The Franchisee Handbook

Aug. 1, 2023
There is plenty of room for entrepreneurism.

The history of franchises actually predates the history of the United States. During the Middle Ages, the crown of England would "franchise" government land to noblemen and church officials, where in turn the land was offered to farmers in exchange for a portion of their crops. 

In the United States (then the American colonies), future "Founding Father" Benjamin Franklin became a franchise founder when entered into a "co-partnership" with Thomas Whitmasrch to establish a printing press business in South Carolina. Their agreement outlined the ownership of intellectual property, the division of equity, and even the disbursement of profits. Franklin went on to "co-partner" with dozens of others, and under the terms of the deal, all of the equipment and paper needed for the business were to be purchased from Franklin. 

It is a business model that isn't all different from today's modern franchises, including those in the quick lube market. Though many franchises set terms much as Franklin had done nearly two and a half centuries ago, it still requires navigating the franchise structure. 

"First off we have to realize that as franchisees, we are not truly entrepreneurs," says Steve Sanner, owner of Jiffy Lube of Indiana. "We bought into a system, one that is time-tested and proven. You have to then understand that you may not agree with everything you are asked to do, but that is the model you bought into." 

Sanner, who also was quick to say that the model at Jiffy Lube is "fantastic," also works when you follow it. 

"Even in Jiffy Lube, there are franchisees that will execute the model and struggle, but that is often tied to the quality of the people," Sanner tells NOLN. 

Check the Ego at the Door 

As a franchisee, it is important to remember that the name on the sign likely isn't the owner's last name – and as the owner you didn't found the company. 

"One of the most important keys to being a successful franchisee is being able to put aside your own ego and your own cockiness and allow yourself to follow the franchise system that you signed up to be a part of," explains Dave Repass, owner of Lewes, Delaware Meineke. 

"I mean let's be frank, most entrepreneurs or most successful leaders are influential with good decision-making and, most importantly, excellent communication skills which are necessary for leading and motivating staff but not always the best at following someone else's rule book," Repass tells NOLN, adding that he fits very well within the system, including the structure they provide. 

In other words, it is still possible to be your own boss, but with a few certain limits. 

"There is plenty of room for entrepreneurism," adds Sanner. "You just have to adhere to the system." 

Navigating the Franchise Structure 

As with what old Ben Franklin offered way back when, today's franchising structure allows a business to operate under the brand name while following certain guidelines. 

"One thing that attracted me to the Meineke brand was of course its long-standing name in the industry," says Repass. "However, Meineke allows their franchisees the freedom to purchase products and or services from any vendor they choose. They do offer purchase options through partnerships with Meineke Corporate and the Meineke Dealers Association, a very strong dealer association that works closely with trade partners." 

In many ways, it would even be fair to say that as a franchisee, you are part of a large family, where it wants everyone to succeed, while still allowing owners to be their own boss. That fits with the Meineke Corporate and Dealer concept of 'We are better together,'" explains Repass. "From the President of Meineke Corp to the newest Franchisee and the seasoned franchisee I would say the mass majority of the system believes and lives this culture." 

Have Your Check Lists 

Even as many franchises will offer a model for franchisees to follow, there are still plenty of things that owners will need to come up with on their own. For Repass, he says he learned a long time ago that it begins with a "to-do list." It may not be on actual paper but suggests that one is created. 

"Ensure all needed items are completed and get a better understanding of what you're doing with your time," says Repass. "It will help reduce stress, and you won't have to keep track of all your to-dos in your head." 

In addition, it is necessary to be realistic about what you can do in a day, and to that end have a day and a week list. 

"Some days the list is just too much, so you may need to experiment and find the system that helps you feel most in control of your tasks," Repass explains. "For long-term projects, create separate lists. Cross off items you've completed, and give priority to help to ensure that the most important items are completed first. Delegate what you're not good at." 

In addition, if should be necessary to focus on what you're great at, as well as the things that only you as the owner can do correctly. When possible, it will be necessary to hire someone to do those things you're not as good at, and even to build a team around you full of people who complement your strengths and fill in for your weaknesses. 

"Your goal as a business owner should be to do the things that build, protect, and expand the business. Leave the rest to your staff," says Repass. "Also remember rest is critical, but how rested and fulfilled do you really feel? Instead of being mindless during your rest time, practice being mind-full and intentionally doing things that build yourself up." 

And be sure to make the time to do the things that make you feel alive, the things that help you become a better person, the things that get you excited or would contribute to yourself in some other way. 

"These are the types of things successful people fill their free time with, so you should too," Repass continues. "You'll feel more rested, accomplished, and become a better person all at the same time." 

Franchises and the Great Resignation 

Running a franchise during and after a global pandemic could only be described as interesting, and that included having to deal with the fact that finding good help can be challenging. While it has been the food service franchise world that has been most impacted, even quick lube operators have had to be a bit more flexible when it comes to finding talent. 

"We're fully staffed now, and we actually had to let a few people go recently," said Steve Sanner, owner of a Jiffy Lube franchise in Indiana. "The pandemic made it difficult, but we weren't as affected by those resigning as other industries. Still, it was hard to enforce some rules, and hard to discipline anyone." 

Even as a major and established brand, Sanner says that it has been a challenge to get some new workers who cared as deeply as the long-term employees. Fortunately, the situation has mostly been resolved. 

"We have begun to find new workers, and that included discussions about being proud of what you do and where you work," adds Sanner. "That has been a great feeling, like the old days."