What Is a Validation Call?
When clients come to us at FranCoach, they are often trying to determine which franchise would be the best one for them to own. Through our 6-8 week Discovery Process, we help clients answer that question.
One of the final parts of this Discovery Process is the Validation Calls. In this post, we’ll be examining what Validation Calls are, who you’ll be speaking with, and what you should expect from this phase of your journey to become a franchise owner.
Our Discovery Process
When clients start working with FranCoach, our team goes through three steps with them to gain a deeper understanding of their ideal business model and how they see their role as an owner. Once those steps are complete, then and only then will we begin the Discovery Process.
As we mentioned before, the Discovery Process takes between six and eight weeks. One of the first steps we go through with our clients is introducing them to three or four franchises that we believe to be the best matches for them.
But that’s far from the whole extent of the Discovery Process. It involves upward of 15 different steps and pieces. In other words, it’s incredibly thorough.
Toward the end of the Discovery Process, we get to what we refer to as the “Validation Calls.” During Validation Calls, you will get the opportunity to speak to existing owners of the franchises we connected you with.
The Validation Call
We call this part of the Discovery Process the “Validation Calls” because when you are talking to the owners, you should be literally validating everything you’ve learned (or read, or listened to, or seen) up to that point.
Who Will You Be Talking To?
You have the ability (and the right) to talk to every single franchise owner in the system for the franchisor you are interested in working with. Now, we are not suggesting that you actually do that – it would take a ridiculous number of phone calls. But if we get a good cross-section of, say, three franchise owners, you’ll have the chance to confirm what you’ve learned so far.
Talking to the franchise owners also gives you the chance to get some key remaining questions answered. When you talk to owners, you are speaking with people who are in the business – they have been at it for months or even years, achieving varied levels of success.
Why Is Talking to the Owners Important?
Reason 1: You will be speaking to the people who are doing what you are considering doing. The owners have absolutely no incentive to “convince” you to become an owner of that brand. On the contrary, you will be getting a totally unbiased and unfiltered opinion of the franchise.
If anything, owners are the people most likely to tell you that you are NOT a fit for that franchise. Why? Owners view their franchise as THEIR brand, and they don’t want anyone coming into it who might mess it up – no matter where that new owner would be located.
Reason 2: Existing owners can “validate” all aspects of the business. They can give you information about the owner role, marketing, franchisor support, staffing, and financial aspects.
Reason 3: You will be able to get a sense of the culture of the franchise to determine if it matches what you want. The people within a franchise system matter greatly – more than it might seem at the start of this journey – and talking to owners will “validate” whether or not there is alignment.
What Questions Should You Ask?
Let’s be honest: Franchise owners are busy people. They are busy running a business – just like you soon may be. So it is always important to be respectful of their time. When you do have them on the phone, it is good practice to prepare some questions in advance that you’d like to ask them.
Each individual client, as we’re going through the Discovery Process, will probably need clarity on one or two specific topics. But there are also a few general questions that we always want people to address.
It is best to have a very short list of questions – these calls are normally around 30 minutes. You don’t want a spreadsheet of 200 questions that you want to ask. This isn’t the SAT, and it shouldn’t feel like an interrogation either.
Here are the two biggest questions we always encourage people to ask. They’re very general, but they can provide some crucial insights.
Based on what you know now (after the time you’ve spent running the business), would you do it all over again? Why or why not?
Has the support from the franchisor met your expectations?
Question #1: Would You Do It All Over Again?
To the first question, most people answer that yes, they would. If they wouldn’t, they probably wouldn’t be talking to you. But what will almost always follow after that is a “but.” You will hear comments like “Yes, I would do it all over again, but…”
Those “buts” can be very informative because the franchise owner will then go on to share something they would have done differently or something they wish they had done earlier. These tidbits will be fantastic pieces of information for you. Sometimes they’re specific to the franchise in question, but other times, they’re broad enough to apply to franchising in general.
It’s also important to note that most times when you hear a “but” in the answer to that first question, it’s because the franchise owner is about to rat themselves out. Franchise owners will often admit to deviating from a piece of the plan that the franchisor set out for them, leading to some missteps.
Don’t get spooked by other people’s mistakes. Think of speaking to these franchise owners as an opportunity to learn and feel confident that if you follow the franchisor’s plan and put forth the effort, you will be able to succeed.
The absolute key to franchise owner success is finding the best fit. That’s what FranCoach is here to help you do. After that, there are really just two points:
Put forth the effort
Follow the plan
As simple as those things can sound, some franchise owners can find them very difficult. But speaking to existing franchise owners will likely assure you that the plan the franchisor has put in place is purposeful, well thought out, and can lead you to success.
Now, the other piece of information many of our clients wonder about is whether or not a certain franchisor has the backs of their franchise owners. In other words, is it a supportive environment? That’s where the second question comes in.
Question #2: Has the Support From the Franchisor Met Your Expectations?
It’s key to ask this question the right way, and the phrasing that we used above is exactly how we suggest that our clients go about asking it. So why do we say it this way?
If you go to a franchise owner and ask “Hey, have you gotten a lot of support from the franchisor?”, their answer may very well be “No.” On the surface, that could sound like a negative answer, but maybe they actually just didn’t need or want much support from the franchisor in order to succeed.
Someone else may say “No,” but they could be the neediest person on the planet and may never feel like they’re getting enough support. That’s why we ask the question in the way that we do: to see how support from the franchisor has lined up (or not lined up) with a franchise owner’s expectations.
Answers to our question might sound like “Yes, they’re always there and they’re doing so much for me” or “Yes, I don’t need much, but I know I could always call them and I know they’re always there – I know who to reach out to.” With really strong franchising brands, you’ll hear from the franchise owners that “Yes, the franchisor helps me, but I also have a shortlist of other owners that I know I can reach out to.”
These answers are so much more informative. You will be able to get an impression of how the franchisor supports its owners and which franchises have a strong network of owners who support each other.
Asking Questions About Money
You will also want to have some specific financial questions (a topic we covered in one of our Franchising 101 podcast episodes). That said, “How much money do you make?” is NOT a good question to ask owners. Why? It’s just not that informative.
You want to be able to gain a much deeper understanding of the financials than just this surface-level question. You can ask about the costs of goods, costs of labor, and more. Then you will be able to do your own math to calculate the business’ financials.
Still, many prospective owners are very curious to answer the question “How much money will I make as an owner?” But asking other franchise owners how much they pay themselves or how much they make can be a dangerous question. That’s because every franchise owner is different and every business runs differently.
Some owners are more efficient than others, and each uses different strategies when running their business and running things through their business. For that reason, we prefer to phrase the money question in a specific way: How do you compensate yourself?
If you talk to three owners within the same franchise brand, you’ll likely get three different answers about how they compensate themselves – as well as when they began compensating themselves and with how much. Everyone will compensate themselves in different amounts, so it’s a better idea to talk to franchise owners about how they compensate themselves.
Do they give themselves a salary? Do they take disbursements? Do they give themselves bonuses? Do they run every possible expense through the franchise or do they own another business that houses the expenses?
What If You Fail?
Every aspiring business owner has wondered about failure, and it’s probably a question that’s on your mind as you consider becoming a franchise owner. Instead of just keeping that in the corner of your mind, ask the question.
Ask the owner “Why would someone fail as the owner of this franchise?” What’s going to happen is that the owner will describe a hypothetical person (their traits, behaviors, etc.) who would not do well owning a franchise in that brand.
As you’re listening, think about whether or not they’re describing you. If your traits, behaviors, and personality sound like those of the imaginary person who might fail at owning that franchise, then it is probably not the right brand for you. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a franchise owner, it just means the brand is not the right match.
But if you hear those things and you are thinking “Well, duh, of course that would cause somebody to fail,” that’s a good sign. It also helps validate that the person who might fail at this is not you.
For example, if the franchise owner says that someone who would succeed in owning a certain franchise must be great at networking in the community and you’re thinking “Man, I hate networking,” then it’s probably not the right fit.
After your Validation Calls, you will have heard all the ways in which you could be successful. You will have heard the experiences of the franchise owners, and finally, you will have heard what would make someone fail – and when it’s not you at all, you’re almost there.
Validation calls are a huge part of the Discovery Process, and though you won’t get there with every franchise, it’s an incredibly powerful piece of the puzzle. These calls really assist our clients in determining the franchise that’s right for them.
Interested in Becoming a Franchise Owner?
FranCoach is a national search firm dedicated to working with individuals who are interested in owning a franchise. We've partnered with over 600 of the top franchisors in the country, spanning nearly 70 industries.
Our goal is to help our clients find the absolute best franchise for them to own. Our goal with our Franchising 101 podcast series and this series of informational articles is to help educate people on all aspects of franchise ownership.
Reach out to us to learn more about potentially becoming a franchise owner. There’s never any fee for our service, so why not take the first step today toward your better tomorrow?