Building Your Business, One Square At a Time

By Cliff Ennico

September 25, 2018 5 min read

"I was laid off from a corporate management job last year. Having decided not to return to corporate America, I have decided to take what little remains of my severance package and buy a franchise. I've found a perfect franchise I can operate from my home office. I've visited the franchise's corporate offices, and I love the people. I've spoken to lots of the franchise's franchisees, and they all seem to love what they do. The upfront franchise fee is affordable, and they are actually willing to let me pay it in installments, which I understand franchises don't normally do.

"My problem is a more personal one. I've had the franchise agreement in my hands for several weeks now, but I can't seem to bring myself to sign the bloody thing. It's not that I'm nervous about the franchise, but I'm questioning whether I have what it takes to succeed in running my own business. How can I get over this and move forward with my life?"

The fact that this franchise is bending over backward to bring you on board is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's a good thing that the franchise sees you as such a perfect fit that it's willing to bend the rules in your favor. It's a bad thing in that established, successful franchises generally don't have to be flexible to attract new franchisees. My suspicion is this is an early-stage franchise that has relatively few franchisees, hasn't fully tested out its model nationwide and does not have coast-to-coast name recognition.

Even though the franchise will give you lots of support, education and hand-holding, you will not be able to rely upon the franchise name or reputation — it will be up to you to make the franchise successful in your assigned territory. And that is clearly what's frightening you.

There are two little words you should write down and copy onto several Post-it notes. Put them up on your personal computer, your refrigerator door, the bathroom mirror, inside your briefcase and every other place where you are guaranteed to see them at least several times a day: "every day."

Success in your own business does not come overnight. It takes months, if not years, to build a reputation and get your name out there. But if you are not doing something each and every day to reach your goals, it will take much, much longer than necessary — sooner or later, you will get disgruntled and give up.

Close your eyes. Picture a sheet of graph paper — the one with all the squares. In your mind's eye, start filling in each box with the letter "X," but don't do it in any particular order; do it randomly. Now visualize that lightning is striking the boxes on your sheet of graph paper, also in random sequence.

You can easily see that if you have only a few boxes filled in with the letter "X," it is highly unlikely that a bolt of lightning will strike one of them. As you fill in more and more boxes, though, the odds improve dramatically until, at the very end of the exercise — with all of the boxes filled in — it is virtually certain that lightning will strike one of them.

Marketing your own business is a lot like that exercise. Each day you make a contact, talk to someone on the phone, speak at a local organization meeting, write an article for a local newspaper and so forth, you put an X in a box. Lightning, in the form of business opportunities and referrals, will be striking in your community, and you want to be sure it strikes someone you have marked with an X — someone who will think of you and point the lightning in your direction.

Once you have lots of X's in boxes, you will not have to worry about leads and referrals. I had someone call me only last week who said, "Cliff, I think I'm going to have to hire you as my attorney. I asked three people, none of whom know each other, to recommend a good small-business attorney, and all three of them said you were the go-to guy for this type of work." Needless to say, over the past 20 years, I have put X's in just about every box on the sheet of graph paper titled "small-business and entrepreneur support community, southern New England."

If you do buy this franchise, commit yourself to making one marketing contact a day, no matter how busy you are and no matter how distracted you may be by nonbusiness concerns.

Success in your own business is a matter of doing something ... every day ... to build that business.

Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our webpage at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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