by Steve Adubato, PhD

How often do you hear people say, “I wish I had thought of that first?”, when they see a highly successful franchise or business, be it a frozen yogurt place or a sub sandwich shop.

But if it were that easy to successfully franchise a business, everyone would do it and everyone would be rich. But as in any successful business endeavor, succeeding in a franchise has a lot to do with effective communication and strong leadership.

In these challenging economic times, with so many people considering going out on their own and exploring franchise opportunities, I spoke with small business entrepreneur, Paul Vento. Vento is the owner of a Transworld Business Advisors franchise in Roseland, which is a unique concept that provides services for business brokerage, franchise consulting and franchise development.

Here are some tips and tools that should be helpful before taking the leap into any business endeavor:

--Use open-ended questions to determine whether a certain franchise is right for you. According to Vento, who has bought and sold a number of businesses over the years; “Have a list of really great questions that help you vet the specific franchising opportunity you are looking into. You want to find out up front whether this franchise is right for you and what you are looking to achieve.” The key is, when preparing these questions, be sure they are open-ended so that they require more than a “yes” or “no” response. For example; “What do you feel are the three most rewarding aspects of owning this franchise? or, “What specifically makes your franchise unique?”

--Use active listening skills. Once you have presented the question, STOP and LISTEN. According to Vento, one of the major challenges faced by those going into their own businesses is a mindset that they already have all the answers. Says Vento; “If you think you know everything, then why are you entering into this business? To be successful in any venture, you need to ask the right questions before going into it and then be prepared to listen to the answers.”

--Know your strengths. This may sound simple, but if you don’t take a moment to do a self assessment to determine just exactly what your strengths are, you may find yourself in a business that is not right for you. Ask yourself; “Is my leadership style better suited for a small team or a large team?” Or; “Am I more productive in an office setting or out in the field?” Looking at your past successes and challenges will help you identify the best franchise for you.

--Be customer-focused. Successful franchisees must have a genuine passion and interest for helping their clients and customers, which in my experience as a communication coach is one of the keys to owning and operating a successful business. Regardless of the service or product you are providing to your customers, you must remember that it is all about THEM. It is all about how you can help them with their needs and their challenges.

--YOU are the brand. When it comes to starting your own business, you must consistently work to develop, promote and define your brand. Says Vento; “Your success is a direct outcome of YOUR drive, YOUR passion and YOUR commitment. It is not that of the franchise itself. It is ultimately YOU.” Vento couldn’t be more right. You and only you are responsible for building a direct and personal connection with your customers, and that can only happen if they trust you and feel good about entering into a business relationship with you.