START YOUR YOUTH MOVEMENT
Entrepreneur|January - February 2021
Young franchisees keep brands relevant with millennial and Gen Z customers, and with decades of career growth ahead of them, they can help bring long-term growth and continuity to franchise companies. So why don’t we spend more time courting them?
RICK GROSSMANN

I’m a franchise consultant, and I was speaking recently with an executive at a major fast-food franchise. We stumbled onto the subject of franchisee recruitment and both agreed: It’s hard to recruit talented young franchisees because people under 40 generally don’t have much management experience.

But at the same time, we agreed that younger franchisees have a lot to offer. They have long careers ahead of them, for one. That’s time they can use to grow the franchise. Plus, they’re in tune with the trendy, spendy customers that most franchise systems want to attract.

Since the executive and I were in lockstep, I asked him what his company was doing to make itself youth-friendly. I expected a savvy recruitment strategy, or an innovative feature catering to millennials and Gen Z. Instead, he came back with this: “Well, we’ve installed wi-fi in the lobbies of all our restaurants.”

Wi-fi. In the lobbies. Wireless internet is a great perk for customers, but it’s a weak bid for young, serious professionals looking to go into business for themselves. It underestimates the size of the generational divide separating baby boomers from the digital natives who will one day take their place.

This is a drum I beat repeatedly in consulting meetings with franchisors. Outside of franchising, most first-time entrepreneurs start businesses between the ages of 25 and 35, according to U.S. Census data. But franchise entrepreneurs don’t typically get started until later, in their late 30s or early 40s. The likeliest age of current franchise ownership is 49, according to Franchise Ventures. So franchise systems are failing to capture the most innovative, creative, and energized years of a young entrepreneur’s life. We love our second-and-third-career cohorts, but if we’re honest, that’s all we really have.

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