Franchise Success: An Unwavering Passion for What You Do and for Sharing It

ColCachios log

For Michael Terespolsky, CEO and Co-Founder of Col’Cacchio pizzeria of South Africa, franchise success is about having an unwavering passion and love for what you do and for sharing it with others. Col’Cacchio pizzeria opened its first location in Cape Town, South Africa, 21 years ago and started franchising in 2003. “From the beginning we were not so much driven by our bottom line as we were by our passion to be the best of breed,” says Michael Terespolsky. “We found our niche of high-end gourmet pizzas, pasta and salads and grew a brand that is consistent and meets our customer’s expectations in every one of our restaurants.”

Besides establishing Col’Cacchio pizzeria as a leader in the upscale pizza market, Michael set out to build a franchise company that is: ‘not so much corporate.’  Michael explains: “We are more like a big family. I and all of the company’s directors are always available to our franchisees; and although we have established communication procedures in place, if a franchisee needs or wants to talk with us directly, they can either email or call us at any time. We are here for them, and they know it.  I believe that you must provide steadfast support to franchisees at all times. It is not about policing, instead it is about giving them a helping hand so they can achieve the success we know they can have,” Michael continues.

Whether in South Africa or in the US, it seems that franchisors face the common challenge of finding the right people to become franchisees. For Col’Cacchio pizzeria, finding the best operators has proven trying at times. “As you know, franchisees are a rare breed. Many people think they want to own a business, but they really should be employees because they are not willing to do the work required of a business owner. They believe the brand should carry them; and, as you well know, this is simply not the case. No matter how strong a brand you have, the owner still needs to be willing to put in the effort it takes to make the business successful. Many people simply don’t want to do what it takes,” Michael shares. “On the other side of the coin are those people who don’t want to follow a system. They are more entrepreneurial than a franchisee needs to be and resent not having the freedom to do what they please. These people don’t make good operators for us either. We can never keep up our consistency and meet our customers’ expectations if our franchisees are not willing to implement our model and follow our procedures 100% of the time.”

In order to overcome this challenge, Col’Cacchio pizzeria has implemented a series of processes to assist them with the evaluation of franchise candidates. One of the tools they use is a psychometric assessment specifically tailored for their business. These are 4 hour online tests designed and managed by Omnicor that sound quite elaborate. Recently they decided to introduce role-playing exercises in these assessments. In addition to these exercises and interviews, candidates are placed in the stores, prior to being granted a franchise, to evaluate their skills. “We ask a lot of our franchisees and thus want candidates to have a feel for our level of expectation. Even with all of these extra steps in our franchise awarding process, we still can’t be 100% sure that we have selected the right candidate. But we must try, there is too much at risk from our perspective as well as from the prospective franchisee’s side,” Michael shares.

When I asked Michael what he thought made him successful, he said that he felt it was his solid belief that the business was going to succeed. “I never once doubted that we would succeed. Never did the thought cross my mind that it might not work. When you love what you do and have fun every day, you’ll make it work no matter what. It is all about the mindset,” Michael shares. I agree with Michael. When I speak with my prospects and they ask me whether or not I think their business will make a successful franchise, all flags are raised for me and I immediately have second thoughts about whether or not this person should franchise the business. I follow up with questions that test their belief level. If the franchisor does not have total conviction, the chances for success go out the window. Obviously, there is more to creating a successful franchise network than belief as Col’Cacchio pizzeria has proven, but in my experience, without the mindset, there is simply no chance.

Consistency is the number one ingredient needed to replicate success in a franchise system,” Michael answers my question about the requirements to replicate success. “But first, you must make sure that you have something that has legs; that is, that you have a business that has a product for which there is a demand in multiple areas. If there is no demand in an area and you open a store there, you won’t be able to do well regardless of the systems you have in place to create consistency;” Michael continues. “Also critical is to recognize and research where the market will position you. Understand your competitive advantage and build on that,” Michael concludes.

If Michael Terespolsky had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t change much. “I would be more aggressive in selling franchises during boom economies. I think we were a bit too conservative during those times and although we have had consistent growth, we would have been ahead had we had been more aggressive a few years back. Franchising is a numbers game and the more franchisees we have, the larger the economies of scale and thus the more value to franchisees.” I find Michael’s answer interesting since I believe that many franchisors, at least here in the US, erred in the opposite direction and grew their systems quicker than they should have. But Michael clarifies for me: “other franchisors in South Africa also agree with you and feel they perhaps expanded too quickly – I think that we could have grown quicker than we did, but not by taking anyone who lacked the funds to do well as the economy shifted, that is we could have continue to apply our strict selection criteria, but still being more aggressive about growth.”

The tips that Michael has for those considering franchising their businesses are universal:

  • “Make absolutely certain that there is a demand for your products and services in multiple locations.
  • Research the areas where you want to expand carefully and make no extrapolations or assumptions.
  • Understand your competitive advantage, that is, what differentiates you in the market, and build your business around that.
  • Decide what you want to be known as: whether it is below average, average or beyond average, and stick with that so that your customers know what to expect. In other words, never create confusion for your customers.
  • Be a leader not a follower.
  • Embrace your new role as a franchisor which dictates you to provide support for your franchisees at all times.
  • Be a helping hand not a policeman when dealing with your franchisees so as to create healthy, lasting relationships.
  • And, most importantly, if you are not going to love it or have fun at it, don’t franchise!”