF you work the system. You should not expect to join a recognizable brand and sit back and expect the customers to find you. A good franchise owner is still proactive about marketing the business and following a system that has been proven and replicated across a successful brand. The most successful franchises still require hard work and dedication.
Smallbizlady: What are the biggest advantages of owning a franchised business versus being an independent business?
Dina Dwyer-Owens: There is a popular saying that franchising is about being in business for yourself, but not by yourself. The advantages to joining a franchise include: (1) buying power with vendors that command a better price for things needed to run your business, (2) national branding and name recognition, (3) support and training from your franchisor, (4) peer-to-peer networking to share best practices with others who know your business and are not your competitors, and more.
Smallbizlady: What are a few important things people should know about franchising?
Dina Dwyer-Owens: A franchisee is not completely independent. The franchisee will pay ongoing royalties and advertising fees to the franchisor for the rights to operate under that business. The term of a franchise agreement is usually limited until that time that it comes up for renewal. And, likewise, there is often a well-traveled exit strategy at a time that a franchisee wants to retire or desires to sell his or her business.
Smallbizlady: Are there special programs to help assist in purchasing a franchise?
Dina Dwyer-Owens: There are several. Two that come to mind are VetFran (which was started by The Dwyer Group) and MinorityFran. VetFran is now supported by the International Franchise Association and the US Department of Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Administration. Today, more than 450 franchisors offer military veterans their best financial discount on purchasing a franchise, and more than 2,100 franchises have been awarded through the program.
MinorityFran provides one convenient place where minority prospects can explore franchise opportunities from companies actively seeking minority franchisees. The program partners with Small Business Development Centers, Urban League chapters, and Minority Business Development Agencies among others.
Then there are also franchisors (like at The Dwyer Group) that assist in providing financing.
Smallbizlady: What are some of the latest trends in franchising?
Dina Dwyer-Owens: In today’s economy, it’s increasingly difficult to secure a loan for a small business — even for people with perfect credit. Yet small businesses in America are what have led our country through tough economic times again and again. As bank lending remains tight, franchisors and franchisees are working together to help people into business. At The Dwyer Group, we have always offered financing to qualified prospects. And there is a growing number of people across franchising who are taking advantage of programs like VetFran and other discounts, because together we are making the business world stronger.
Smallbizlady: You have coined the phrase “Live RICH” Can your define that?
Dina Dwyer-Owens: At The Dwyer Group, we operate our businesses with a Code of Values, based on the themes of Respect, Integrity, Customer Focus and Having Fun in the Process. That is what it means to Live RICH, and it’s at the heart of our corporate culture. I consider it a big reason why we are successful across our brands. We do not claim to be perfect, but our values provide us a roadmap to follow that allows us to do our very best. And I’ve written about it to share it with others in my book Live RICH.
Smallbizlady: You are the second generation in your family to run your company, in a male-dominated industry, no less. How do you do it?
Dina Dwyer-Owens: I surround myself with a great team, and each team member brings strengths to our organization that work together to create a great company and successful service brands. As for being a woman in my industry, I am also the target customer for our service brands. I am the woman of the house who hires our service brands in a majority of the jobs our franchisees perform. That is a wonderful perspective that we have embraced across our franchise family in putting “Customers First.” For the woman of the house, concerns go beyond just a service repair. There’s a branded van, a service professional in a clean uniform, booties worn in the house, a doormat with a logo and so much more that enhance the customer experience. Being a woman is a win-win in leading an organization that supports this level of service.
Smallbizlady: How did you define success in your 30s and How do you define it now?
Dina Dwyer-Owens: In my 30s it was about proving myself capable in the tasks of leadership. It was about attracting private equity and getting back to our roots in focusing on our core service brands. I traveled a lot. I was away from home a lot. But all the work by our team laid the foundation for an even stronger future. In my 40s, success is about growing our team and our brands to the next level with our next private equity partner. It’s championing what we know, which in fact has given me more time to prioritize. I still work hard, but I make more time for my family and my faith on a regular basis. I have more balance today, which I call a huge success.
Smallbizlady: If you could stand on a roof and shout small business advice to the audience below what would you say?
Dina Dwyer-Owens: Small business is empowering, and we need much more of it. Small business is the future. We’ve heard enough about the ills of Wall Street. Now it’s time to get back to Main Street and honor the men and women who are truly the backbone of our economy. More people want to be their own boss, want to determine their own destinies, want to create desirable workplaces and do things they are passionate about. Small business is championing those answers.
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