The importance of franchisee interviews

A rigorous interview process can ensure that franchisors bag the very best franchisees

The importance of franchisee interviews

Given the success of a franchise depends on the performance of its franchisees, it stands to reason that anyone looking to join a network should be subjected to a good level of scrutiny. That’s why any franchisor worth its salt will have a diligent recruitment process.

Needless to say, there’s only so much a franchisor can learn from a CV and an application form. In order to really assess whether somebody has what it takes, it’s essential that a franchisor meets each prospect face-to-face. And, with so much at stake for both parties, the amount of time that a franchisor spends with a franchisee prior to bringing them on board will be far greater than that spent with a prospective employee. “People aren’t buying jobs; people are buying businesses,” says Julie Clabby, founder and franchisor of Busylizzy, the postnatal-fitness franchise. “We need to know that their family is on board, that they have got suitable support when it comes to childcare and money in the bank.”

Busylizzy’s recruitment process – from the initial expression of interest to signing on the dotted line – lasts between three and four months. While 70% of the company’s franchisees were previously customers or instructors, that hasn’t made the franchise any less thorough with its recruitment. “From the off, we try to be really transparent about how it all works and what the expectations are,” says Clabby. “This really helps weed out the people who are not serious.”

Naturally, inviting every single applicant in for an interview is not a prudent use of a franchisor’s time. By initially asking candidates to fill out a comprehensive application form, they can ensure they are only meeting the people whose credentials seem to stack up on paper. “It gives us a pretty good idea about someone’s background and experience,” says Mike Parker, managing director of Minster Cleaning Services, the commercial-cleaning franchise. “We are looking initially for a track record of success and an indication of their financial position.””

However, what can’t be gleaned from a written application is whether a prospective franchisee has the character to take on their own business and make a success of it. This is something Clabby looks to establish when she interviews prospective Busylizzy franchisees. “It’s a fun franchise but, like every business, there’s a bottom line,” she says. “I want people who understand the importance of generating revenue and growing their business.”

Commercial acumen is one thing but just as important is a person’s compatibility with the franchise as a whole. “I will ask myself if I can work with them, if I can see my team working with them and if I could see them getting on with our other franchisees,” says Parker. “And they will be asking themselves the same sorts of things.”

In order to get as full a picture as possible of its applicants, Business Doctors complements its interview process with a psychometric test. As Davies explains, this furnishes the company with a number of insights that they couldn’t draw out in a face-to-face meeting. “The psychometric profile assesses people’s entrepreneurial flair and their emotional quotient,” says Davies. “These are things that you really can’t understand and detect in a standard interview process.”

Of course, all of the above can count for nothing if a candidate can’t demonstrate an intimate knowledge of their prospective franchisor. As such, the work that an interviewee does prior to the interview – and even before applying – can help or hinder their chances dramatically. Given the majority of Busylizzy’s franchisees have past experience of the brand, Clabby doesn’t usually have to worry about applicants being unprepared. “But I’ve met a few who hadn’t done their research and I’ve thought: ‘Oh my word, you know nothing about us. Why are you here?'” she says.

Likewise, Parker expects people to know Minster inside-out before applying for a franchise. “I would expect them to have done quite a lot of homework on Minster,” he says. “They should know what we are about and what sectors we operate in.” However, as Parker stresses, it’s not just about having the right answers: if an interviewee comes armed with questions aplenty, that can also be a good sign for a franchisor. “Sometimes people will arrive with an A4 pad and three or four sheets of questions,” he adds. “That tells me they have thought about it beforehand.”

By choosing to invest in a franchise, people are ultimately putting their livelihoods on the line. Therefore, Parker is happy to give candidates all the time they need to dig into the finer details; he will even spend a whole day with a prospective franchisee if necessary. “I will generally sit and talk to them for as long as they have got questions coming at me,” he says. “People are going to invest serious amounts of cash, so if I can’t answer their questions, I shouldn’t be taking their money off them.”

Should candidates make it through their first interview with Minster, they are then expected to speak with the company’s existing franchisees. “We would encourage them to contact a minimum of half a dozen but they can phone every one of them if they like,” says Parker. By spending time with people who have already been there and done it, interviewees can make a more informed decision about their future. And, as Parker explains, he’d rather candidates spoke to franchisees that have had differing levels of success. “It’s all part of helping them make sure they’re happy coming into business with us,” he says.

Yet this is far from the end of the process for prospective Minster franchisees. “Even at that point, we are not asking if they’re committing to this or telling them we are going to progress with them,” says Parker. “Almost until the point of signing an agreement, we are still checking each other out.”

Evidently it’s better to invest a lot of time and effort into an interview process than risk it all falling apart down the line. “If anything, we are probably too selective on who we bring into our business,” says Parker. “But we’d rather do that than be too casual about it and make mistakes.”

Adam Pescod
Adam Pescod