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Franchise Advice

Franchise Advice (feat. Frank Pettinaro of Griswold Home Care Rochester, NY)


Amanda: So were you… You know, our listeners on “Franchising with Purpose” are, you know, we’re trying to help take them on this journey along with me, and I wanna talk a little about the validation process and the conversations you had with existing franchisees. But what’s one piece of advice that you would give somebody who is interested in purchasing a Griswold Home Care franchise, on how to approach that validation process. What are some questions that maybe you would encourage them to ask or some advice that you would give somebody in that process?

Frank: The first to me, the validation, how to approach that validation is to speak to as many people in the business as possible from a wide spectrum of successes and then investigate, you know, a day in the life of what they do and if that lifestyle fits you. And if you can put those two together and visualize you and your family going through this a-day-in-the-life of this particular business and really truly understand the risks and barriers, that will kind of give you a baseline of what your life will be and what your vision will be during that time frame. And then, of course, the obvious also is speak to your attorney, you know, to ensure that the business model that you’re gonna be doing meets all of the requirements that ultimately will make you successful. And so I think those are the things that I would advise, you know, and depending on who I would talk to, depending on their background, it would be different sorts of advice. But generally speaking, I think that’s where I would head to.

Amanda: That’s great advice, I think, for anybody making a major life decision, right? You wanna consult folks who are in that same space and can really give you an accurate picture of the decision that you’re, you know, deciding whether or not to make. And all great advice, I think, we can use for a lot of different things.

But you have a little bit of a unique story aside from the, you know, first-generation American, which I did not know, so that’s fantastic. But your Griswold story is a little unique as well in the fact that you came into the industry and into Griswold Home Care at a time when there is a lot of uncertainty around the home care space and regulatory changes and legislation, and there is a lot happening. I think you had a different perspective. I know you had a lot of conversations with Mike around that. So, take us through that. What did those conversations look like? Ultimately, you know, you still obviously made the decision to come on board with us. So, let’s talk a little bit about that.

Frank: Well, that’s a really good question. Mike was an integral part of my decision and Mary, my wife’s decision. One, that I truly trusted Mike. And Mike was very open and very objective with us. And ultimately, during that time frame, you know, I understood what was going on, but not to the level that I understand it today. You know what I mean?

Amanda: Right.

Frank: I understood what I understood, which was enough for me to make a decision. At the end of the day, what compelled me to do it was the analysis that said, is the industry a sustainable industry? Is this a trend? Is this something that’s gonna happen in a few years? Is this and that? Well, everything in my analysis and everything in my conversations with Mike relative to the sustainability of the business. Is this a long-term thing? Will it provide me enough time that if business goes spiraling downwards, that it will help me pick it up because the industry will still remain and be there in the future, you know? And all of that sort of analysis convinced me to move forward.

So it goes back to not just listening to what people say, but your own particular analysis. And if you believe in what you do and you’ve done it correctly, that if the business is there, basically what I said to myself is, the business is there and it’s gonna be good. It’s really up to me whether I make it successful or not. So it isn’t a question of no matter how good I am, the business could fail because of X, Y, and Z. My analysis said the business is good. It’s gonna be up to me to make it successful, and the onus is on me. And I really loved the challenge of the fact that, for once, it’s up to me to make it successful or fail. And I love that challenge even in my age, in my later years, I just love that challenge.

Amanda: Love it. I wanna go back to what you said kind of at the very beginning, you know, that Mike Magid taking you on this process and for anyone who’s been listening to “Franchising with Purpose” and everybody familiar with Mike. And we talk a lot about franchisors being objective and that your goals and that your mission align with the franchisor and having that vision and that strategy for the future, right, from an umbrella standpoint so that you can do exactly, Frank, what you just said, which is to grow your business and to be successful in your community.

But let’s talk about finding a franchisor who can be objective and can be impartial and give you, you know, I know you and Mike had some really honest conversations about what things looked like at that point and where that might go in the future and what that would look like potentially for your business. So, how important is it to have a franchisor that early in the process, right, before you’ve signed an agreement, who can have those conversations and what are some things to look for in that whole thing?

Frank: So if you’re having a conversation with someone from…a franchisor, and to me, if the conversation is such that you feel as though you are being…that someone is trying to sell you something versus someone trying to give you information so that you can make an intelligent decision, those are two different avenues for me. So, if I’m being sold and I don’t have that feel that I’m partnering with someone but rather becoming a subordinate to someone, then it’s a no-no for me.

You know, the way that I look at it is that if we’re truly partnering, then we’re having a dialogue on the business and we’re having the dialogue as partners. And the conversation should be commensurate to that. And that’s what I always felt with Mike. He never tried to sell me anything. He always said, “Look at this. Look at that. Evaluate this, evaluate that. And let’s have a discussion because…” I never felt as though he was telling me anything. So, that right in itself helps me to feel more relaxed psychologically, so that I can do the evaluation on an objective manner versus constantly thinking in the back of my mind, is this guy trying to sell me something? Right?

Amanda: Yeah.

Frank: And so that helped me tremendously, and my wife was also part of those conversations, and she felt the same way. So at the end of the day, you’re doing the analysis and then it’s up to you. You know, do you want to commit? Do you have what it takes to commit or not?

Amanda: Absolutely. And we talk a lot about a franchise being like a marriage. It’s a two-way street. It’s a partnership, and I love what you said about it. If you feel like you’re being sold to, I mean, you really do, at the end of the day, have to have a great relationship, and there’s gotta be trust on both sides of the equation. So I’m really glad that that’s what you found. Any advice that you would give to anybody going through this process of maybe some things to look for in that conversation with a franchisor? We talked about questions to ask or things to talk about in validation, but when you are looking for that partner in your franchisor, what are some, again, things to look for or questions to ask?

Frank: Sure. The first thing that I would suggest, tell anybody, is that make sure that you spent the time for introspection, not just, is the business a viable business that can make you billions of dollars. But to you, what is it that makes you want to own a business? Why do wanna own a business? And understand yourself, your psychological well-being in terms of what motivates you to be successful? If your motivation does not align with the vision and mission of the parent company or the franchisor, then you shouldn’t do it. And furthermore, you should really test the vision and mission that they state by asking pertinent questions to see if they live that or do they just write it on a piece of paper so that they can use it as a marketing ploy.

Amanda: Absolutely.

Frank: That needs to be investigated thoroughly. Once you do that and you have the right feeling that they really believe that, because in the corporate world, we used to do vision and mission statements all the time. And half the time, it was just words, and half the time people believed them, and half the time they didn’t. But in those circumstances, you know, we’re selling widgets. Here, we’re talking about caring for people, and it’s a whole different dimension. And so if that’s what you wanna do and it aligns with you, then the baseline for the relationship will be solid. Everything else will be mechanical. Analysis, deployment, etc., is all mechanical stuff. But unless the first portion is met, you shouldn’t be doing it. So, if you can satisfy yourself with that first part, then it’s a good goal, in my opinion.

Amanda: Absolutely. I wanna kinda go back to what you said in the very beginning of this, that I picked up is that, you were really solid in not just your introspection as far as making the transition from corporate America to owning your own business, but what you wanted that business to look like. It sounds like you had a lot of conversations with yourself and with your family about wanting to be in the space of caring for people, whether that was senior care or, you know, young children, or what that looked like. But it sounds like, and correct me if I’m wrong, you made that decision before you even started identifying potential business opportunities so that it was easier to figure out if somebody lined up with what you had already decided you wanted your mission and your values to be. Is that right?

Frank: I think that’s very accurate. For me, the most important thing was vision and mission of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and it had to meet that because I am not gonna leave where I am to continue doing the same thing. It wasn’t about money. It wasn’t about status, and it’s wasn’t about any of those things. It had to be relative to my vision and mission. It had to meet that as best as possible. And, of course, that I had to make a living. But fundamentally, it was that and… So you’re right, yeah, it’s very important that those are met. If you’re chasing the dollar, that is not something that I would suggest, that’s a whole other conversation. But for me, if someone asked me for advice relative to that, those are the things that I would delve into and say make sure that that is solid because every decision that you make for the rest of your life is gonna be based on that vision and mission, and your answers will determine how you proceed and evolve in the future.

Amanda: Right. And I think that builds a really solid foundation, too, for the conversations that you then had with Mike and with the rest of the team because you knew what you were looking for and it was a partnership and an education and making sure that, you know, Griswold fit that and that you fit Griswold. And, you know, again, it’s a two-way street. But being firm in why you’re doing this and your purpose and your mission, and again, not to make a buck but something bigger than that, I think, leads those conversations that you then have and it allows you to ask the right questions and have really good conversations with those folks that are not involved in the process.

Frank: Right. And that’s also congruent with the fact that, you know, starting your own business versus a franchise, a franchise does offer all of these things in terms of support and marketing and all of the wonderful things that is provided. And that also comes from part of the analysis, right? But, again I go back to the first part, which is everything you just said, without regurgitating everything, but it’s the fundamental stuff in terms of vision and mission then everything else is all analytics.

Amanda: Right. And, Frank, at the risk of opening a can of worms, you know, you started to talk about if you’re in this to get rich or get rich quick, you need to re-evaluate that situation. You said it’s a, you know, a whole other episode and it very well may be, but let’s get into that a little bit because I think there’s a lot there and not that we completely unpack it, but let’s talk about it. You know, why is your purpose and your mission and your vision so important? A lot of people say, “Well, I wanna make more money. And there’s a cap on my income and my salary working at a corporate job, and that’s my driving factor.” What would you say to that goal?

Frank: So all of us, I mean, so all of us need, you know, need money to survive, etc. and in my four years of doing this, I wish I could be doing better than what I’m doing right now. But if money is all that you’re striving for, then your entire quality of life has not been met. For me, a commitment like this has to be a combination of a quality of life. And in quality of life, you know, you can break it up into two columns. One is the financial aspect, but the other one is a psychological and emotional aspect of it. And it has to be mission-driven for me, at this point. And so I feel as though I am. And so when you have a loll in terms of making money etc., it gives you a foundation to where you can see strength to move forward and say that if you keep doing what you’re doing and you do what you’re supposed to be doing etc., that financially, it will happen for you, right? But if you don’t have the initial foundation, you start to be, you know, have despair in the breaking of the business. That’s in my opinion.

So, for me, it’s been really good because I’ve had some not-so-good financial situations in terms of what’s happened with me, like, in the last year. However, I do have the strength in terms of my vision and mission to continue forward because I believe that all my decisions will help in the very near future and in the future for my family as well. And so it’s just a source of strength for me to go that route.

Amanda: Absolutely. And I love what you shared. I’ve loved everything you’ve shared. I think I’ve said that 100 times on this recording. But you’re absolutely right, especially in those early years. I mean, you’ve been open for four or five years now, Frank? How long have you been open?

Frank: Four. About four.

Amanda: Four? Well, congratulations on four years and it really is…

Frank: Thank you.

Amanda: …especially in those early formative years. You know, it’s not easy until you really get that machine up and running and all that goes into that. A lot of times you do fall back on your “why,” right? Why did I start this business? Especially when you’re striking out on your own after being, you know, in a corporate career for so long that sometimes that’s what keeps you, I shouldn’t say sometimes, most of the time, that’s what keeps your driving until you really do start to see the income and the earning potential of a business. So, love what you shared about that. Just kind of wanted to reiterate the importance of that, especially as you’re getting started because that is ultimately, you know, why we do what we do is gonna be the ultimate driver for, I think, most folks.

Frank: Yeah. And when you hit those walls, that’s why it’s so important that all of the pre-work that you’ve done with your family and their commitment, sticks with you because when you’re in those lolls, it affects the family as well. And if you’re not all on the same page, it creates a lot of confrontation among everybody. And it’s happened even with my family, but we have the right source, and we all believe in the same vision and mission, and a great standing for moving forward.

Amanda: Absolutely. And family support is a big part of that as well. So, let’s move into, you know, you’ve been doing this for four years now. When you, if we go back in our time machine to four years ago when you first opened your doors, what kind of ongoing support as a franchise do you need, do you expect from your home office team, from the community around you? What does that support look like?

Frank: I’m sorry. Can you repeat that again?

Amanda: Sure. So we talk about, you know, four years ago when you started your business to today, there’s been different levels of support needed from the home office team, from other sources in your community, you know, attorneys, accountants, everybody involved kind of in this process with you, your family. So let’s talk about the ongoing support that you need to run and to grow your business. What would you say about that?

Frank: So I think one of the things that I’ve done, I would say that I’ve done poorly is that I have not solicited information that is available by Griswold, and that’s on me. Sometimes you get so involved in what you’re doing that you forget all the opportunities in terms of support from the parent office, that they can provide for you and you just kind of continue on and move forward. And when things aren’t going well, you kind of suffer in your own domain. So, that’s on me. The wonderful thing, what I’ve learned from that, the wonderful thing from that is that, I’m not sure whether other directors have gone through that or whether I’m the only one, etc., but one of the things that I think that would be good in terms of the support from Griswold, the franchisor, would be to, because I’m getting this now, is to provide, on a scheduled basis, like, operations reviews with the individual directors and their businesses.

Kind of like an overview of the business, where they go and…but rather than asking for it, but providing it as a matter of schedule, right? So every quarter, you know, “X” franchisee gets a review of their business, which forces them to sit back, do the analysis, and see where they’re at and how they compare to other franchisees around the country or within the state, etc., so they know where they’re going. And it seems like it would be a great, more proactive approach from the franchisor to the franchisee. I’d like to see that, more of that. I’m kind of getting that now because of the situation that I was in, but I think it’s wonderful if it’s done in a proactive manner.

Amanda: Absolutely.

Frank: And I’m not sure that I…

Amanda: We started…

Frank: I’m not sure whether I answered the question or not but…

Amanda: You did, and I just kinda wanna recap and maybe expand on it a little bit because we started this conversation and it was very introspective, right? It was very much about, I’m gonna sink or swim on my own, and ultimately, I’m the only one who can make that decision and take into consideration the advice of folks and your family and everyone else who’s involved. But ultimately, you have to be able to look in the mirror and say, “I can do this.” Or be honest and maybe it’s not the right path for you, and you made that decision. But now as we transition, I think that mindset only takes us so far, and I think we sometimes, we get so focused on the, “I’m gonna… This is up to me now. All right. I’ve committed to my family that I’m gonna make this work and that we’re in this together.” And we lean on our own selves and not as much… You know, when you buy a franchise, you buy into that support, and you have these resources available to you.

But I love what you said about, you know, sometimes as a franchisee and as a director, you get so inwardly focused that it doesn’t even dawn on you or anybody else who’s listening to say, “Hey, I bought a franchise. I have got resources. I want to take advantage of that.” But as a franchisor, being more proactive and saying, you know, “These people are in business by themselves, for themselves, all that goes into that but we can help.” So, you know, I love, you know, the proactive piece, scheduling those regular check-ins to just make sure that we’re doing all that we can do to help keep you where you need to be and help you grow and achieve the goals that you want to achieve because I think that mindset that you have through the development process and through validation and through all of those things, doesn’t just turn on dime. So I think we can definitely do more to help that. But I love what you said about the regular check-ins and realizing that when you buy a franchise, you buy that support as well.

Frank: Yeah. I agree with everything you just said. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Amanda: Great. I’m glad we’re on the same page. So, Frank, one more…

Frank: It’s good to be on the same page.

Amanda: One more question for you and then we’ll just open it up for whatever else. But somebody who’s opening a business today, whether that’s a Griswold Home Care or whatever the case may be, what is some advice that you would give somebody who’s opening their doors today?

Frank: The first thing that I would look at is the business that you’re looking into, whether it would, you know… And you said anything, right? It didn’t have to be relative to elder care or anything like that, right?

Amanda: Right. Just somebody who’s opening a business today.

Frank: Yeah. The first thing I would say is, is it a sustainable business? Is it an absolute, sustainable business? Does the analysis tell you that it’s something that’s going to be around for a while, which allows you, if you make mistakes, it allows you to get back on your feet again. It allows you to grow and if the market is sinusoidal, you know, peaks and valleys, you’d be able to support that, right? That would be the first thing that I would say. And then a B2B analysis on that. And once you conclude with that, then it’s fine.

But the other thing, which is equally as important is, why are you opening up the business in the first place, you know? And depending on if it’s you left the corporate world, or you’ve never been in the corporate world, you know, why are you doing what you’re doing? And, you know, have you thought of a vision and mission? A lot of people think it’s a dumb thing. You know, why do you have to have a vision and mission? Those things are important because that is the foundation by which you make decisions for that business. It’s like a constitution that you go back to, to know whether you are making the right decision or not. And if you don’t have that, then you’re just jumping off of fence poles. And sometimes you’re making the right decision, sometimes you’re not making the right decision. And it’s not based on a constitution that you’ve founded for yourself. So those are the things that I would say. Those are the two main things that I would say.

Amanda: That’s great advice in general, but especially when we’re talking about opening a business, right? And I’ll try to make this out later, but there’s a great book. It’s called “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek, and it really sums up not just the importance of that, but how to go about figuring out what is your “why.” What drives you at the end of the day? As just a resource for our listeners and for anybody else. But, Frank, anything that I didn’t cover in here, anything else you’d wanna add, share with our listeners, folks who may be interested or are looking into moving into the world of franchise?

Frank: I think we’ve covered all the fundamental things. You know, everybody is different, but I would strongly, for anybody that’s looking into something like this and especially the franchises is to really, really try to get to know the senior leadership team and see if they live by the principles of their vision and mission, and they really, really believe in what they’re selling because if you have a feeling that they don’t, that is not the place for you to be. And if you do, then that’s a great foundation to continue on with your analysis. But if that first part isn’t met, to me, and you don’t believe it, then that’s just not… It’s not the path that I would follow.

Amanda: I think if truer words have ever been spoken, it really is about, you know, are we practicing what we preach and does that align with your mission and your purpose? And what is, you know…? That’s a great solid foundation to build a future on.

Frank: Yeah. I think so.

Amanda: All right. Well, Frank, thanks so much for being here today. Thanks for chatting with us. I’ve learned a lot, I know our listeners have as well. Is there really anything else that I need to know?

Frank: Well, no. Thank you for the opportunity. I don’t know whether I was helpful or not, but they were honest answers, so…

Amanda: They were very helpful. Thank you for your time, taking time out of your business and your day to be here with us and share all these wonderful nuggets of wisdom. It’s great.

Frank: Thank you.

Amanda: Thank you. Bye. Have a good day.

Frank: Thank you. You do the same.

Amanda: Thanks.