The Great Resignation is our new reality, and people want to work differently. They want to have their future in their own hands, and as a result, the franchise industry has been turned to for a better work-life balance.
I had the opportunity to speak to Nick Boury, the Managing Director of Franchise.be, about his journey as an entrepreneur in the franchise industry.
What is Franchise.be?
Franchise.be is a platform where franchise concepts are represented. Firstly, it’s a matchmaking platform where we match the franchise candidates with the right franchise concept that fits their ambition. Secondly, we use our platform to educate about franchising.
How did the idea for your business come about?
In early 2000, I was based in Dubai. At this point, I was the area manager for the global leader in franchise portals franchise.com from America, and I was responsible for the Middle East, India, and Pakistan. This is where I came in touch with this type of franchise platform and learned about its advantages and offers. Therefore, when I started in Belgium with franchise consultancy under FranCorp, it was always in the back of my mind that there was a need to create a one-stop-shop to find suitable franchise candidates as that is how franchises grow and the franchise business model works.
For the creation of the platform, we had two choices. Firstly, create a new platform from scratch. And secondly, we could take over an existing platform. There was only one at that time in Belgium, which was Franchise.be, managed by the organizers of the franchise exhibitions in Belgium. At this point, we spoke to the owner of Franchise.be, and we took over in 2015. In this case, the advantage was an existing client portfolio and some business. To begin with, we transformed the platform to include more services, matchmaking and education. At present, the platform has evolved a lot, and we are constantly working on automating our processes and making them future-proof.
When the takeover was finalized, did this become your full-time job, or were you professionally active in another business?
I own and manage both FranCorp in Belgium and Franchise.be. Therefore, we have a dedicated team internally. That includes two full-time employees.
At first, we have our franchise expansion manager responsible for Franchise.be. He is the contact person with the franchisors to understand their growth strategy and support their business development.
Secondly, we have our franchise matchmaker. She screens all the franchise candidates and does the physical matchmaking between the candidates and the franchisor. This ensures that the candidate has what it takes to be a successful franchisee and is matched to the correct franchise.
Thirdly, we work with freelancers such as journalists, web developers, a digital marketing agency, training courses, and graphic designer.
My role as an owner is to support the team on the brand strategy and the platform’s growth.
What is your success rate in terms of matchmaking?
We are very transparent on this question. Statistically, you need many candidates to find the right one. In general, worldwide, through all marketing channels, to find one franchisee, you need 20 leads. In general, the success rate with our clients is between 5 to 7%. It doesn’t mean that the other, let’s say 93%, are not qualified candidates. It’s just that these candidates are not the perfect match for this brand. The criteria are that the candidate and the franchisor must share the same philosophy and vision for the concept.
Which tactics do you use to communicate about franchising and to attract new candidates?
Firstly, we have a robust database that includes our franchisor members and candidates who can join for free. We invite candidates to create their profile on our platform to see which franchise or concepts they have the best match with.
Secondly, we communicate with the potential candidates and the entrepreneur world. We invest heavily in our marketing initiatives. For this, our efforts are mainly digital because our platform is also digital. We reach most of our members through social media, SEO & SEA. For example, we work with our digital marketing agency on our SEO and organic ranking to be number 1 of the top 10 results on Google for franchising-related keywords in Belgium. We also continuously invest in Google Adwords, Facebook ads, and LinkedIn ads.
Additionally, we offer different initiatives. These include free webinars and a free starter guide (in French & in Dutch) for candidates. We offer two webinars per week to candidates to learn about becoming a franchisee, and we explain the proper steps to follow.
When did you become an entrepreneur?
I have always been self-employed throughout my career, which allowed me to choose the missions I wanted to work on. It was a logical path for me to become an entrepreneur as my parents and most of my family are entrepreneurs. I quickly learned that if you want to achieve and implement your vision, you have to initiate it yourself; it’s a mindset. If you don’t have parents who are entrepreneurs, from my experience, it’s harder for people to have this entrepreneurial mindset naturally.
How do you generate new ideas?
New ideas come and go. Every three months, we organize a strategy session for half a day. During this time together, the stakeholders of Franchise.be (employees, external consultants, digital marketing agency) share their ideas to optimize our offering of existing services/products. We then develop initiatives that we will launch and set a deadline that everyone can respect. Doing these every three months allows us to put short-term and long-term strategies in place.
Are there things that you’re doing differently since Covid invaded our world?
We have seen our business grow during the Covid period. We are now meeting with candidates online before seeing them physically. I think we have gained ten years in digitalization meetings with each other. We saw a trend during this time that people started reflecting that they might be laid off or were in the wrong business. Much exploration into franchising was generated during this time, and people realized that a franchise concept could be as good or even better than if they were to do it on their own. We still close deals in person! Sometimes you must look into each other’s eyes physically to understand the person in front of you that you want to do business with.
One of the trends in the last 18 months is “the big resignation.” Have you seen a change in the profile of people who want to buy franchises?
We didn’t see a change in the profile. We have three kinds of profiles of people who are contacting us or looking for a franchise or a master franchise.
First, we have the people who are currently in a job. They are not happy in their current position, and it doesn’t fit anymore with what they’re expecting from their professional life. Therefore, they are looking at other opportunities and have two choices. Do they look for another job, or do they want to be self-employed and decide on their future?
Second, we have people who are already entrepreneurs in their own business looking to sell their business to start something new.
Third, the multi-entrepreneurs who have a business doing well and looking for a new business opportunity to run alongside their other business.
What has been your most satisfying moment since you created Franchise.be?
There are many satisfying moments, to be honest. Our mission is to match suitable candidates with the right franchise concept. Daily, we see new entrepreneurs start because of our matchmaking efforts. We’re very happy when we hear from our candidates or members that they have met each other through Franchise.be, signed a franchise contract, and became a successful entrepreneur. These are our most satisfying moments because we know we contribute to Belgium’s entrepreneur’s spectrum.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to become a successful entrepreneur or franchisee?
1. The most important skill is your mindset. The mindset of somebody who will take risks. You have to play to win, and sometimes you will lose, which requires making sacrifices. You should decide what’s essential for you not only financially but also personally.
2. You need to transform yourself into a leader. A leader doesn’t always have to lead a tribe or 1000 people, a country, or the world. You also must be your own leader, lead by example and do what’s right for you and your team. You have to take ownership, take responsibility, and be able to blame yourself when something goes wrong.
3. People skills are the most critical asset. There needs to be the right spirit and values in your team. There needs to be clear goals for the team, and for us, our primary goal is our mission. To contribute daily to Belgian entrepreneurship success cases. It’s the entrepreneur’s responsibility to make their team complementary and work with each other.
What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs invest their time in?
It depends on which kind of entrepreneur you are or which type of business you own. But what is very important is that you not only work in your business, but you work on your business. Depending on your business maturity, you need to come daily or several times per week and think about making it better.
Additionally, you need to hire people who are better than you and who can help you grow your business.
How did you make your first sale?
After three months of no sales and a lot of effort, I made my first sale.
What creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
We still work today with freelancers because this gives us flexibility with our cash flow and accessing different skills we need in our company. For example, we work with a marketing strategist, but we also work with a digital marketing agency that is better at implementing than strategy. We work with freelancers, which allows us to be very flexible in our cash flow. If we can’t afford it this month, we wait until next month. So, we have a small team, but we surround ourselves with flexible freelancers, which is how we manage our cash flow.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
I get my greatest inspiration from reading books about leadership and optimizing your business and marketing.
A book that has inspired me is the E Myth by Michael Gerber. It explains how a small business has to structure itself, so it works like a well-oiled machine, and when the business owner wants to go on a trip for six months, the business will still run as it should.
The book which has inspired me the most in my personal development is The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. It speaks about being the leader of your inner world, of your personal being. To be an entrepreneur or be the best version of yourself, it says that you need to invest in yourself, to visualize; you need to exercise; you need to wake up before the rest of the world; it’s on a personal level.
If you could rule the world, which are the three things you would change?
1. I would change dishonest people. For me, it’s very important when I give you my promise that I stick to my promise. Unfortunately, not everybody thinks this way. That’s one thing I’m allergic to.
2. live and let live. Not everybody can be a successful entrepreneur. Not everybody can be the biggest CEO or the best CFO or whatever. There are so many different types of people globally, and everybody has its place. You cannot expect everybody to have the same mindset. It’s not always that what you say is the right thing. There are many different answers or correct answers to various questions, so live and let live.
3. sometimes people only look at money, right? They go very far to make the money they think they have to make. Entrepreneurship is not about money; it’s about doing what you like to do, achieving several goals you have set, and being a better version of yourself.
Are you interested in becoming a franchisee in Belgium?
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Would you like more inspiration? Read our 5 minutes of inspiration interviews with great entrepreneurs on our blog.