A Moment of Diversity Truth: An Interview with a Franchise Development Executive

By Mauricio Velásquez, MBA

I spoke with a very successful Franchise Development Executive recently and this person conveyed a story to me that inspired this short article. Have you ever been in this kind of situation? Let me set up the scene. Through my network I identified a prospect for our very promising franchise system. This person was interested in our concept because I am now working here and representing this concept. I am very excited and diligently preparing for their visit.

When I first alert my executive peers that this person is a multi-unit franchisee that was interested in our product I even went as far as to tell them she is a female minority who is a very savvy business person from previous relationships. Hence, this is not an unknown person but someone with a real track record. I felt I had to emphasize that she is well established, successful, and savvy because she is a minority woman – I felt I had to compensate and in retrospect that is sad but true.

When I first alerted my executive colleagues I did not get a reaction of any kind - no enthusiasm or support – I sensed a neutral posture. I automatically said, “Hmm, I better watch, wait and see.” I was not too worried about it. I let it slide and I went back to preparing for the prospect visit.

Typically, the prospect arrives to review our product, tour our facilities and meet people. Usually, our executives are waiting for the franchisee prospect or come out within the first couple of minutes of the initial visit. More than twenty minutes pass and I could not wait any longer. I had to gracefully dismiss myself and make some discreet calls to find my colleagues.

In calling the two executives I learned – one was not present and the other was in the rear of our facility. Before, they had told me they had plenty of notice before and would be available. I don’t set up these kinds of visits without their availability. In all of my years in the field, I was embarrassed and I had to apologize to my friend and colleague. I don’t know if she sensed my discomfort and displeasure but I didn’t the feel the respect and support I desperately need to be successful.

When I called one of the executives he said, “Oh, I guess I can be there in about an hour.” I was shocked and I said, “O.k., I will figure out what I can do for the next hour!” I had to coax and almost guilt my colleagues into coming out and meeting with a highly qualified and credentialed prospect – the fact that she is a female minority is only a bonus! I was so excited to have her interested in us and this is what I am up against?

The funny part (or not so funny depending on how you look at it) – after they met her, my colleagues reacted in surprise, “Oh wow, she is sharp.” It never crossed their minds what they had done. Although they might have the best of intentions, my colleagues sent a very different message with their actions. It put me in an awkward position. The past pattern was they always show up, they always greet the new prospects.

I asked myself these questions:

  • What is going on here?

 

  • Was this a coincidence that they didn’t go through their normal pattern, their normal approach?

 

  • What does this tell me about my colleagues?

 

  • How do I stay motivated?

 

  • Is my/your franchise system open to diverse and highly qualified talent? How do you show that commitment? Do you make them wait?

 

  • How could I have gauged this level of acceptance prior to taking the job?

I think this was a real “gut check” for my franchise system and I don’t feel good about it. I was very careful to make sure my friend and prospect didn’t pick up on anything. As much as I covered it up for my prospect, I can’t cover it up within me! I am left thinking about this for a long time to come.

It is time to be honest with ourselves in the franchise world. It is like that ugly couch in the living room that no one comments on – I can’t stand there and say nothing. Quietly wondering my next steps - from a Troubled Franchise Development Executive