Franchisees don’t need to sacrifice their entrepreneurial spirit for a winning concept
Franchise marketing is an earnest, if somewhat corny, trade. One franchise opportunity promises to “help you build a great life.” Another proclaims, “You’re a trailblazer.” Maybe those messages resonate with you. Or maybe you’re a franchise skeptic. At first, I was.
Then I connected with two Minnesota-based entrepreneurs who changed my mind. Both leveraged the opportunities afforded by the franchise model to build successful, fulfilling businesses in their own images — without compromising their principles.
Peter Carlson: Franchisee guru
As former national director of Sunbelt Network’s franchise consulting arm and current independent franchise consultant and regional developer of franchise companies such as Amazing Lash and OurTown America, Peter Carlson is a franchising guru.
The former KARE 11 ad sales executive has been in franchise development since the early 2000s. Franchisors rely on him to sell their concepts to prospective franchisees, sparing their lean corporate teams the high-touch trouble. It’s a win-win-win: Franchisees spend less time vetting concepts; franchisors expand faster; and Carlson gets 50% of the franchise fee paid and a percentage of the royalty on every new franchise location. (Franchisees pay nothing out of pocket.)
“The regional developer is basically the franchisor’s sales agent on the ground,” says Carlson. “Your success or failure as a concept depends on who you have in that role.”
The regional development model has been good to Carlson, but it’s actually pretty rare. He estimates just 2% to 3% of franchisors use the model. Many are wary of giving so much power to third parties; others, understandably, balk at losing half of their franchise fees. But the approach has some notable adherents: Subway, Papa John’s and Blockbuster all leveraged regional developers early in their franchise life cycles.
Jinell Abernethy: Hometown hero, in on the ground floor
Jinell Abernethy knew Anytime Fitness founders Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen a decade before the two founded the wildly successful gym-on-demand concept.
She was an early employee of Health and Fitness Group, the pair’s pre-Anytime venture. When they launched Anytime in 2002, she jumped at the opportunity to move back to her native Duluth. Her first gym was Anytime’s second.
Abernethy now owns five Anytime Fitness locations in and around Duluth, a relative drop in the concept’s 3,000-gym bucket, but that’s fine by her. She gets to manage a mini-empire devoted to keeping its famously active denizens healthy throughout the long, cold Lake Superior winter (and spring and…summer).
“I love the opportunity that Anytime Fitness has given me to grow my career in the fitness industry,” says Abernethy. “I bleed purple” — Anytime’s primary color — “and I even have the [Anytime] running man [logo] tattoo.”
Thanks to her quarter-century history with Anytime’s founders and her unabashed advocacy for the brand, Abernethy enjoys perks not afforded just any five-unit franchisee. She spent two years on the company’s Franchise Advisory Council as a liaison between franchisees and corporate.
Had Abernethy chosen a different path, she’d probably be in a senior leadership role at Anytime corporate right now. But it’s easy to see why she didn’t. She has a great thing going in Duluth.