Prensa Internacional: recorte del NYTimes

El prestigioso diario norteamericano dedica una amplia información al creciente fenómeno en Estados Unidos de los ejecutivos con MBAs que deciden adquirir una franquicia

Fecha: 08/06/2005

En la información se incluyen opiniones de varios expertos y el testimonio de dos ejecutivos con MBA de Stanford. La pasión que conlleva ser el dueño del propio negocio vence en estos casos al prestigio o seguridad que puede acarrear el ser empleado de una gran corporación. Se incluye el texto completo por su interés.

Franchisees With Advanced Degrees

Published: June 2, 2005

Let"s just come out and talk about it. An increasing number of business school graduates and corporate executives are going into low-technology franchises like Dunkin" Donuts and gas stations. The format lets them run their own show just like full-fledged entrepreneurs while providing a corporate security blanket that keeps the risk of failure low.

There is just one catch: running a Subway or 7-Eleven lacks cachet. In some business circles, franchising is referred to as the F word.

"I"m convinced that 95 percent of people who want to be in business for themselves should own a franchise," said Rob Bond, a publisher of several books on franchising. And yet, he said, "there is some kind of social stigma to running a franchise."

Some corporate refugees, stung by the disapproval of their parents or even their wives, actually try to hide their new occupation from friends. Others plow ahead, sometimes with the help of career coaches, defiant about their choice and glad to be rid of corporate shackles.

"Neither my wife nor my mom was pleased with the whole thing, because they"re embarrassed," Jim Yang, a 1997 Stanford M.B.A. who opened a Cold Stone Creamery, said to a crowd of business school students at his alma mater during a panel discussion on franchising last year. "When people ask my mom what I do for a living, she lies!"

The audience laughed, probably not sure to what extent Mr. Yang was joking. Then another panel member stepped in to commiserate. John Zoglin, who got his M.B.A. from Stanford in 1984 and left a job at Hewlett-Packard to open a Sylvan Learning Center, pointed to Mr. Yang and said: "My mom is like yours. She loved me being at H.P., she didn"t want me off being a tutor!" He added, "But I was so much more proud to say I had my own thing."

Lindsay Held spent more than a decade trying to choose between law and investment banking before he chucked both and got behind the counter of a low-calorie dessert parlor. After graduating from the Columbia Law School, he spent eight years as a corporate lawyer. Then he went to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and after that worked for two years as an investment banker. Imagine his former law school classmates" surprise, then, when they stopped in for a dessert at a Tasti D-Lite shop on the Upper East Side and were waited on by Mr. Held. First, Mr. Held explained, there was the recognition (yes, it"s him!) and then the inevitable curiosity: "Um, what are you doing here?"

Two years after leaving his Wall Street career to open first one and then a second Tasti D-Lite, Mr. Held says he still loves serving customers. His parents must have guessed there would be moments like these. "Why, after three Ivy League degrees," he says they asked him, "hadn"t you remembered that in first grade you wanted to be an ice cream man?"

"There"s always the question of the prestige factor, which entered my head," he said. "But I said: You know what? I want to have my own business. I want to build something."

His predicament is a common one for people who abandon the cushy realm of corner offices and six-figure salaries for the rough-and-tumble world of franchising. Career counselors like those at the Entrepreneur"s Source in Southbury, Conn., itself a franchise, try to help corporate types make the adjustment to business owners by focusing on lifestyle and personal aims as well as career goals. "We tell them to put their emotions aside and to gather facts," said Brian Miller, an executive vice president. "You can"t open new doors when your mind is closed."

In addition, top business schools are starting to add franchise classes to their elective course offerings and are holding panels featuring franchising at entrepreneurship conferences. The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University added a franchise class three years ago, and now it is oversubscribed.

To be sure, the number of franchisees with M.B.A."s is still small. Even so, said Mr. Bond, the author, more people with a business background are considering it, especially when they can expand to multiple units, which is generally the only way they can overtake their old salaries.

Mr. Miller of the Entrepreneur"s Source said that company was seeing a growing number of corporate managers and executives exploring entrepreneurial opportunities.

"They"re tired of the corporate life and want to have control over their destiny," he said.

Another reason for their growing presence is a rising financial bar that excludes the rank and file. Dunkin" Brands requires its franchisee candidates to open at least five doughnut stores and to have liquid assets of at least $750,000 and a net worth of $1.3 million. Five years ago, a franchisee could open one store and had to show $200,000 in liquid assets and $400,000 in net worth.

Some other chains, too, will sell only multiple units, which means a bigger investment. "We see franchise companies all the time that are slowly raising the financial standards as to who can get in," said Steve Hockett, president of FranChoice Inc. in Eden Prairie, Minn., a consulting firm that helps match entrepreneurs with franchisees.

Most franchise opportunities still start as "onesies and twosies," as one M.B.A. who owns dozens of Applebee"s restaurants rather disdainfully referred to individual store ownership. A common pitfall on that level, experts and many owners say, is a franchisee"s expectation that he can hire managers to do his work for him. The inefficiencies that can result from such an arrangement are one reason some franchisers ban absentee ownership, at least for the first year. At the Stanford event where Mr. Yang spoke about franchising, a young man asked him, "How dirty can you expect to get your hands in the day-to-day operation of the business?"

Quite dirty, Mr. Yang replied. He described how in the early days of owning his first Cold Stone Creamery he was mopping the store floor at night and pulling gunk out of the sink"s drain. "You have to make the commitment to roll up your sleeves," he said.

Anyone who is bothered by that thought should probably steer clear of franchising, in the view of Mr. Hockett, the franchising consultant. He tells prospective franchisees to imagine they are at a friend"s barbecue.

"If you"re embarrassed to tell your friend what you"re doing, it"s not a fit," he said. After facing down the barbecue test, he said, some would-be franchisees do back out, saying they had not thought about the question that way before.

The perception of franchise ownership might be changing slowly. "We used to battle it 15 years ago in the hair business - that has a real status problem," Mr. Hockett said. "But as Great Clips has grown, there are a lot of people looking around and going, "Wow!" "

Publicado en el NYTimes, 2 de junio de 2005


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