Talking With: Mark Siebert, Founder of the iFranchise Group

Mark Siebert, founder of the iFranchise Group and author of “Franchise Your Business: The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever,” has been a franchise business consultant for more than 30 years. During his career he has assisted more than 30 Fortune 2000 companies and 500 startup-franchisors including the likes of McAlister’s, Potbelly’s, Denny’s, Perkins and Cosi, among others. In our “Talking With” series, Siebert tells Modern Restaurant Management magazine about challenges facing the franchise environment, what goes into putting a deal in place and franchisability.

What exactly does a franchise consultant do?

First and foremost, a good consultant will start by assessing the franchisability of any restaurant to determine whether it is ready for primetime. We routinely provide these kinds of preliminary assessments to prospective clients at no charge. The best consultants will then provide input on strategic decisions, value proposition, quality control, franchise marketing, franchise sales and organizational growth.

What makes for a successful franchise?

Success in franchising starts with a commitment to the franchisees’ success. While it is important to have a great concept, great support and great management, no franchise program can be successful in the long term unless they make their franchisees succeed. That must be every new franchisor’s top priority.

What makes for a successful restaurant franchise?

The most successful restaurants in the franchising space find ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. That can be accomplished with the menu, but it can also be done with things like investment level, the structure of the franchise program, franchisee support, supply chain, or any number of different factors that will provide a strong value proposition to franchisees or consumers.

EP_FranchiseYourBusiness_wSpineWhat is the process of putting a franchise deal together?

The first step is determining whether or not your restaurant is franchisable. Assuming the restaurant itself is franchisable, the biggest step involves developing a sound strategy for growth based on the goals of the company, the value proposition provided to franchisees, and the resources available to the franchisor. I would encourage anyone interested in determining the franchisability of their restaurant to get started on the process by downloading a free excerpt from my new book “Franchise Your Business.”

What factors should a person consider if they want to franchise their restaurant concept?

We’re strong advocates of starting with the end in mind. Any successful expansion strategy – whether it’s franchising or not – should start with an examination of goals and the constraining factors. Each restaurant owner should consider carefully what they need to do to achieve those goals and what kind of time and resources they will need to devote to this new growth initiative.

What are some challenges facing today’s franchise environment?

The biggest challenge for new franchisors, in particular, has always been finding great franchisees. After investing a substantial amount of money into developing a franchise program, new franchisors will all too often undervalue the importance of the franchisee selection process. But, taking just any franchisee into the system can lead to a reduction in brand standards and an increase in support costs. So, it is important for franchisors to be extremely selective in their choice of franchise candidates.

What are the challenges of international franchising?

The vast majority of restaurants entering the franchise space are simply unprepared for international franchising and should not even consider international growth until they have developed a strong franchise team domestically. Differences in language, customs, laws, supply chain, real estate, construction, equipment, and even time zones can be extremely disruptive to a growing franchise organization. International franchising should only be undertaken once an organization is fully prepared for these challenges.

The vast majority of restaurants entering the franchise space are simply unprepared for international franchising.

Why did you write a book?

Far too many franchisors get into franchising with a ready-fire-aim approach and fail to do the planning that is necessary before taking this significant step. It was my hope to give them a better understanding of the franchise process so that they could make fewer mistakes and achieve greater levels of success.

What do you hope readers take away from your book?

Franchising is not right for every restaurant – even if the restaurant is, in fact, franchisable. However, if franchising is the desired growth path, I would hope that readers would understand that a “me too” approach to franchising is rarely successful. It is much more important to determine what will make you unique in the franchise marketplace and to structure your franchise program and your support accordingly. I would hope that this book will provide readers with some understanding of the nuances of that process.

Mark Siebert
Mark Siebert