We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, innovative, successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.
Meet: Joel Libava, otherwise known as The Franchise King®. Joel personally guides prospective franchisees through the process of choosing, researching and buying a franchise. He loves helping people go after their dreams. He’s the author of Become a Franchise Owner!, and his blog, The Franchise King Blog, is always educational and interesting.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Joel Libava: I wanted to be a doctor. I became an avid reader of books about first aid, anatomy and diseases. I loved dissecting insects and did it frequently, studying them under one of my many microscopes.
I was so excited to take my first junior high school biology class—which changed everything. I got a “D” and I fared about as well in chemistry. I was heartbroken because I knew in my heart that medical school wasn’t going to happen—that I couldn’t magically overcome how my brain was wired. Either one understands chemistry or one doesn’t. I don’t.
I’ve moved on…but there’s still a little sadness inside of me because I wasn’t cut out to be a doctor.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Libava: I didn’t plan on having my own business; it came about because of circumstances.
I got fired from a management position. It was an ugly situation; I was miserable there, but I was caught off guard when I was let go. I still remember the feelings I had minutes after I was let go: anger and fear.
I was angry because of the circumstances, and I was scared because there I was, briefcase in hand, with no plan, Stan. After it happened I walked to the McDonald’s next door, ordered a cup of coffee and and called my dad to come pick me up. I felt like such a loser.
There I was, a guy in his early 40s with no job and no idea on what to do next. I never wanted to feel like that again…so powerless. So alone. So frightened.
I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew what I wasn’t going to do—I would never allow myself to be at the mercy of someone else. I was tired of making other people wealthy.
My late father, Jerry Libava, was one of the first franchise “matchmakers.” He was part of a group (by then they were called franchise brokers) who would end up becoming a franchise themselves and have brokers all over the country.
My dad asked me if I wanted to join his office. After much debate, I did, becoming a broker and a franchisee. That and my desire for wanting more control in my life is why I started a business.
I was a broker until a couple of years ago; now I’m a franchise ownership advisor. I’m not paid fees by the franchisors. I’m paid by my clients—people who want to learn how to buy and research a franchise who want to use my knowledge so they can make wise choices.
I’ve also written several books on franchise ownership; I own several websites and blogs, and I’m a regular columnist for several popular small business websites.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Libava: Yes, when I decided to not be a franchise broker anymore. I really wanted to help people navigate through the choppy waters of purchasing a franchise, and I wanted to do it cleanly. By “cleanly” I mean with no fat finder’s fee waiting for me on the other side. I want to help people avoid serious mistakes that could ruin their lives financially and personally without selling them a specific franchise.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Libava: The first is sales advice. I had a great sales manager who pounded into me the importance of asking questions and then shutting up until the question is answered. The example below will illustrate this concept.
Me: Would you like to work with me for 60 minutes and see how things go, or would you rather just purchase one of my multi-hour franchise ownership advisory packages?
(Wait…wait…even if it seems like forever, don’t talk. Don’t jump in and try to sell more. Just be quiet. It may be uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter. Shhh.)
Future client: Let’s start with 60 minutes.
Me: Great, I’ll email a PayPal payment link so we can go ahead and schedule a time.
I also got some great writing advice from Anita Campbell, the CEO of Small Business Trends, who taught me how to write more authoritatively.
I used to compose my sentences like this: “I recommend looking at 2-3 dry-cleaning franchises….” Now, I now write my sentences like this: “Look at 2-3 dry-cleaning franchises…” My advice: If you want to be looked upon as an authority in your field, write like one.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Libava: Make it personal. Pretend you’re talking to one person in your writing, presenting and selling. Use the word “you” a lot.
Lesonsky: Do you have a 2014 small business prediction?
Libava: 2014 will be another choppy year. Banks aren’t going to loosen up their lending requirements much more than they have already. Our dysfunctional political climate will stay the same, and small businesses will be impacted greatly by the continuing discord. Social media marketing will become even bigger than it is now, as more small business owners realize consumers hate interruption marketing.
Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?
Libava: Killing Giants, by Stephen Denny. It’s about how the little guy/gal in business can compete with the big guys/gals. There are several great marketing strategies and small business insights in this book.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Libava: “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”