Ep. 117 – Diane Pleuss – Finding a New Career After Age 50

Have you ever thought of franchising as something you can do after the age of 50? If you are not ready to retire yet, but you were downsized or no longer want to stay in the corporate world, franchising is something you can do to stay productive.

It is important that you go through a consultant to guide you through the process of getting the right franchise for you. Did you know that you don’t necessarily need industry experience to be awarded a franchise?

In this episode of the Secure Your Retirement podcast, we have Diane Pleuss, a passionate leader, and an experienced franchise consultant. We cover the skills and the step-by-step process you need to follow to become a franchise owner.

In this episode, find out:

●     Diane on how she serendipitously got into helping people fit into franchising.

●     How she evaluates a person’s skills and goals to match them with their fitting franchise.

●     The step-by-step process that a franchising company will take you before you’re awarded a franchise.

●     Understanding the fees and funding you need, to be awarded a franchise.

●     Why you need entrepreneurial skills and not industry experience to be awarded a franchise.

●     The benefits of the support and training programs offered by franchise companies.

●     Why you need to smartly work with a consultant or with a franchise company.

●     Diane describes how a typical day looks like for the franchisee and the franchise company. 

●     Why you should consider a franchise as a business option.

 Tweetable Quote:

“You usually don’t need industry experience; most of the time they would prefer to teach you and teach you, their way.” – Diane Pleuss

Get in Touch with Diane:

●     Website: https://dianepleuss.com/

●     LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianepleuss/

Here’s the Full Transcript:

Radon Stancil:Welcome everyone to our Monday podcast, where our goal, Murs and I, is to bring to you benefit by having an expert that we can interview. Today we have done that again. We have with us Diane Pleuss and her background, and I’m going to have her explain a little bit more about it, but why we wanted to reach out to her and have her come on is because this idea of doing something else other than the career you’ve might’ve done for years and years and years is a topic that Murs and I run across quite a bit as we help people plan for and live throughout retirement.  
 We’re going to ask her some questions on that, but first of all, let me just say this. Thank you so much, Diane, for coming on and talking with us today.  
Diane Pleuss:It’s my pleasure. Happy to talk about franchising and I appreciate the invitation.  
Radon Stancil:Good. Now you said it, and I’m going to set it up a little bit here. Basically, what we run into is we’ve got a couple of different scenarios. We’ve got individuals that may be without their choice were downsized. We’ve also got individuals, because of their choice, they say, “I don’t want to be in this stressful career, everything has changed. I don’t like the management.” Maybe they got bought out and they’re saying, “I want to just get out of this world, but I’m not ready to retire.” We’ve got that one. Then we’ve also got the person who just wants something completely different and it’s really not about downsizing or anything like that. It’s just, I want something different and we’ve ran into all of those scenarios.  
 Now you focus on franchising. Can you just give us a little bit of background, I guess, how you got into this and really what your particular niche is that you work with?  
Diane Pleuss:Sure. It was really by serendipity that I got into this. I had been in advertising and marketing previously, I have an MBA. Twenty-six years ago, my husband and I moved to California on his job, I was the trailing spouse. I answered one newspaper ad and it was for a marketing director for a franchise development company. The person who headed that up was recruited to become the precedent of a packaging and shipping franchise and brought me along as the marketing director. That was out of Denver, so for a couple of years, I commuted. And then unfortunately they fell on some hard times and I was laid off as sometimes happens with the candidates. I was extremely fortunate in that I was invited to join FranChoice, which is a consortium of independent franchise consultants with deep roots in franchising. That was 16 years ago, almost 17 years ago. And I have enjoyed it immensely. I like helping people find that next opportunity, that career, listening to their goals and seeing if a franchise would indeed be a fit for them.  
Murs Tariq:Yeah. That’s a great background, Diane, and thanks for sharing that. And so franchising, I mean, it’s something that is very interesting to me because we visit franchises every single day, whether it’s a fast food restaurant or department store or shopping, whatever it is, it’s very likely been franchised. That’s really one of the biggest ways that a company can grow. And so the idea of getting into it from one side can be nerve-wracking. But from the other side, it could be very, very exciting. And I guess the first step someone has to make is make a decision on if they are interested in franchising, how do they even make a decision on what to franchise within? And I assume it can’t be as simple as a statement of me saying, “Hey, I love french fries, so let me go buy a McDonald’s,” or go buy 10 McDonald’s, right? There’s got to be way more to it that you, I assume, bring to the table, helping someone make that decision as to what could be a good fit for them for a franchise.  
Diane Pleuss:Yes. I focus on the person, what are their skills and what are their goals? What is their, why? Why do they want to do a business? And a business is really a vehicle to get them somewhere. Is that financial security? Is that flexibility? Is that lifestyle? Is that generational growth? And depending upon what they want, their skills and their interests, then I will match companies to them. And the companies that I’ll match again should be reflective of their interests. So just because a person likes french fries doesn’t necessarily mean that they want a business that is 24/7, 365. They may say, “Gee, I came out of corporate America and I would like a business with traditional hours,” or “I would like a white collar business,” or whatever the case is. Or, “I want a business with high recurring revenue or with robust margins.” So we’ll talk about all of those types of things. We’ll talk about their sales and marketing ability. We’ll talk about their territory.  
 So based on a number of different factors, I will come back to them with several options. Some they may be familiar with, some they may not be familiar with. And hopefully they will have an open and ready mind to look and learn about it and see if it indeed, it would be a good match.  
Radon Stancil:Yeah. We were talking before we actually started recording and we told you about an experience where we had a client who really ended up getting into a franchise that just didn’t work. And I can’t even remember all the reasons why he did what he did, but it kind of almost was just like, he kind of came across something, heard about that one thing then he decided he would try it. Ended up not liking it, ended up not being a great experience for him.  
 So from what you’re describing with what you do, let’s say that you do what you just said. You help us think through all these different steps, all these different things. Hey, here are some options. And then I go and I look at those options and then what’s the next step? What do you do at that point to help me kind of continue down that path? Because to me, this is unknown territory.  
Diane Pleuss:Sure. And that’s where hopefully a franchise consultant can be very beneficial. So I am not simply introducing you to companies and saying, “Fly a little birdie, fly.” I am hopefully taking you by the hand and having weekly calls with you so that you can understand what the next steps are.  
 So franchise companies have a process that they will take you through. They will start with the broad overview of how they got started, the background, the founders, where they’re planning ongoing, then they’ll talk about their advertising and marketing program. They’ll talk about their IT platform. They’ll talk about their training and support. They’ll talk about things that differentiate. Once they cover all of those types of things, then you’ll usually have a dedicated call where you’ll go through the legal document with them, that’s called a Franchise Disclosure Document.  
 After that, usually if you like the company and they like you, it’s a two way street. They will give you the green light to chat with their franchisees, with their franchise owners. And really you’re asking questions about them and how they’re running the business? What kind of margins are they having? How long did it take to get started? Any and all questions are always fair game. After that, again, if a franchise company likes you, they will invite you to what’s called a confirmation day or a discovery day. Sometimes also called a meet the team day. It can be in-person or virtual. You’ll meet the whole team, finalize any questions, and then you’ll make a yes or no decision. So sometimes people jump the gun, if you will, and they say, I want to buy this, or I’m going to buy that. Really, when they do a franchise investigation, the goal is to do a good investigation and the result of that could be that they buy a franchise or they don’t.  
Murs Tariq:Got you. So there are clearly a few steps here that it’s really kind of due diligence on both sides because you have to be approved by the company to be a franchise owner. And then you also want to be happy with the investment that you’re about to make into the company. So yeah, and this is kind of going to lead into the next question is it seems like it’s a big investment. And so let’s talk about that for a little bit. I imagine that once you, and I know different companies have different valuation structures and everything like that, but there’s got to be some type of standard. I assume there’s some type of buy-in and then maybe like an annual franchise fee. So, just talk a little bit towards if someone’s going to dive into this and they got the you’ve been approved and they’re ready to move forward, what do they have to be ready financially for?  
Diane Pleuss:When they sign the franchise agreement, they will need to write out a check and that is for the franchise fee, which is a one-time fee. Franchise fees generally are in the $50 to $65,000 category. There are certainly some that are less and others that are six figures. But if you look at that mid-range point, that’s a good starting point. And then from that, in that franchise disclosure document, they will detail all the costs. For example, they will give a range of marketing and advertising spend for a minimum of the first three months. They’ll include for example, training, and that might be a flight. It might be hotel. So you’ll look at that and say, “Oh, well, the franchise company happens to be close. I can drive there.” So you can save a little money or you might say, “The franchise that is the best fit for me as across the country. So I know that I’m going to have this kind of an airplane ticket for that cost.” They will go through that.  
 If we look at what we call a service based business that can be run out of an office suite, something that could be mobile or possibly a home office, generally the total investment and that would include the franchise fee and everything to get started for a minimum of three months, that’s probably going to be in that $75 to $150, $200,000 range. If we look at anything that is brick and mortar, total investment, again, including that one-time franchise fee, is usually going to start at about $300,000 and go up from there. Franchise companies want you to have skin in the game. They will usually want you to come with about 30% of that investment to the table and be able to finance the balance.  
 So usually when I am coaching and guiding a person through that investigation process and telling them what to expect and coaching them with questions to ask, ideally, we’ll look at how are they going to fund the business as well so that they can align that with when it comes time to make a decision. I would hate to ever have a candidate miss out on an opportunity because they didn’t have their funding in order and someone else sees that it’s a great opportunity and they have their funding done and they are awarded that franchise.  
Radon Stancil:Very good. So now with Murs and I, I don’t know with probably a lot of our listeners, I know with our clients, the people we work with the most, a lot of them are professionals. They’re very well-educated. They have made good money in their work. They’ve been good savers, so they have a capital to invest. But many of them have not been business owners, that’s not been their thing. Now we’ve had some that have transitioned from work into consulting. We’ve had that happen. But when you think about what it is that I have to have and what it is, I’m talking here mental capacity, what does it take to be a good franchise owner? Do I have to have already been a business owner in order to be a good franchise owner?  
Diane Pleuss:You don’t have to have been a business owner. One of the very nice things about franchising is you usually don’t need industry experience. Most of the time, they would prefer to teach you and teach you their way. So if we look at something like a hair salon business, they don’t want you to be the stylist. They want you to be the business person that can run and manage that business. You may have heard the term that in franchising you can work on the business and not necessarily in the business. So if you look at purchasing a hair salon, you would not get your cosmetology license, but you would be hiring, recruiting the stylist. You would be marketing, could be involved in the community. And usually a business like that you’ll grow and scale, so you might start with one and then grow it to a two or three within two or three years, you might grow it to 10. If you’re an empire builder, you might have a hundred.  
 So it’s totally different than a job mentality. You’re thinking as a business owner. What are those transferable skills? Do you have management experience? Are you good with people? How about customer service? Are you familiar with financials? Do you enjoy those types of things? And are you coachable? Do you have that ready and willing and open mind to learn and to be that great business owner? And have control for yourself and somewhat put your personal stamp on things and say, I had guidance and support, but I also did this. I brought a lot to the table.  
Murs Tariq:Yeah. And so for that person that is coachable, but really has no self-employment history or experience. So someone that maybe came out of a professional role at a tech company or whatever it is and they wanted to go into this franchise concept, there’s a lot of things that you’ve mentioned. So go with the hair salon. The first part of it is, I guess, finding the location, where to put that? And then also filling it with people that can cut hair. And then also on top of that, there’s marketing and you’ve got this person that is coachable and could probably figure it out but what type of support is the franchise providing someone that really has no idea how to hire a hairstylist or no idea how to in the world of marketing that we’re in right now to have an effective marketing plan?  
Diane Pleuss:Sure. That’s where the franchise companies really shine. In the discovery process, they will share all of that information with you. And you look at some of these companies have done it over and over again. The beauty is they have fine-tuned it and honed it. So you’re coming in and they’re saying, this is our program and they expect that you’re going to not have any familiarity. So they’re going to take you from step one and walk you through that. And when you look at a franchise company, you’re looking at how robust their training and support program is. That’s one of the benefits and one of the things that you get when you buy a franchise.  
Murs Tariq:Would you say that the support and the training program would kind of align as to with what your initial investment is going to be?  
Diane Pleuss:I would not make that association necessarily. I don’t believe that just because you invest more in a franchise that their training or support might be better. I believe that good franchise companies, high road franchise companies, have exceptional training and support. That’s what they’re known for. That’s what they take pride in. They want to get that new business owner up and operative as soon as possible. They know that happy franchisees are successful and they will bring in more happy franchisees. So they want to do everything possible to make that new owner successful in a reasonable amount of time. Just like there was no direct correlation between what you invest and what you make, nor is there a direct correlation between your educational level and what you can achieve. So for the person that maybe has only a GED, but they have that fire in the belly and they say, “Give me that tool box, let me go. I can execute. I’m great with people.” They can build thriving business. The opportunity is there.  
Radon Stancil:So as I sit here and listen about this, I’m a business owner. Murs is a partner with me so we understand the concept of running a business and we understand the need to have good support in a lot of different ways in order to have that. So as I listen to you, honestly, I had really never even thought about the idea of a franchise for somebody to do that maybe as that second career or that thing that’s a little different than what they’ve done for all the 20, 30 years.  
 So now I do also remember though, when I would travel, there used to be, and it may still be, there was a magazine. It would have all these different franchises in it. And I had seen that before, and I’d flip through and see all these different franchises and I’d think to myself, “Well, how in the world would you even know what to do? And how would you even know what is a good franchise or not a good franchise?” So it sounds like just listening to you that you’ve obviously got a tremendous amount of knowledge and benefit here, but what would you say sets you apart from maybe other or maybe the general of what somebody might get when they either, A, try to do it on their own or, B, try to get another franchise consultant?  
Diane Pleuss:Well, sometimes when people try to do it on their own, they unfortunately don’t get very far. They hit a little submit button online that says I’m interested. And if a franchise company has territory available or if they meet the minimum financial requirements, they may hear from them or they may not. Many times I have people call me and they say “Help, I tried to get information online and no one responded.” It’s somewhat like some of like the resume that goes into the black hole. They’re saying, I would like to learn more and no one is responding. Or they click for some information and they get deluged with info from all other companies that they have zero interest in.  
 So there’s only so much info you can gain online. Really, you need to be either working with someone like me or talking directly with a franchise company to get that information, the detail that you need. And it’s not like buying a stock that you might advise. Again, you’re looking at the culture and the fit. You want to make sure that the management team has your best interest and that they’re forward-looking, and they will continue to be ahead of that curve. Not every franchise company, unfortunately, is good. And sometimes we use the term franchise infatuation when the person loves the french fries and that’s why they want to buy the business. I don’t think that’s really a lasting good decision.  
 I also work with some of those reluctant entrepreneurs that don’t know the franchising world. They don’t know the business world. So the nice thing about doing a franchise investigation, is they can somewhat try that on. When they’re talking to other franchise owners, are they like them? Do they have a similar background? Can be assimilate with them? And if they can, that’s a very good sign. And if they can’t, well, maybe they shouldn’t be a business owner. And sometimes I talk with people and really three things can happen. They could move forward with a franchise. They can tell me no, this isn’t right. Or I will politely tell them, I don’t think that’s a good fit. So those are the scenarios.  
Murs Tariq:Yeah. Yeah. And so as financial advisors and we work in the world of investments, a big part of what we do is we have to manage expectations as far as maybe we had a really good year, an outstanding and above average type of year and we don’t want clients to expect, while we know we are good at what we do, they’re going to get that year every single year. And so managing expectations is really important. And I imagine as a franchise consultant, it’s very important on your end as well, as far as making sure the person that’s going into this deal knows that it’s going to take some time maybe before you become profitable and what type of expectation should that be? So how do you do that? And then also the second part of this is for the listeners out there to get real to them, if they went down this franchise road, what does their typical day kind of look like?  
Diane Pleuss:Sure. So you had two questions in there.  
Murs Tariq:It was.  
Diane Pleuss:And let me go back to the first question again and help me, remind me of that first question again.  
Murs Tariq:Yeah, really? How do you manage their expectations? When they’re diving into this idea, really from a profitability perspective, I guess.  
Diane Pleuss:Sure. Again, they will hear from the franchise company certain expectations of what it will take. So the franchise company can share information as long as it is in their legal document, their Franchise Disclosure Document. But when you call up a franchisee, you can ask them and say, “Hey, Bob, how long did it take you to hit break even? And what are you doing now?” And again, I coach and help them so that they’re building rapport with that person first. It’s similar to, let’s say a job interview. You don’t go to a job interview and just say, “Well, how much do you pay? What’s the salary here?” You talk about what you can bring.  
 So likewise, when I coach and work with the candidates, I am helping them ask these questions in a way so that they can get the information they need. And they’re going to have a range of expectations, but as they talk people, they might say, “I really connected with David or with Mary and their one of their rock star franchisees, and what they’re doing, I would feel comfortable doing it. It’s nothing out of the ordinary.” If they connect with Sam who is struggling, maybe that’s not such a good fit then, or maybe they shouldn’t be a business owner. So they will sometimes look at things. Or I’ve also heard, say, “Gee, I talked with Sarah and Sarah is doing this. And I think I could run a much better. I see opportunity here. I see opportunity there.”  
 So they will start to get a feel. What they want, know it was what is their work ethic and what are they bringing to the table? If they’ve been successful before, I like to think that a tiger doesn’t change its stripes and they will continue with that good work ethic in their business and not sit on the couch and eat bonbons or watch daytime TV.  
Murs Tariq:Got you. Yeah. That’s great. And then, so what does the typical day look for a franchise owner?  
Diane Pleuss:It certainly will depend upon the franchise and in some companies, the franchisee might be the artisan, so they could be performing the services. In other franchises, they will be managing the employees. They could be involved in the community. They could be planning their advertising or marketing. Again, we talk about what we call a day in the life. So they will first hear what that day in the life is from that franchise company and they’ll be able to verify that with the franchisee.  
Radon Stancil:That’s good. Now I’ve got one final question before we conclude here and go into how people can get in touch with you. If you had to describe right now out of the world of franchising, because it’s been around for a long time, why would you say that it’s a good option for people to consider franchising today, 2021?  
Diane Pleuss:It’s an excellent option because money is cheap. Since this is a financial show, you probably see that and it is readily available. There is pent up demand. But maybe more importantly, the world and the landscape has changed. People have started working from home and they’ve realized I have the additional options and choices. So they might say, I no longer want to work for another company. I would like my hard work and effort to benefit me and my family rather than shareholders somewhere. So people have those choices that they can now make and probably feel much more comfortable with. Also, I believe communities like to support local business owners and I think that will continue.  
Murs Tariq:Yeah, I agree there. Diane, thank you so much for hopping on today and having a conversation with us. Clearly you have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to franchising and helping people figure out whether or not it’s a good option for them and also which direction to go in. So if someone’s listening to this and they say, this seems like this could be something that I’d like to look into, what would be the best way for them to reach out to you?  
Diane Pleuss:They can reach out to me several different ways. My website is dianepleuss.com. You can find me on LinkedIn, under Diane Pleuss, The Franchise Fitter. Since my last name is, A, difficult to pronounce and, B, difficult to spell, I will spell it. It is P as in Peter, L-E-U-S-S or you can simply go to quickchatwithdiane.com and book a short call with me.  
Radon Stancil:Very nice.  
Diane Pleuss:My services are also free and I work nationwide.  
Radon Stancil:Great. So we will make sure we have all that information on our website, as well as on the show notes. And we would just like to say, thank you so much for all of your time and your knowledge that you’ve shared with us today.  
Diane Pleuss:Thank you very much. It was my pleasure. If you have any follow-up questions, be happy to answer them and be a resource. That’s what I try to be as be that trusted resource for the people I work with.