Are You Ready to Turn Your Small Business into a Franchise? – TJ Kissane, Franchise FastLane

Success for any franchise brand is all about recruiting the right franchisees for the system. A growing trend in franchising is the utilization of professional franchisee recruitment companies. The value they bring is handling the heavy lifting for qualifying and educating potential franchisees. On this episode of Atlanta Franchise Today, host Leslie Kuban, expert franchise consultant, explores the role and value of third-party recruitment companies with TJ Kissane, Vice President of one of the premier franchise development companies called Franchise FastLane.

Transcription: 

Leslie Kuban:
TJ, welcome to the show.

TJ Kissane:
Thank you, Leslie. So great to be here. Appreciate you having me.

Leslie Kuban:
And as we know, we have so much in common. Our dads both led the way in franchising for us. We both are franchise owners ourselves, and we help other people into franchising. But for our viewers who are meeting you for the first time, tell us a little bit about your franchising journey, your story, and your franchising.

TJ Kissane:
So it definitely starts with my father, like you mentioned, something that we have in common. So I grew up my whole life going to national franchise conferences with my dad and we piggyback them into our family vacations. And so I grew up meeting corporate refugees my whole life, people that had left corporate world to come into franchising. And the one message I heard repeatedly was, I’m never going back to corporate America. I love franchising this. I can’t believe it took me this long to get into it. So when you grow up around that, I just thought, why would I do anything different than being franchising? So I jumped into it shortly after college, jumped into the operation side. And just love every aspect of helping people achieve their dream of business ownership.

Leslie Kuban:
And you’re a franchise owner yourself. You’re drinking your own Kool-Aid here. So tell us a little bit about your franchise, and then we’ll get into Franchise FastLane.

TJ Kissane:
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So me and my wife are franchise owners here in the Atlanta area with a brand called Mosquito Shield. So we are Mosquito Shield of North Atlanta. We just absolutely love it. Not only just the brand and the culture of the team, but we love the service we provide, being able to give customers their backyard back. We have a small son, two years old. We were just getting destroyed last year with mosquitoes. We couldn’t even go outside. And so that’s what really got us into the service, then into the brand and eventually as franchisees. And that’s what we love, is just helping people really enjoy their backyard and grow in a business along with it that hopefully one day we’ll pass down to our son.

Leslie Kuban:
Thank goodness for that, especially while we’re all spending so much more time at home, being able to enjoy it is all the more important.

TJ Kissane:
Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, in addition to running your business, you’re also Vice President with the Franchise FastLane, which is such a great organization. In my businesses, we’ve worked together a long time, done a lot of business together. And I can say from personal experience, FastLane is one of the premier franchise development companies. But what exactly is it that FastLane does? Who are your clients? What do you do for them?

TJ Kissane:
Yeah. Great question, Leslie. So what we do at Franchise FastLane is we are a franchise sales outsourcing company. So basically what that means is we take on the development, the franchise sales for franchisors that are looking to grow. Now, mainly FastLane works with brands that are at the beginning. You’ve worked with us. A lot of our brands have five or 10 locations. They’re on that cusp. They have the system figured out. They have their great idea and their strong differentiator. And they’re trying to say, how do we go from this smaller system to 110, 150 franchisees?

TJ Kissane:
And that’s when, like most people do, they partner with experts. And that’s what we are in the franchising industry. We’re experts at development, working relationships with the right individuals that can bring the right candidates. And then the one thing I think we do really well is we help streamline the message. We help the franchisor figure out who is it that you’re looking for and how do we help communicate that message individuals? So we can line up your brand with the right individuals, get that matchmaking and find a successful relationship.

Leslie Kuban:
So you are spending time with a franchise brand in advance, it sounds like, really understanding their culture, their system, who makes a good operator or good investor for their business model. And it sounds like you’re working with mostly emerging brands.

TJ Kissane:
Yep.

Leslie Kuban:
Yep.

TJ Kissane:
Absolutely. And so we work mainly with emerging brands that are really looking to hit that accelerator path. You’ll ask the brands that we work with now, Franchise FastLane is really the name. One of our franchisors is always talking about you really want to buckle your seatbelt when you partner with us because you will get rocking, you will have that increase in franchise owners that you’re looking for. But that’s exactly what I think Franchise FastLane has built their reputation on in the franchise industry, is vetting those brands on the front end.

TJ Kissane:
We talked to over 160 to almost 200 brands every year, and we bring on five to seven to represent. So we’re really big on vetting the brands. We have a core list of things that we really look for to make sure that we know that that brand is set up for success, and that we feel comfortable connecting them to franchisees in that they’re going to be successful when they partner up with that brand.

Leslie Kuban:
Will you share some of the things that are on that criteria list that you guys have at FastLane? Really, because you want to bring on brands that you can have impact for. So what are a few of those things?

TJ Kissane:
So one, we definitely look for a really strong franchisor. We look for the franchisor to either have experience in franchising, so they know how to grow and educated and coach their franchisees. Or that they have the skillset, and they’re really well-funded. So they have basically the resources to help grow their system. There’s no point for us in helping grow a brand, if they’re not going to be able to help support those franchisees. So one, we really look for the core of that franchisor.

TJ Kissane:
And then we start to get into a nicety list of, do they have a big differentiator? Why did they stand out in their industry? Why is that ripe for franchising? And then, even down below that, do they have the right economics? Do they have the numbers that we want to see? And then, really, the last big check mark is the current franchise owners. Do they have validation? Do they have strong validation? If these owners aren’t willing to get on and just shout across the rooftops about how happy they are about their business, then we’re not going to be really excited to get in and represent it. So when they start checking those boxes, they have happy franchisees, we see a franchisor that can really support a system with growth, that’s when we know we’ve got a good partner.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah. Yep. And many of our viewers on Atlanta Franchise today, they are entrepreneurs thinking about how they’re going to grow their business. And franchising might be one of their strategies for how they look at scaling. So you guys see a ton of brands and potential brands at FastLane. So would you have some advice for that entrepreneur out there who’s learning about franchising, considering it to grow their business? What do they need to think about? What do they need to be really mindful of if they’re going to step into becoming a franchisor?

TJ Kissane:
Yep, absolutely. And I think as a franchisor, the biggest thing that I would tell someone looking at it is make sure that you have the right attitude in your business, because becoming a franchisor becomes a very servitudinal approach to the business. Your main focus is going to be, how do I help franchise owner A, B, C, all the way down to Z, be successful? It doesn’t so much become about your success. You have to want to see it in other individuals. And I think that’s a really common theme around successful franchisors is that they want to help empower others. Yes, it helps grow their brand is that other side of it, but they really focus on, Hey, I want to help others achieve this dream and have a piece of what I have. And that’s when you’re going to really be successful.

Leslie Kuban:
Right, because it’s not just your business anymore, as the entrepreneur. You have other business partners who are also entrepreneurs, and you have to look at that relationship a bit differently at that point.

TJ Kissane:
Absolutely, yep.

Leslie Kuban:
TJ, we also have a lot of viewers who are aspiring franchise owners, people who may be retiring from corporate America or just interested in doing something different. And they’re out there looking at franchise opportunities. What advice would you have for them? What do they need to be honest with themselves about and start really looking for in a franchisor to start making the right choices for themselves?

TJ Kissane:
Absolutely. This is my favorite question. I can answer this one all day. So I’ll tell a little story. I have a cousin, well, my wife’s cousin, and he recently got into franchising. He bought his first franchise about six months ago out in Denver, Colorado. And he came to us because he saw us buying a franchise and said, Hey, I think I want to go down that road. What was really important for you guys? And I told him the best advice I could give you is sit down and figure out what you really love to do every day. What do you love about your current role? What do you not like about your current role?

TJ Kissane:
Think back to even the first job you had, maybe in high school or middle school. And think about, what do you really enjoy? Because that’s what I think a franchise allows you to do, is it allows you to say, I enjoy networking with people, or I enjoy leading or managing teams or whatever it is that’s your core skillset. And then find a business that allows you to amplify that skillset and take advantage of it. And don’t try to fit square pegs into round holes.

TJ Kissane:
I think you and me have seen this all the time. There’s those flashy brands like fitness or restaurants and maybe that’s the right fit for you, but maybe it’s not. Don’t get blinded by what the name of the company is or those things. Focus on, what are they going to ask you to do every day? What role are you going to play as an owner? And is that something that you’re going to wake up every morning and be super excited to go out there and do? And if it’s not, then you shouldn’t do it, because why would you invest into something to wake up every morning and not want to go do it?

TJ Kissane:
And that’s what I really try to tell people, is a franchise gives you the advantage to just wake up in the morning and say, I love going into work every day because I get to do this. And if you check that box, typically, everything else around it will start to fall into place.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah. Yep. You are hitting on such an important point. The role of the owner, the consulting role, we drive that home all day with the clients that we work with. People, sometimes they have a fantasy about owning a certain kind of business, but that may be different from what your day-to-day responsibilities are as the owner of that business. So that’s the real key to success, is not just getting enamored and falling in love with the product or service or the brand and what you think that might mean, but actually drilling down to understand what your responsibilities will be every day.

TJ Kissane:
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
We love inspiring success stories. So you guys work with a lot of brands at FastLane. Give me an example of a brand that you started working with and what kind of impact you guys have been able to have for them.

TJ Kissane:
I’m going to talk about one of my favorites, and I know one of yours too, Monster Tree Service. That is the brand that I originally started with at Franchise FastLane as the director. And it was actually the second brand that Franchise FastLane partnered up with. So we were brand new, they were brand new. And there’s just so much that we’ve talked about today that I think lends into this story. The franchisor, Josh Skolnick, he had the right attitude. He really believed in helping others. That was his mission. And when we met Josh, that’s what we just kept hearing from him, is I want to help others create legacy wealth for their family. And that’s what was driving him. And when you have that right attitude, you really can become successful.

TJ Kissane:
But Josh’s problem was is that he had a brand new brand. He was brand new to franchising. He had no track record whatsoever, no reputation to go off of. And at the same time, he was going into an industry tree care that had never been franchised before. So a lot of people were looking at him going this guy who has no experience in an industry that’s never been franchised, he’s crazy. But when he partnered up with FastLane, it gave him a lot of validity. And it let everybody in industry look and go, well, man, if FastLane is partnering up with this brand, maybe there’s a little something to this. Maybe we should see where this guy, who’s being a little crazy, maybe he’s got something. And people gave us a chance.

TJ Kissane:
And when they started to meet Josh, and they started to talk with him, and they started to realize what his mission was and how special the tree care industry was going to be as a franchise, it really started to take off. So when Josh first partnered with us about three and a half, almost four years ago, the brand was at about 13 owners, about 26 territories. They now are well over 100 franchisees, well over 300 territories. And just about a year ago, last September, Josh sold controlling interest of Monster Tree Service to a brand called Authority Brands that has several home service franchise brands. They’re building their portfolio and they added that in. And I think that’s the greatest success story.

TJ Kissane:
I mean, that’s what everyone does this for is as much as you love your business, you eventually want to get to that end of the road, say, I built this, look at what I’ve done. And you get the value for it. And we were really able to do that for Josh. And he’s a personal friend of mine, so it’s just one of my favorite stories to see him be successful, because no one really deserved it more than him.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah. And he’s going on to be involved in other brands and really just has taken this tremendously far for himself. And it started with working with you guys.

TJ Kissane:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
He was new to franchising. He probably didn’t know a whole lot, if anything, about how to recruit the right franchisees. And that’s what you guys helped him do and grow as an entrepreneur to the degree that he has. That’s a cool story.

TJ Kissane:
Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
That’s great.

TJ Kissane:
Yep. It is so wonderful for him.

Leslie Kuban:
So TJ, just looking ahead, the rest of 2021, 2022, just your personal opinion, what’s ahead in franchising?

TJ Kissane:
Oh, I think franchising is on the cusp of a big boom. We’re already seeing it and I think it’s because of COVID-19. Unfortunately, everyone’s been stuck inside for the last a year and a half, but I think what that’s really shown a lot of people that never worked from home before is the different work-life balance that that can provide, the more time that they can spend with their family. People just spent a year and a half from not having to travel three times a month, and head to conferences, and living out of a hotel room in a suitcase, and missing all their kids’ big events. And they’ve been there for the last year and a half at home.

TJ Kissane:
And I think that’s what we’re going to see in franchising is as companies open back up and people go back into the office, they’re going to go, this is not the same life I’ve been living for the last year and a half, two years. And I want to be with my family. I don’t want to be a road warrior. I don’t want to be living out of that suitcase. I want to be there for the birthdays and the big events. And that’s what franchising provides.

TJ Kissane:
Back to me and my wife, that’s why we bought a franchise. My wife’s job was impacted by COVID-19, so we decided to get her out before the decision was made for us. But more importantly, we have a two year old son. And so we bought a seasonal business that my wife gets to be done about October, November-ish time. And she gets the whole holiday season to spend with our two year old son. We’re going to continue to grow our family over the next couple of years. And that was the core piece for us, is we wanted that work-life balance. We wanted her to be there for those moments, and that’s what franchising provides. And I think back to my original point, that’s what I think people are realizing now after COVID. And they want to take control of their future, and franchising is definitely the best avenue to do that.

Leslie Kuban:
People have gotten used to walking their dog in the middle of the day.

TJ Kissane:
Exactly.

Leslie Kuban:
And driving their kids to school, and don’t want to give that up. Well, I agree. I certainly see that in my business as well.

TJ Kissane:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
Congratulations on your business and all that you guys are doing at Franchise FastLane. It’s been really terrific having you on the show. Thanks for being here today, TJ.

TJ Kissane:
Definitely, Leslie. The pleasure’s all mine. Thank you so much for having me.

Leslie Kuban:
And folks, thanks for joining us on Atlanta Franchise today. I look forward to seeing you again next week.


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