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For Franchisees, Multi-Unit Growth Means Letting Go


Focus on your strengths and learn your weaknesses, advises Nothing Bundt Cakes franchisee Mara Fortin, who opened her seventh store last fall.

Growth is the name of the game for franchisees, but making that move from one-unit operator to multi-unit franchisee is no small task.

“You’re everything when you’re the owner/operator,” so if franchisees want to grow they have to be able to let go of some of those responsibilities, said Brian Sommers, vice president of franchise development for Jersey Mike’s Subs. 

Speaking during a franchisee growth session at the International Franchise Association convention going on through February 23 in San Antonio, Sommers advised potential multi-unit franchisees to “be humble enough to look in the mirror and say ‘I’m not good at X, Y or Z’” and then put the right people in place.

At Jersey Mike’s, emphasis is put on having the right general mangers in place before franchisees add units. And for those GMs, “their compensation must be tied to the bottom line of the restaurant,” said Sommers. “That’s critical to the success.”

Funding is also crucial, said Jonathan Barnett, CEO of Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning, and that includes enough working capital to support the business beyond the first unit. And not every franchisee is meant for multi-unit ownership. As the franchisor, he continued, “you have to be willing to say ‘no,’ or say ‘yes,’ but you [the franchisee] have to do these things first.”

When Mara Fortin became the first franchisee of bakery brand Nothing Bundt Cakes in 2007, she did so with her own capital and the help of one silent partner. “I know what it’s like to start from zero and build something,” she told the audience. She opened her seventh San Diego area store in October 2015, but it was that move from one to two locations that was toughest.

“That’s the time to check your ego at the door” and learn your weaknesses if you’re going to grow successfully, she said. “You cannot grow if you think you’re going to be doing it all.”

To encourage growth, franchisors need to know the rockstars within their system, Forin continued, and develop relationships with those franchisees. She noted both ‘zees and ‘zors should focus not just on initial training but also continual re-training as over time skills can start to erode.

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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