Launched in 2003, Welcomemat Services has become a leader in the direct mail marketing and local advertising industries. Through a franchise system, it identifies individuals and families who have relocated, and works to connect local businesses to them. Entrepreneur magazine named Welcomemat "Best of the Best" in 2017, and the brand was also given a nod under Franchise 500 in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
We're a franchise concept, and we have franchisees all over the country that are like little marketing agencies that offer our solutions in their local markets. We started franchising our company eight years ago, and we started getting candidates who were looking at our franchise.
We were just so excited to have people who wanted to start Welcomat businesses that we did not spend nearly enough time on vetting them. Ultimately, we were letting people become franchisees that, in hindsight, shouldn't have been put in business.
There was a gentleman who started going through our process which was much smaller then. He had retired from a government job. He blew us away; he was very savvy. But ultimately, once we awarded him the franchise, we realized he really loved his retirement and was looking for something more like a hobby, to do maybe one day a week. Once we realized that, it was too late because he had already been awarded the franchise. But we realized we didn't want hobbyists. You've got to put time and energy into it.
Ultimately, we were letting people become franchisees that in hindsight shouldn't have been put in business.
Over the years, of course, we've seen these things and have done a lot of things differently to try to find the right business owners to fit well culturally with us.
We've built a whole process that we take a candidate through that's two-sided. They want to learn about owning a business, but we want to learn about them. We do it through a series of calls and meetings, and in the end we actually meet as a team and vote on the candidates. Now they actually have to get accepted in and it's not just one person making that decision.
We also do personality studies on any potential candidates. We've used it against our top performers here, so we kind of know what the model is and compare them.
We don't allow people who only want to do part-time work. We've realized that you need to spend full-time effort to build a business. The other thing that’s inherent to franchising as a whole is that people get excited about starting a business. But sometimes the misconception about franchising is that a person could invest a little money, turn the "Open" sign on, and then start collecting payments. That's not the case at all. Franchising is a model, but it still takes a great operator to execute the model.
Culture is a big piece. They actually have to come meet us and we have to sit face-to-face with anyone who might be a franchise owner, and we go through all our core values and our core focus. That has to be aligned.
Pictured: Brian Mattingly | Photo courtesy of Welcomemat Services
Follow Welcomemat Services on Twitter at: @WMatServices
Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email HGamble@crain.com.