My client opened their franchise on Feb. 1, 2020

The day after the U.S. imposed travel restrictions on China, to halt the spread of the pandemic, my new franchisee held his Grand Opening. It was Feb. 1, 2020. A month later, amidst the worsening healthcare crisis, statewide shelter-in-place orders went into effect. Mass layoffs following record unemployment levels were next. My client, with several hundred thousand dollars invested in his new business, remarked that it was “…as scary as a heart attack.”

He should know. With a career spanning three decades—most of which was spent in the medical device sales sector—he pushed implantable coronary medical devices like pacemakers, stents, and angioplasty balloons. As far as reliability was concerned, there was no room for error. The confidence he exuded in the products he sold had to give peace of mind to cardiac surgeons who conducted life-saving operations every day. 

His skill and confident demeanor made him a highly sought-after consultant—recruited by venture capital firms backing the next generation of medical device companies. He took more than a couple of startups to massive profitability, earning him an admirable Nest Egg for retirement or his next career move. 

After aiding in the success of others, he longed to have a business of his own. 200+ nights a year in hotels while always having to answer to others left him hungry to plant his own flag and make his own mark. But this time, it would be his own money on the line—not the venture capitalists.

I met him on LinkedIn, of all places. Our conversations were animated as he communicated all the reasons for wanting to finally take a leap of faith towards an entrepreneurial future. The incessant travel, time away from home, lost time with loved ones, never being the one to make the business decisions that dictated his schedule and workload. He also spoke to his strengths, ticking off stories about building other businesses from the ground up. 

To me, he sounded like a great match for a franchise dedicated to helping businesses build their own brands with tangible results. This describes the graphics and sign industry. Every day brings a new project to help a customer to visually communicate their brand proposition and value add in innovative and memorable ways. The creative opportunities are limitless and, as it turned out, he was smitten with the business model, stating, “…this sounds like fun!”

The fun momentarily wore off when the pandemic’s shutdown coincided with his first month’s financial report. He was shy of his break-even point. It was as scary as a heart attack. The next month offered a slight increase, but still wouldn’t meet his projections. Then, the “April Showers” that bring “May Flowers” happened. His sales skyrocketed, at a rate of nearly four times his previous total in just 30 days! 

How? Why? As it turns out, the demand for signage was through the roof. And you probably see evidence of this in every retail or consumer-based outlet in the country. Social Distancing! Masks Must Be Worn to Enter, Stay 6 Feet Apart at All Times, Line Forms Here…I could go on, but you get the picture:

FranNet’s quality vetting process finds, targets, and recommends franchises in categories that are recession-resistant and, in what we now call, essential. We achieve this by doing our due diligence. Research can show how different industries, as a whole, performed during the Great Recession, previous recessions, or immediately after past national tragedies or disasters. Historical results do not guarantee future results, but the data can provide valuable insights.  

 

As the chart above shows, almost 80% of FranNet clients open a business in the service industry. While these industries may lack panache or elan, they are also not as scary as a heart attack when, and if, the economy sours. 

Looking back, my client explains that, “When a crisis hits, there’s always opportunity.” Do your research, make a plan, keep your head on straight. When turmoil and disruptions make things as scary as a heart attack, you can then be the one ready to take advantage.

 

About the Author

Sara Waskow is the Dallas-Fort Worth Market President for FranNet, the nation’s leading franchise consultancy. She’s a career transition specialist whose no-cost, no-obligation expertise matches individuals to business opportunities that best fit their unique goals and talents. Sara is a member of Success North Dallas, the Southlake and Grapevine Chambers of Commerce, and the Cowtown Executives Association. She graduated from Texas A&M University and has lived in the DFW area for over 30 years. She can be reached at: [email protected]