Palm Beach Atlantic University’s Titus Chair for Franchise Leadership reveals what took him from planning to enter a Catholic seminary to holding a key position in franchising
Describe your early career path
Initially my plan was to become a Catholic priest but the seminary rejected me and I decided the next best career would be a journalist. What those two career paths had in common I won’t venture to say. As it turned out, franchising captured my interests and changed everything.
What attracted you to franchising?
In 1979 a franchisor asked me to write a newsletter for his franchisees and to help him promote franchise sales across the country. I discovered that franchising provided a system for success to just about anyone capable of following a system and I thought it was brilliant. A couple years later I wrote Franchising: The Inside Story and interviewed about a hundred experts including lawyers, consultants, franchisors and franchisees. This was the first book about buying a franchise. After the book came out I was ready to move on to the next topic, and I did. However, publicity from that book created my career in franchising.
How important is providing franchising education?
The lack of franchise education worldwide is one of the main causes for franchise failure across the board. It’s a shame that the franchise community hasn’t done more to correct that.
Do you think the public has a full and fair idea of what franchising is?
No. In the last 30 years I’ve taught thousands of people about franchising and they all begin at ground zero with franchise knowledge. Go out and ask ten people on the street about franchising and it quickly becomes clear that the public doesn’t have a clue. And that hurts franchising.
How did the Titus Center come into being?
The Titus Center for Franchising is a Center of Excellence at Palm Beach Atlantic University and is dedicated to educating students, the public and professionals about franchising for the purpose of career development as well as franchise development and ownership. The Center offers an undergraduate (soon a graduate) curriculum that leads to a Concentration in Franchising. The Concentration is awarded with a business degree. Students must complete nine credit hours and complete a 90-hour franchise internship. The center exists because franchisor Ray Titus, founder of United Franchise Group, said he wanted to hire employees who had an education in franchising. He then pledged $1.5 million to Palm Beach Atlantic University to house the center. Within a year the center had attracted some 40 students who want to earn the Concentration in Franchising.
How do you provide Franchise education?
The Titus Center provides academic and professional education. We’ve developed a unique program that provides a comprehensive education about franchising for undergraduate students. Within a year we also will offer our program at the graduate level and we’ll teach online so that people from across the world can study through the Titus Center. I developed curricula for these courses: Principles of Franchising, Franchise Creative Ventures, and Franchise Management & Operations. I personally teach the courses but I call on guests to help me. Last semester, for example, I had more than 20 speakers including franchisors, franchisees, directors of development, directors of operations and support, lawyers, moneylenders, etc.
The entire program emphasizes critical thinking. We are producing graduates who have more than a basic understanding of franchising – in fact, I’d say my graduates (the first student graduated this month) will know more about franchising than most entry level employees at franchise companies anywhere and even more than many franchisees. It also helps that we require a 90-hour intensive franchise internship. Currently, internships are offered by Chick Fil A, United Franchise Group, TBC Corp. (Midas and Big O Tires), Sloan’s Ice Cream, and Edwards Global Development. In addition to our concentration, we offer professional education. In January we’ll sponsor the Selling Franchises Bootcamp designed to help those who want to sell more franchises. Eventually we’ll offer several programs a year for executives who already work in franchising.
As a public speaker, how do you measure success?
Obviously money; let’s be practical. But impact matters most. I’ve been speaking about the A to Zs of buying a franchise for more than 30 years. In that time I’ve reached thousands of people around the world and many of them have bought or will buy franchises. I don’t take credit for their success but I take some credit for motivating them to change their lives through franchise ownership. That’s magical! It’s also magical when I speak to groups of franchisees and franchisors and help them resolve issues that would otherwise block their progress. Part of my role as a speaker and educator is to be a difference maker and speaking gives me that opportunity.
What advice would you give to a brand considering franchising overseas?
Get an education about international expansion before spending money. Franchisors often decide to explore international expansion only after someone expresses interest from another country. That’s not the way to do it. For the most part, franchisors need help to expand overseas. They need many of the resources that are exposed through Global Franchise magazine.
What are the challenges faced by franchising today?
I’ve worked in the franchise community since 1979 and in the international community since the late 1980s. In all these years the challenges have not changed dramatically. They’re basically the same issues. How do you develop a popular brand? How do you find the right franchisees to implement the brand’s operating systems? How do franchisors and franchisees co-exist? How do you expand domestically and internationally? Who can you trust when you need help? The wonderful thing about franchising is that if you’ve got a challenge there’s probably multiple franchisors and franchisees who’ve already solved that challenge. We’re blessed to work in a community that is often willing to step up and help others succeed.
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