Roxanne Rapske | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Roxanne Rapske


FranNet is a franchised consulting firm that matches prospective business owners with small business franchise opportunities. Founded in 1987, FranNet has more than 100 consultants across the United States, Canada and Germany. Roxanne Rapske is a FranNet franchise consultant in San Diego.

The Mistake:

Trying to fix a problem before I understood the problem.

I spent 20 years in corporate America before leaving to become an independent franchise consultant, and spent six years struggling for reasons that weren’t entirely clear, at that point. Franchise consultants match people with the franchise ownership opportunities that are best suited to their needs and goals, and though I didn’t know it at the time, I was kind of skipping the second part of that equation.

For example, rather than finding out why prospective clients were coming to me, I would spend more time telling them about the features and benefits associated with franchising. Rather than asking them questions, I would try to problem-solve based on assumptions I made about them, and it was hurting my business.

When I joined FranNet, I was keen on improving my performance, and decided to get some sales training. It was through that experience that I understood what I was doing wrong: I wasn’t stepping back to ask more questions to fully understand why people were coming to me in the first place. I was trying to fix their problem before I knew what their problem was.

You can’t solve a problem before you know what it is

The Lesson:

You can’t solve a problem before you know what it is. You have to take the time to ask more questions. Even in a cold-call situation, you have to take an interest in people and learn about them first before you try to meet their needs. Otherwise, you might as well be speaking a completely different language.

For example, if someone comes to you and says, “I don’t like retail,” you can’t just assume that means all retail. You have to find out what retail means to them by asking something like, “What is it about retail that you don’t like?” Because for some people, retail means a huge store filled with tens of thousands of dollars in inventory, which isn’t always the case. But if that is their assumption, and you don’t ask enough questions to figure that out, you might not be able to help them properly. Because they might actually like some retail, but just don’t know it yet.

After that sales training, I started changing my approach, and it made an incredible difference in my business. It even helped my personal life, especially when it came to raising my son. It’s just very important that you take the time to ask people questions before you jump right into problem-solving.

FranNet is on Twitter at @FranNet_Team

Photo courtesy of Roxanne Rapske

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