Should entrepreneurship be as lonely as some claim?

There is, in my opinion, a long-standing myth in the world that in order to be a successful entrepreneur you are alone in your journey. That you should not expect to receive support, and be prepared to have to do everything yourself.

While it is true that running your own business can be a lonely time, it really depends on the choices you make and the support you choose to surround yourself with. In my career I have had the privilege of knowing hundreds of successful, self employed, individuals that are very accomplished in their chosen fields. Every single one of them has made sacrifices to build their business, but none of them have done it truly alone. They all have friends, family, colleagues, member associations, available mentorship programs, trusted employees, and in most cases are a part of a franchise brand. To make the claim that one is truly alone, really depends on the perspective you have, not necessarily the reality.

If we examine the most successful businesses in the world, they are not built, run, and managed by a single person. True, the founder is often the keystone of the organization for it is their vision and tenacity that started it all, but they are not really alone in their journey. To suggest that the contribution that their employees, investors, advisors, and board members make is not invaluable is denying truth. It is almost as though self martyring somehow lifts the cache of the entrepreneur to the outside world.

If we consider the Canadian Mortgage Broker space as an example there are several large, successful brands in the country. These franchise organizations were not built by one individual, but by teams of people that include administrators, marketing people, franchise sales people, customer service reps, and yes, the executive. The simple fact is that it is impossible to do everything by yourself, and if you try, you will not succeed because you cannot be all things to all people. Recognizing this truth and celebrating the people that surround you is the first step.

Can entrepreneurship be lonely? Yes, it can, but it doesn't have to be.

As an entrepreneur myself, and someone who is embarking on the monumental task of building a national brand, I can say with confidence that I am not alone. I have the support of my family, colleagues, advisors, mentors, and friends both in and out of the industry. I have relied on these people for their insight, advice, and even just being there to let me vent after a particularly difficult day. There are certainly moments when I have felt completely alone in my journey, but that is not because I did not have support, it is because I did not recognize it.

What about franchising?

Recently I read some posts from a couple of brand leaders of these franchise organizations that play on the theme that being an entrepreneur means being alone. I found that to be surprising given that the very founding principle of franchising is that you are NOT alone. When you make the decision to join a franchise organization you do so in order to get the support you would not otherwise have if you were alone. It is one of the key selling points that is used during the franchise recruitment process.

Why would you, or anyone, pay a franchise fee or even the royalty if you were not promised ongoing support? Most people wouldn't because as an entrepreneur we are not normally in the habit of simply throwing money away.

In the past franchising was very different than it is today. Brands provided very basic support that normally consisted of some technology, marketing, and networking opportunities. Today the world has vastly changed and a franchise owner expects much more from their brand. They want to be supported, heard, and be treated less like a monthly royalty cheque, and more like a valuable partner in the success of the brand as a whole. Franchise owners’ expectations are evolving along with the ever-adjusting consumer marketplace, which is just as it should be.

A franchise brand, like any business, must evolve in their offerings to provide more value for the dollar. The old ways of doing business are starting to crack under the pressure of a dynamic economy that is rapidly going through a metamorphosis driven by innovation. This is particularly true in financial services as is clearly demonstrated around the world. Brands have a fiduciary duty to their franchisees to continuously innovate and offer enhanced solutions that will provide meaningful growth and build tangible equity for the franchisee.

That equity needs to translate into dollars, not just hypothetical value that might be realized when the franchise owner decides to retire. If it is not there, what was the point of paying tens of thousands of dollars in royalty in the first place?

Given the underlying nature of the mortgage business and its reliance on the personal referral relationship, coupled with the lack of brand building marketing that occurs today, it would be reasonable to argue that paying a royalty is not necessary to be successful. In fact, there are hundreds of examples of independent brokerages that are very successful and do not associate with any of the large national brands.

If you are a franchise owner and you are not getting the support you feel you need, or you feel as if you are alone in your business, there is a problem. You have a right to expect more from your brand so that you do not feel alone. That means more than just a phone call, site visit, or attending events (that you probably have to pay for).

What you should get (in addition to the standard branding, tools, and technology) is business, marketplace, consumer insights, and business planning support so that you can effectively build sustainable growth. Innovation designed to future proof the brand and your business should be a standard, and if you are really lucky you will find a brand that not only helps you build equity in your business, but puts their money where their mouth is and guarantees it for you.

Anything less and it might be time to seriously re-evaluate and look at alternatives.

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