Doron Straus Interviews Ron Bender of Threshold Brands

Doron Straus | Corporate Trainer – Business Alliance, Inc

Recently, I was very fortunate to have a one-on-one interview with Ron Bender, of Threshold Brands.  Ron was extremely generous with his time as he stated that he is always willing to “pay it forward” and share his experience in the industry.  Here is a transcript of my conversation with Ron.

DS: Ron, what do you like brokers to have available when they are making a referral to the developers on your team?

RB: I appreciate the Zorakle assessment.  I do not use it to dismiss a potential candidate, rather, to help me to decide on awarding an opportunity. I even use it as a guide in the actual training of a new franchisee. Personalized training is very important. My team gives more weight to the Zorakle profile than a full questionnaire, but I do appreciate as much information that a broker is able to provide.

DS: Ron, do you also have candidates complete your own questionnaire if a full questionnaire has been provided by a broker?

RB: No.  I do not have the candidate complete an application from us if a full questionnaire has been submitted.  However, if a broker submits a short questionnaire then my team will simply ask other relevant questions, through a personal discussion, to fill in more details.

DS: what qualities do you look for in a candidate when there is an interest in an Emerging Brand?

RB: Let’s take Granite Garage Floors as an example of a brand within Threshold holdings that has the most territory checks of any brand in our portfolio. A candidate for this emerging brand must be able to generate brand awareness within their market.  They must possess strong networking skills within their community. They must be a motivator, able to encourage their community. They must be a strong team builder early in the development of their franchise.  They must have a strong personality and be independent-minded as emerging brands tend to be “wild, wild West still!”

DS: Which of your brands do you see in more cross-branding?

RB: Let’s use the example of MaidPro and Men in Kilts as examples of a totally different cultural fit.  One cleans the inside of the home, the other, the outside of the home. Both concepts require totally different personality types.  Whereas brands, such as USA Insulation, which tends to be seasonal, complements well as a cross-brand with Granite Garage or Pestmaster. Another example of good cross-branding is with Heating and Air Paramedics and Plumbing Paramedics, as both have similar structures and cultures. Most of their deals come from the outside, as opposed to existing franchisees who will purchase a second brand within the family.

DS: Is there a specific culture that Threshold Brands looks for in a candidate?

RB:  Men in Kilts and MaidPro are good examples.  Men in Kilts requires an investor who has a big personality, someone who is outrageous!  If you ask a potential candidate, “How do you feel about all of your employees needing to wear a kilt?”  I look for the excited response, like, Really?!!Yes!!!!  As opposed to,” oh…really?” The MaidPro model requires a candidate who is a strong large team builder and a totally different type of employee. Then there is the issue of blue-collar versus white-collar.  If a candidate has never managed blue-collar, or lower income individuals, then having a MaidPro could be a challenge.  Often the employees have English as a second language.  That is not to say that we do not award white collar candidates, but the candidate must understand what they are getting involved with when it comes to management of blue-collar.   I like to think of the Threshold culture as positive-personality, people-oriented, folks that want to pursue their dreams, whether it is a franchisee, customer, or an employee. We have a franchisee with Garage Granite that became absolutely overjoyed when he noticed the happiness of his customer when his new garage floor was completed.

The actual internal culture of a specific brand varies depending upon the founder’s vision of that brand.

DS: Has the current economic climate affected sales within Threshold?

RB: No, I do not think so.  We are seeing a lot of SBA lending along with self-funding through 401Ks and portfolio loans.  Since our investments tend to be on the lower side, there has not been much of an economic effect.

DS: How do your developers address the “How much money can I make” question?

RB: In our FDDs a candidate will note an FPR that has a wide range, which is typically based upon the individual owner’s execution of their business.  Therefore, the best way to get an answer to that question is to ask the actual franchisees.  We also encourage candidates to ask existing franchisees how they perform against others within the system.  Franchisees will absolutely know how they stack up!

When a candidate calls another zee, they should feel free to say,” I just talked to so-and-so, and he gave me a totally different answer.  How do you feel about that?” Franchisees have very strong opinions about other zees within their system and will share.

DS: Okay, for our last question, what are the biggest challenges that you experience from broker leads?

RB: We see candidates who are not financially qualified, candidates with an inappropriate investment time frame and candidates who start the process then stop because they got a job.  Brokers need to make certain that their candidates understand the investment level, liquidity, and the investment time frame.  Many brokers simply throw stuff against the wall without the necessary time given to properly vet that lead. (Ron made the point that this his statement was not pointed at BAI!)

DS: Ron, thank you so much for your time today.  Several takeaways that I came away with, to maximize a broker’s chance they must make certain that their candidates understand the investment level, liquidity required, investment time frame required. Furthermore, the broker must understand their candidate and know whether that candidate is the appropriate “cultural fit” for the opportunity.

My time with Ron was very enlightening.  To maximize a broker’s chance for success, strong communication between the broker and the franchise developer is necessary to gain a deeper understanding of the brand, and, therefore, target the appropriate candidate.  The relationship between the developer and the broker is paramount for success as a franchise broker.

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