In 2020, I worked for a global education company whose revenue and investment stemmed largely from China. So it wasn’t a big surprise when almost 90 percent of the corporate leadership was laid off in the first few months of COVID, including me. I was grateful for the generous severance, but I had no idea what my next professional step would be. I had spent more than 25 years in the US-China policy space and, given the political situation in 2020, I didn’t see a path forward in that field. More importantly, I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t want to continue in that field; it did not play to my strengths or interests.
Before being laid off, I had never thought much about franchising. In fact, when I thought about franchises, I pictured the Burger Kings that a high school classmate’s father owned when we were growing up in DC. A close college friend owns a successful daycare/preschool franchise nearby, but the franchise part of her business never really resonated with me. I didn’t know how it worked or that it was a genuine option for me.
Here are some of the things that I learned along the way.
- Use a Franchise Consultant. There is no other way to do this, in my view. My consultant, Heather Rosen at FranNet, spent countless hours getting to know me and professional and personal goals, and my financial situation. She even interviewed my husband, because buying into a franchise is really a family affair, even if the other members of the family are not involved in the business itself. I loved talking to Heather; it was almost like therapy! Heather introduced me to franchises in different sectors to see which ones felt like a fit. I ruled out a children’s enrichment company because enrichment programs take place after-school and on the weekends and would have significantly cut into my family time. I rejected a home health care business even though the income prospects were great because I would have hated the type of sales that was involved. I loved talking to 30 Minute Hit because of both the business model and the passion that everyone I spoke to at the company exuded.
- Love What you are Selling. Another reason I didn’t jump on board with the home health care company was that I am simply not passionate about the service they provide. This is not to say that I don’t care about helping seniors, veterans, and others who need support when they come home from the hospital. I care deeply - and on a personal level after seeing the wide range in quality of care that my elderly mother received after various surgeries and in her assisted living and nursing homes. But it isn’t my “thing.” I love fitness and the fact that 30 Minute Hit is for women only spoke to my commitment to women’s empowerment. Also, it is a great workout for all ages and fitness levels and almost sells itself.
- Ask Dumb Questions. Yes, I know, our teachers always told us that there are no dumb questions. But still, I ran into some challenges simply because I didn’t ask the right ones. Sometimes it was because I didn’t know what I didn’t know, as Donald Rumsfeld used to say, so the right questions never occurred to me. Other times, I felt like I “should” know something and didn’t want to reveal my ignorance to my franchise on-boarder. That was a mistake. My opening was delayed for a number of reasons – many out of my control (slow supply chain! construction issues!), but also many of my own making.
- Expect to Pay More than you Expected. My budget projections, based on both information from the franchisor plus my own research, were way off. Rents in the DC area are much higher than in many of the cities and towns where other 30 Minute Hits are located. During COVID, everyone and their brother started renovating their houses and consequently construction costs skyrocketed. Then there were hiccups that could not have been foreseen, such as the fact that there are ducts under the floor of my gym (only discovered after a standard X-ray of the floor), so I could not bolt our equipment into the ground but instead had to buy expensive metal plates. All told, my start up investment costs were about 25 percent higher than I had budgeted.
Opening a franchise has been both challenging and rewarding and, despite the challenges, I have no regrets and am excited about working with this particular franchise, growing my own business and being part of a community of women who support and empower each other. If you are looking for a career shift or want to start investing in your passions, I recommend looking into franchising a business you love.