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Marietta Snetsinger is committed to supporting entrepreneurs as they convert to a franchise system; helping them avoid the costly and common mistakes of many emerging franchisors. Her thorough knowledge of franchise operations and recruitment experience makes her an asset to any emerging or established franchise system.
As an active member of the Canadian Franchise Association and with her down to earth and practical advice approach, she is a popular speaker at franchise events. This year marks her 10th anniversary as a Franchise Growth Expert and Founder of Ascend Franchise Solutions.
With a visionary approach, Marietta is often the one to say “Did you ever think about…?, I wonder if we could…?, Let’s figure out how we can…”, and excels in franchise start-up situations. She teaches emerging franchisors EXACTLY what they need to know to get franchise disclosure documents ready.
Through her “done with you” approach, emerging franchisors are able to create their own Franchise Operating System so they can be confident, market ready and equipped to attract franchisees aligned with their franchise culture. Her clients cover a wide range — from service, to food, to bricks and mortar, and anything in between. Marietta is a true expert in the art of franchise model scalability.
Her forthcoming book “The Happy Profitable Franchisor” is set to be released in Fall 2021.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- Scaling a business
- Should you franchise your business
- Is your business franchisable
- How to get started as a franchisor
- Who shouldn’t franchise their business
- Best practices of franchising
- Mistakes of emerging franchisors
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:07] Welcome to Franchise Marketing Radio, brought to you by SEOSamba: comprehensive, high-performing marketing solutions for mature and emerging franchise brands. To supercharge your franchise marketing, go to SEOSamba.com. That’s SEOSamba.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:31] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of Franchise Marketing Radio. And this is going to be a good one. Today, we have with us Marietta Snetsinger with Ascend Franchise Solutions. Welcome, Marietta.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:00:43] Thanks. How are you?
Lee Kantor: [00:00:45] I am doing great. I’m so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about Ascend. How are you serving folks?
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:00:51] Yeah. So, I help the person or the successful entrepreneur who is thinking about franchising their business, they’re not really sure where to start. I teach them what they need to know to get franchise disclosure document ready, often in as little as 90 days. And it’s more of a done-with-you approach versus a done-for-you. And I believe there’s a lot of value in having done the work yourself. You’ll show up as a more confident franchisor as a result of that.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:17] Now, what are some characteristics of businesses that are out there that might make good franchises?
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:01:25] Yeah, yeah. That’s actually a really great question, and I get asked that every day. I have those types of conversations every day. I think the first thing I’ll start with is they need to be profitable. And in fact, I kind of say they need to be highly profitable, so that they have a really good sense of what the metrics are in their business, the dollars and cents, if you will, around their business, and that they actually are more profitable than many of their competitors. So, there’s some room for that margin and, of course, the royalty as they move forward with the franchise model.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:57] Now, how important is kind of the operation side of this? Because I know a lot of successful business people who their businesses kind of melded with their personal, and it’s hard for them to discern kind of where one starts and one stops. Like, I would think in a franchise, you’ve got to be pretty tight and have really solid systems that you can transfer, so it isn’t like, “Oh, when you get this, I put that, this goes over here, and I got this deal here. And I don’t even show that.” Like a lot of businesses are kind of in a lot of gray areas when it comes to the finances.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:02:35] Yeah, I would say that’s probably two other. You’ve hit on two other areas that I think are really important when you’re kind of that franchise timeframe. One would be you have a really solid way of attracting, and retaining and onboarding, if you will, your clients. So, you’ve kind of got the marketing part of it figured out. You know exactly how you’re going to attract. So, it’s kind of the marketing and the sales process have been figured out. Those would kind of be the two areas I would like to be looking at to make sure that you’ve kind of got that figured out. You’ve got a steady flow of customers, you’ve got the marketing, the branding is solid, it’s in alignment with your brand and you’re able to bring those customers in.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:03:18] And then, you have a process internally. From the time they say yes to become your customer, you’ve got a process in place to help make that happen. That’s probably more on the service side, and you could apply that to, really, any business. But having a solid kind of beyond the financial, a solid marketing, client acquisition and retention plan in place would be really important.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:40] Now, when a person is saying to themselves, “Okay, you know what? We run this one pizza place. I think we got this. I think there can be one of these things everywhere,” at that point, do they call you or is it something that they have to open a second one to kind of prove the model before they call you? Like at what point do they get involved with you?
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:04:02] Yeah, you know what? I don’t think it’s ever too early to start making a plan to franchise. If it’s something that you’re thinking about, whether you ever franchise or not, I find my clients will take a lot of value away from working with me just because, normally, they’re entrepreneurs, very entrepreneurial minded, maybe a little bit averse to that system process, maybe they’re a more sophisticated entrepreneur and they kind of understand why that is important. I don’t think it’s ever too early to get started in the best practices of franchising, and even getting ready to franchise can be applied to any business.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:04:37] So, I would say it’s never too early to start. And what you really want to think about is what is the proposition and the value that you bring to the table? How do you differentiate yourself at the customer level? What’s your unique selling proposition around your pizza? Like whatever that looks like to your customers, what makes it a better option than maybe some of the other brands that they would consider?
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:04:59] And then, on the on the other side, like when you become a franchisor, basically, you’re starting a brand new company as a franchisor. What’s the proposition? And I call it the UFP, your unique franchise proposition. Again, what is it that you do uniquely different better than maybe some of the other franchise concepts, whether they’re similar pizza franchises or maybe another food concept? What’s the value that you bring to the table as part of the business, the operating system? And I call it the franchise operating system. How are we going to duplicate it? How are you going to make it easier for your franchisees to get up and running and profitable more quickly and more efficiently than if they were to do it themselves?
Lee Kantor: [00:05:41] Now, if I have a business like a pizza, or chicken wings, or something that looks like in some markets there’s 5-10 of them in a market, how do I know that that’s really franchiseable or scalable? Or is it just something that, well, my market there’s only two, and I’ve been here 20 years, so that’s why people love me. Like I don’t know if it transfers in another market.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:06:06] Yeah, for sure, you have to look at market penetration. That definitely makes sense. Like, is there room for another chicken wing place in my market? And maybe that is part of it, that maybe part of your proposition is that you have created a model that will serve a smaller market that might be underserved by some of your competitors. That might even be part of your proposition.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:28] So, then, you would say, well, of course, in the, maybe, the the big metro city, there’s 10. But in you’re kind of secondary city, there’s only two. And these people are-.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:06:41] Yeah.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:42] Instead driving to the big city to get it, they can just stay here and get it.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:06:47] Right. Like, that might actually be part of the proposition that the model is built and the economics of the model work in a market that’s maybe 50,000 versus 150,000. And that is part of the proposition is we actually have a franchise model and a business proposition that can do well in a market of 50,000, for example.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:09] And then, so, rather than looking that as a negative, you can kind of look at it as a positive, and then kind of tweak your franchise operations and your system to accommodate that market.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:07:20] Yeah, totally.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:22] And that’s where I would think an expert like you comes in where you’re able to, even though they might have started in a 150,000 kind of population area, but it might be better to franchise in a 50,000, you could help them kind of think of that strategically and help them position their offer better.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:07:41] That’s exactly the case. In fact, it’s so funny you even mentioned pizza because I have a client right now. He is in a smaller market. He has done phenomenally well in that smaller market, and there’s a few competitors in there. But because he’s in a smaller market, and the branding, and the marketing that he has done, he’s done really well, and he’s really mastered local marketing and really creating a presence for himself. And he is able to stand out because he is in a smaller market.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:07] Now, let’s talk about that local marketing, because I would think that some people who are considering buying a franchise think that the marketing is not as important for them because they think that I’m buying this brand, so that’s part of what I’m getting is they’re are supposed to be smart about this part of it. But local marketing is critical to the success of any franchisee. And a lot of times, it falls on the franchisee to kind of do the heavy lifting when it comes to their own specific local market.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:08:35] So, what I would say around that is, number one, a franchise owner needs to understand and a franchisee needs to understand the roles and responsibilities. Like who does what? Like in pretty much every aspect of the business, one of the things I do with my clients is take them through a roles and responsibilities exercise where we break down the key functional areas of the business – for example, you mentioned the marketing – and we understand who’s going to do what on each of those sites.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:09:04] And usually, the franchise owners can kind of look after the branding side of it, but in most cases, the franchisee is going to be responsible for that local store marketing, and the franchisor as a successful business has kind of probably got a handle around what that looks like. And often, it’s event-based. It’s like kind of the in-person stuff that you just can’t do digitally or it has to be done in person. Maybe it’s like, like I said, the event side of it often. And the franchisee needs to be willing and able to kind of go out and market their business locally using strategies and tactics that the franchisor’s probably going to teach them to do.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:09:45] So, a great example of that would be like a local home show. If the franchisor, in their experience, has found that home shows are a great way to generate the leads for the next six months, then the franchisee would be responsible for implementing that in their own market. And of course, we can be back to doing more things in person, they would actually maybe go and do a whole show, and meet people in their local community for whatever period of time. So, that kind of like local marketing.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:10:16] The other side of it too, which I think is really important, there’s no such thing as a build it and they will come. And I think that can be a little bit of a misconception for prospective franchisees. When they’re looking at it, they think, “Oh, I don’t have to do anything.” Like you said, they’re just going to come because it’s a franchise, and they know the name and the brand. And sometimes, that’s the case. Often, it isn’t.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:10:37] And when I’m qualifying franchisees or meeting people who want to be potential franchisees, I’m going to ask them if they are thinking they’re going to join a franchise to avoid sales, to having to actually do sales, and be a salesperson, that’s probably the wrong person for a franchise system. Just because you’re in a franchise system, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to do sales anymore. As a franchisee, you should be really good at local sales, building networking. Again, building that like, know, trust with people very quickly, and efficiently, and easily and really enjoy that side of it, because that’s going to be a big part of what you’re doing as a franchisee.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:16] Now, when a company comes to you, an emerging franchise, sometimes, they don’t have any other locations, right? They have their one business that they’re inquiring about, “Can I franchise it?” Do you ever work with franchises that may have tried to start franchising and have kind of plateaued at like three or five, and haven’t been able to get that escape velocity?
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:11:40] Yeah, I have, in the past, worked with those types of clients and it can be challenging, for sure. I’m kind of like, “Let’s just start with a really great offering,” because what happens is if they’ve got three or four people already in their system, how do future franchisees validate a franchise system? Well, they’re going to talk to your existing franchisees. So, instead of actually doing that, what I would say is they probably have a problem with the relationship between their existing franchisees and themselves now, and I would be inclined to say, “Let’s get that figured out.” Maybe it is a part of, like, revisiting what it is that they’ve done. And I would be focused on making sure those existing franchisees, those three or five franchisees, are highly successful and that they are really doing well before I even went back to market to find.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:12:32] I kind of want to go reverse engineer it a little bit and find out what’s not really going well for those franchisees, and what can we do to support them, and then kind of go back to market. Maybe we do have to refine the offering. But it’s kind of — I guess, I don’t know if I really answered your question, but that’s kind of what my solution would be to something like that.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:52] But in your practice, are you focusing primarily on that first-time franchisor or you kind of fixing-
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:13:01] Yeah. So, through my own practice, I’m ten years into this now, 25 plus in the franchise space, I really enjoy — I kind of want to get it done right the first time. So, I, probably, am a better fit for someone who is really in the early stages of making the decision, “Should I franchise. If I do, what does it look like? How can I get there?” And then, once they kind of get the business model figured out, then we would work with the lawyer to kind of — most states and provinces have a franchise disclosure requirement. There are legal documents that need to be done. And when they go to the lawyer, they’re going to be in a much better position to be able to answer the questions that are going to, of course, be incorporated within the franchise disclosure document. So, to answer your question, I could be either but mostly, my clients right now are in the free FDD phase. Really, the early decision making, getting ready, getting started and getting prepared to convert to a franchise.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:58] Now, you’re in Canada. Is your work primarily in Canada, or do you do kind of US? You do other other countries?
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:14:05] Yeah, absolutely. The beautiful thing about franchising is it really is a business model, and it’s a way to scale and expand a business. So, the legal side of it, obviously, you’re going to need local counsel, but the model, the franchise model of scaling is basically universal. I mean, there may be some minor tweaks around the legality, but that’s the legal. You’re going to need the local legal counsel anyway. It’s a way of scaling a business and that is somewhat universal. So, it doesn’t really matter where my clients are. Primarily, they’ve been in Canada, but I would really love to work with more companies outside of Canada. And I’ve begun dipping my toes into the US market and had some good success there so far. And I look forward to serving clients in other parts of the world.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:55] So, now, how do you identify a business that you think is franchiseable or how do they even get on your radar? Because I would think they’re just kind of doing their business out there. Do you have thought leadership? Do you have a book? Do you have something out there that kind of can capture their attention?
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:15:14] Yeah, my book is actually going to be finished this fall, and it is going to be called The Franchise Business. And it really is for those people who are thinking about it. So, you can watch for that. Maybe I’ll get back in touch with you when that’s done. And a lot of my leads truly do come from lawyers and other consultants. I’m very referral based, and a lot of people come to me because their clients need someone or they have a client who’s been thinking about what that looks like or what franchising looks like, and it’s beyond their scope of expertise, but definitely a lot of referral.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:50] So, like a business attorney would have a client that says, “Hey, I’m thinking of franchising,” and the attorney is like, “Oh, I know the person. You’ve got to talk to Marietta.”
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:15:58] Yeah. Or franchise attorneys and lawyers. Yeah.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:02] So, there’s attorneys that are just specialists in franchising that don’t do the part that you do. They just do the kind of the legal part,
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:16:11] The legal drafting of the franchise. So, a franchise disclosure document, again, it does vary by state and province what’s required, but it’s essentially a backgrounder on the franchisor and what they are legally able to say to a prospective franchisee. So, those folks, I mean, it’s more of a business. I’m helping them with the business side of it, the franchise operating system side of it. And then, the lawyer is going to step in. And usually, it’s kind of a bit of a back and forth and, often, collaborating with the lawyers to help. Between the two of us, we can generally support a client really well as far as making a business decision, and what are the legal implications, and likewise making a legal decision, what are the business implications? It’s kind of marrying the two together.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:16:53] So, I often work very closely with franchise lawyers, and it is definitely a very specific practice of law and area of practice. And that’s generally who would bring me into the picture. Sometimes, I’m sending people to — sometimes, people find me through associations. Like in Canada, we have the Canadian Franchise Association. So, they would be kind of looking there, and they might find me there. But yeah, honestly, a lot of referral. It’s a lot of like, know, trust.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:25] Yeah. Just like their business will be wherever local market that they’re in. I mean, that doesn’t really change from that standpoint.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:17:33] No. And with technology today, honestly, it doesn’t really matter where someone is in the world. We can work together, so.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:41] Now you mentioned that kind of there’s a business model around franchising that an effective franchise are going to check certain boxes and be exceptional in certain areas because that’s what will make them a successful franchise. Do you find that that concept translates and transfers to a business that doesn’t necessarily want to franchise? They may want to expand or they want to kind of be the best they can be, but are these kind of foundational elements in the business?
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:18:12] I think they are, truly, because it’s really perfecting what it is you do. So, that would be beneficial to any business. It’s creating brand awareness and top-of-mind awareness, that would be effective for any business. Te profitability piece, that’s effective for any business. This is another area that I think is kind of interesting, again, around franchise preparation and a successful business. I believe a successful business is one where you’re able to remove yourself from the day-to-day operations as an entrepreneur, so that you have a team, a system, a process in place where you don’t necessarily have to be there every day. And that means that you get that freedom of being an entrepreneur. And at some point, you may want to exit your business.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:18:59] So, it also sets you up really well for a nice exit strategy where someone else could step into your business and maybe purchase your business or acquire your business from you. And because you’ve kind of operated it in this way and added and documented how we do things around here, it’s easy for someone else to kind of step into that. So, it adds a value, an extra level or value to your business. And in fact, if you’re looking on the kind of the resale or how you exit from your business, if someone’s looking for a business to acquire or to purchase, and they’re kind of comparing apples to apples, perhaps a business that has already an established branding can actually show proof of concept around what the operating system looks like, that’s a more valuable business than one that does not have that infrastructure or that operating system in place.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:58] So, then, it would be worthwhile to have a conversation with you or somebody on your team, even if they’re thinking of exiting probably in the next five years or so because, then, they can build up to having kind of those tight systems, get the culture right, get the brand right, and get the systems right, so that they can then have a sellable business rather than, “Hey, I’m doing well. But every one of my customers are not going to follow me when I quit. They’ll find somebody else.”
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:20:28] Yeah, it’s kind of almost — I don’t mean this to be a negative thing, but really it’s kind of removing the person of the business and building an actual true business, not a person-centric business. Does that make sense?
Lee Kantor: [00:20:40] Yeah. Well, I see a lot of — Like, I’ll give you a real example that happened to me when I was younger. I had a dentist that I went to for many years, and the dentist was great. And then, he retired. And he’s like, “Now, this new person’s going to take over my practice.” And then I’m like, “Who is this new person?” Like, they just changed the name on the door. And I’m like, “Well, why would I go to this? If I’m going to go to this new person, I’m going to pick a new person that’s closer to my house.” Like there’s no compelling reason to switch to this new person.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:21:16] You have to stay here, right, because it’s not like — Really, truly, it’s creating a proprietary way versus a proprietary person who could leave the business.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:26] Right. And I think a lot of folks, especially small business people, it is personality-centric and the people are buying that person, they’re not buying the business solution. They’re buying that individual’s personality.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:21:39] Yeah. So, it’s how do we duplicate your personality? How do we find that mini me, that person that can kind of come in and be mentored by you, trained by you, and kind of get your customers used to that, that it may not always be you, but they are trained in the way that you do things and can deliver a consistent — consistency also comes into that, right? Like a consistent way of delivering on a customer experience can be really valuable to a business. And that’s really the gift in removing yourself from the business.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:11] Right. And I bet you, if you do that right, now, you’ve increased the value of your business. It’s not dependent on you anymore. It’s the business they’re buying, not you.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:22:20] Right. And if you look at failure rates of businesses that are changed hands, and the founder-led organization, the founder leaves, and someone else purchases it, the failure rates of that business being successful and continuing on, the legacy part of it, is often very low.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:43] So, now, if there is somebody out there that wants to kind of have a conversation with you or somebody on your team about taking this next step and maybe elevating their business to the franchise level, or just to learn more about how to have a succession plan that’s going to be effective and maybe increase the value of their business, what’s the website?
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:23:04] Yeah, it’s ascendfranchise.com or you can also email me Marietta@ascendfranchise.com, and we’d have a conversation and see if that does make sense for you. I mean, again, we do specialize in the franchise space. It is very niche. However, like I said, I do believe that some of my clients will start to work with me and some of them will go on to franchise, they’re kind of not sure. And other times, they’ll be like, “You know what? I’m really glad that I went through this process because it helped me determine that I actually don’t want to be a franchise owner.” So, that also can be very valuable.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:43] Right. I would imagine just going through a conversation with you, and you can kind of share with them the pros and cons, and the kind of upside and downside about taking this. Because franchising is a big deal and that is a different business. Being a franchisor is different than running — a pizza franchisor is not the same as running a pizza shop. I mean, your clients are different. I mean, you have a different kind of — it’s a separate business, really.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:24:07] Totally, totally true. And I would agree with you. Like it really is. It’s probably the biggest decision you’ll ever make within your business other than deciding to exit your business. Converting to a franchisor, your business will never be the same. Even if you don’t franchise, I take my clients through — my program is called the Franchisor Blueprint Experience. And we take you through the steps and the considerations that you need to make in order to franchise your business. Now, like I said, some people will and some people won’t. But I can promise you, you will never look at your business the same way once you’ve kind of gone through that process because, really, we are setting up that operating system for franchisees or even for your own personal exit strategy.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:53] Right. It’s a good exercise either way.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:24:58] Yeah, totally.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:00] Well, Marietta, thank you for sharing your story today. You’re doing such important work, and we appreciate you.
Marietta Snetsinger: [00:25:05] Thank you for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:07] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We will see you all next time on Franchise Marketing Radio.