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While it’s true that marketing, operations, and location make a difference, there’s another factor equally important to predict how a franchisee will perform: their level of grit.

The Wealthy Franchisee: How a little grit can make a lot of difference

Restaurant ownership is tough. The owner needs to be tougher.

With multiple owners operating the same franchises, it’s tempting to compare locations and make assumptions to explain differences in performance. (Last month I wrote about the dangers of these comparisons and how to keep them constructive.) While it’s true that marketing, operations, and location make a difference, there’s another factor equally important to predict how a franchisee will perform: their level of grit.

“Grit” refers to one’s ability to remain focused on bigger goals when things get difficult. Business ownership is tough. Restaurant ownership is really tough. The owner needs to be tougher.

For every franchisee I work with who struggles with marketing, inventory management, and other forms of business acumen, I meet ten who are held back most by their own mindset — usually without realizing it. One owner told me he didn’t want to advertise out of fear it would lead to others opening franchises near his territory. Another man won’t leave his store during business hours because he feels managers can’t be trusted. Too many exit too early, unable to cope with the stress and uncertainty. (Grittier owners looking to expand pick up these businesses for pennies on the dollar and quickly turn them around.) Fear, self-doubt, trust issues, resistance to change — these problems are hurting franchises much more than competition, labor shortages, and pandemics. And most franchisees being held back by these self-imposed challenges are totally unaware it’s happening. They’re too busy laying blame, or too busy being busy.

Plenty of research has confirmed the importance of grit in education, sports, sales, and other disciplines. (Angela Duckworth has an interesting TED Talk on this.) What’s not clear is whether humans are born with grit or if it can be developed. While psychologists work to figure that out, there are some things that you can do knowing your level of grit could be impacting your performance:

  • Monitor your thoughts. You have thermometers constantly measuring the temperature of your refrigeration units. You probably look at your daily sales. Watching the numbers allows you to make adjustments in real time to ensure optimal performance. Consider taking moments also to gauge how you’re doing. Are you clear and objective? Are you anxious and distracted? Are your decisions driven by data or by emotion? Take notice of how you’re doing so you can make any necessary adjustments. Self-awareness is critical to ensure you’re an asset to your business and not a liability.
  • Return to your “point of clarity.” When your mind is clear, you can look at your business more objectively, find solutions more quickly, and make better decisions. That requires using the most productive part of your brain. Your best thinking happens in your prefrontal cortex. That area is responsible for logic, reason, and problem-solving. But you can’t access this part of your brain when you have an active amygdala. That’s your brain’s fire alarm. It causes a fight or flight response. It’s active when you’re stressed or freaking out about something. You need to disengage your amygdala to access your prefrontal. In other words, to step up for your business, you first need to chill out. That can only happen through deliberate self-management. A few ways to do this:
    • Compartmentalize: Break down business overwhelm into bite-sized issues and manage them one at a time.
    • Depersonalize: Don’t worry about how your business reflects on you. That’s too triggering (of your amygdala). Focus instead on continuous improvement and on the welfare of your employees and customers.    
    • Exercise: Even if you just go for a walk, blood flow and oxygen flow can do wonders for your mental state.
    • Meditate: Probably the last thing a restaurant operator has time for, but regular practice may save you time by improving your efficiency.
    • Break away: When focus isn’t working, disengage from your problems altogether. Your unconscious mind will still be working on them and may present solutions in the morning, during Ted Lasso, or in another moment of unexpected inspiration.

There are many ways to calm your amygdala, activate your prefrontal cortex, and get back to your point of clarity. Figure out what’s most helpful for you. What doesn’t help is hiding behind constant work. Activity is not necessarily productivity. Don’t do anything until your mind is clear.

  • Focus on others. You’re invested in your business. The stakes are high, so it’s easy to worry about what may happen to you if things don’t go well. Consider refocusing on everyone else, specifically your employees and your customers. Be of service to them. Help them achieve their goals. Help them solve their problems. Use your business to improve the lives of others. When you put more value out into the world, it returns to you in the form of loyalty, word of mouth, and repeat business. Plenty of research has been done about the power of a higher purpose. (Google that, too.) Focusing on the betterment of others is a great way to make this work for you.
  • Lean on your network. One of the characteristics I noticed about top franchise operators when writing The Wealthy Franchisee was that they’re all heavily involved within their networks, providing support when they can, and seeking it when they’re in need. As a franchisee, you’ve paid to join a community. That includes access to a franchisor with tools to help and to a network of owners who are also in the weeds. Using this help doesn’t mean you’re weak; it means you’re resourceful. Independent restaurant owners don’t have this resource at their disposal. There’s strength in numbers. You’re already enjoying that strength through bulk purchasing and advertising. Take it advantage of bulk support.

Running a franchise restaurant can be highly lucrative and deeply satisfying. It’s also really challenging. If you’re naturally gritty, that’ll work to your advantage. But if you’re like the rest of us, you can compensate with a bit more self-awareness and some deliberate self-care.

Scott Greenberg is a speaker, writer and business coach and the author of The Wealthy Franchisee: Game-Changing Steps to Becoming a Thriving Franchise Superstar. Find more information at

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