Diary of a Franchisee — A Year Ago (Entry #1)

I have been in the world of franchising for almost 30 years. I’ve worn many hats at the franchisor level; and, as a consultant, I have worked with hundreds of companies seeking to expand and franchise. But, I had never worn the hat of franchisee. 

A year ago, I signed my franchise agreement and embarked upon a journey that has been far more difficult than I expected.  I had many doubts before taking this step, yet I also thought I had this down. I believed I would “knock it out of the park immediately.” Instead, I’ve been hitting one foul ball after another. 

I have trained and supported thousands of franchisees and have dedicated most of my career to the study of what creates success in franchising. So, you see, I thought that I should have had this new role down. But, I didn’t!

The last 12 months have been an emotional rollercoaster. I have made all the mistakes that one can make. I have gone through every stage that, as a trainer, I alerted the franchisees I trained they would experience. I have felt embarrassed that I have not been able to get the business going the way I expected. The recurrent accusatory thought that has plagued my mind for the last year goes something like this: “You, of all people, should be able to get this! What’s wrong with you?”

Some years ago, my friend and colleague, Joe Mathews, applied learning stages theory to franchising and created the following great graph showing the learning dynamics of a franchisee.

I became a franchisee convinced that I was immune to the “launch” and “grind” stages of the learning process. I thought I would go straight into the winning zone. Because I know how the brain works, I believed I would bypass any of the pitfalls that might be triggered by taking on this new role and situation. I was sure that I could come up with a way to avoid taking on the role of salesperson – a role I have dreaded all my life, and always believed I would be incapable of performing.

Boy, was I wrong!

Throughout this year, I found myself asking questions that added to my doubt, discomfort, and despair. Questions such as:

  • Why in the hell did I do this?
  • Will this ever work? What if it doesn’t?
  • Why can’t I get traction?
  • What is wrong with me?
  • What if the franchisor wasn’t completely open with me? What if I only heard what I wanted to hear?

During the last several weeks, as I’ve watched myself go deeper into the ‘d’s” (debt, discomfort, doubt, and, yes, also, despair), I realized I was asking the wrong questions! When we ask the wrong questions, we simply get the wrong answers! It’s not that the subject of inquiry is wrong or even off. Instead, the problem resided in the way I was phrasing the questions. The way I was expressing my concerns was boxing me in and making me feel worse than I already felt. The questions I was asking were closing my mind to the wonderful possibilities I have available to me at all times.

As soon as I realized what was going on and started to rephrase the questions, there was a shift in my thinking and perception. I’m still in the “grind” stage; nothing has changed there. Asking different questions has yet not propelled me into the “winning” stage, but now I can be here, grinding away more gracefully, and moving forward one day at a time towards the “winning” and the “zone” stages of learning. I know they will come; it is just a matter of when.

The saying “You teach what you need to learn most” has always resonated with me. I realized there is a lot I need to learn to be able to create and allow the success of my business. So, I decided to start this diary in the hopes that my struggles, and what I am learning from them, can be helpful to others. Stay tuned for more!


  1. joe mathews says

    Nicely done. Remember that graph represents mental states. Outside of you they don’t exist. The Grind is caused by demanding results you have yet developed the capacity to achieve. In the Grind I find you have to increase level your activity as you master the business. More activity compensates for less mastery. It takes more swings from a dull axe to fall a tree than a sharp one. But the tree
    Can still fall. Plus it’s all temporary on the way to making winning habitual

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