Feast, Famine & Franchises

When the word ‘entrepreneur’ is spoken, many often think of new ideas, innovation and contrast ways of thinking in the business world. While new inventions can be a form of entrepreneurism, so too can the idea of using an already recognized business model and proven brand. Franchises are an important aspect of many businesses as they create standards across the board, allow for various convenient locations and uphold the company’s mission and relevant brand.

Thomas Parks, president, CEO and principal consultant for Premier Franchise Solutions spoke about his experience in the industry, most recently when his Lansing-based company launched in 2015.

After working with TWO MEN & A TRUCK, Parks felt he had learned from the best, but also felt he could support in other ways. Parks found a hole in the industry he felt he could remedy: finding a way to guide young and emerging business brands and give them a voice in the market. He sought to help fix the dilemma, working in franchise development firms.

Two years ago, Premier Franchise Solutions launched in Lansing, They specialize in helping start-up and emerging brands grow their franchise. Their mission is two-fold, according to Parks.

“We help companies that want to become a franchise, get them matched with the proper franchise attorneys, make sure there’s a competitive analysis done and make sure they’re ready to enter the franchise world,” Parks said.

Once they registered and recognized as a franchisor, then Premier Franchise Solutions acts as their sales, marketing and advertising department to further develop the brand.

The second aspect of what Parks and his team do is brand matchmaking. They focus on getting to know their clients, their wants, needs, experiences, budgets and background knowledge of various business ventures. After they’ve established a better idea of what is feasible and desired on behalf of their clients, they can then connect them with industry professionals to develop a relationship or partnership.

Making the transition from “mom and pop” shop to a franchise is scary for some business owners, but the pros speak for themselves, according to Parks.

“The biggest thing — and it’s almost cliché, is that franchising allows you to be in business for yourself, not by yourself,” he said. By working together, franchisors and franchisees help and guide each other, a relationship in which both outlets benefit, contrary to some misconceptions.

While start-ups often have room for creativity and fine-tuning, this often leaves room for failure, something franchises have to deal with less.

“The biggest misconception that I run across is when people are buying into a franchise is that it’s all about the franchisor making money,” Parks said. “When in reality, the thing I always laugh about is when you pay a franchise fee, you’re not paying for all the wonderful success they’ve had. In reality, you’re paying for all the mistakes they’ve made along the way; all the ways they learned to not make money. You have that support system, where they’re like ‘we have done that, it didn’t work, don’t waste your time.’”

The other big benefit of franchising is the brand recognition. Think about some of the marketing that is most prevalent: big restaurant brands like Dominos, Little Caesars, or even BIGGBY COFFEE. All franchises, and all those who started in the state of Michigan.

Other non-Michigan brands have seen their fair share of success within the state as well. Irvine, California-based pizza concept, Blaze Pizza, has seven locations in Michigan: Lansing, Kalamazoo, Allen Park, Royal Oak, Novi, two in Ann Arbor, and one opening in East Lansing this spring.

The restaurant focuses on chef-driven recipes and utilizes an assembly line creation station with fresh, varied ingredients for customers to handpick for their own culinary creations. According to Darla Bowen, director of marketing for Blaze Midwest Inc., “Blaze is now ranked as the leading fast-casual pizza chain in the Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report. Blaze Pizza is building momentum and developing a cult following as it expands across the country. It was also recently ranked second on FastCasual.com’s list of “Top 100 Movers and Shakers” in the country, behind Panera Bread.”

The industry of franchising comes with a surprisingly small, close-knit community of professionals. His favorite part about his job is the grand openings of franchises he’s helped with.

“I try to be at their grand openings as much as possible,” Parks said. “If I can be there in person, and see the look on their face when they turn the key in the lock for the first day of business, that is everything to me.”

Much like the franchising community itself, Lansing is part of a supportive unit of businesses. A support system that entrepreneurs, franchisors, franchisees and business owners appreciate within the local area.

“There are pockets where the business community bands together and really help elevate each other,” Parks said. “Anything that we can do for each other’s businesses, we will do. And I don’t think that’s a Midwestern thing, I don’t think that’s a Michigan thing, I think that’s a Lansing thing.”

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