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The Art Of Franchising: Mastering Synergy, Consulting, And Innovation

LUNL 17 | Franchising Master

Franchising mastery is the symphony of synergy, consulting, and innovation of endless possibilities. Our esteemed guest for this episode, Thomas Walker of Global Franchise Finders LLC, shares his expertise on how to become a franchising master. Thomas opens up on his remarkable journey, from modest origins to the zenith of franchising mastery. He explains the significance of synergy among various company roles and its transformative impact on a franchise’s success. Going further, Thomas touches on franchise consulting, sharing tips and insights on how aspiring entrepreneurs can go toward their ideal franchise ventures. He discusses the groundbreaking FLIP Program, a revolutionary approach to franchising that prioritizes the unique needs and aspirations of franchisees. Thomas also unveils his ingenious “Shark Realtor” concept, a fusion of his passion for franchising and real estate expertise. He offers counsel on navigating the labyrinthine landscape of franchise businesses to align individual aspirations and goals with the perfect opportunities.

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The Art Of Franchising: Mastering Synergy, Consulting, And Innovation

From Humble Beginnings To Franchising Master: The Journey Of Thomas Walker

Welcome to the show where we have the absolute pleasure of learning from thought leaders in business, franchising, and high-performance personal development. Our guest for this episode goes without exception. He’s had plenty of experience on the franchisor side, which gives him some pretty unique context in the world of franchising. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also been a franchise owner as well. He specializes in operations, having worn the Chief Operating Officer hat throughout his career.

One thing I appreciate about this guest is he understands that nothing gets done in a business without sales. There’s a beautiful dance between operations and sales. I am most certainly looking forward to diving into this conversation and learning more about his perspective from an operations and sales standpoint, specifically in the world of franchising. He is a franchise consultant with one of the world’s largest franchise consulting firms in Frazier. He’s headquartered in one of my favorite cities in Las Vegas. Thomas Walker, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Nick. I’m happy to be here. I appreciate that kind intro. You’re too kind.

It’s well deserved. Franchising is this special world where the CEO who’s present at the International Franchise Association is coined as one of the greatest wealth-generating platforms in the world. I couldn’t agree more. It gives folks a leg into the world of entrepreneurship. You’ve helped folks navigate this world of over 4,000 brands in the franchise space.

You help them understand how the business and general skillsets needed in lifestyle match up with all these brands to help them become successful franchise owners. We’re going to dive into that but I want to get started by asking you a question related to how you got started in franchising. Most folks don’t quite understand that if anything as long as it’s ethical, makes money, and is legal can be franchised.

LUNL 17 | Franchising Master

That’s much more than just McDonald’s or Burger King. Something even like a plumbing company or a painting business can be franchised. Franchising has this unique way of finding people. You don’t necessarily say, “I’m going to be in franchising.” It’s an afterthought, frankly. Thomas, how did franchising find you?

That’s exactly how it worked for me. I didn’t so much find franchising as franchising found me. I was a young man. I was in my teens when I got my first franchising job. It was in Reno, Nevada. I worked for a gentleman by the name of Scott Hickey. He’s a great golfer and a great guy to work for. I stumbled into his golf and tennis franchise. I applied for a job, not knowing that he was the type of guy that hired young people, male or female. It didn’t matter as long as you could show up for work on time, do a good job, and do what was asked. He was there.

He was kind enough to work around our school schedules. I say our because there were a lot of us athletes at the time. I remember there were tennis players, golfers, football players, and a lot of different young people that he gave jobs to. That was my first introduction. I didn’t know it was a franchise when I went in there. I had no idea. I honestly didn’t care. I was looking for a job that worked around my schedule.

I had things I was doing in high school. The sports I was playing and the demands and hours that I was available and not available, he worked around all of that stuff so that worked out perfectly for me. I worked for him for years off and on. There were times when I didn’t work the summers or a certain season but he always found a spot when I did need a job. I was able to come and go along with other people. It wasn’t necessarily special for me. It was special because of him more so than anything else.

That left an impression. I thought, “This is pretty cool and a cool guy. I like the opportunity.” That’s my introduction to the franchising. I learned more about franchising as the years went on. He was very open to sharing not just about his business but how he got into it, what it meant to him, what it was doing for his family, and his expansion plans. I would have to give him a lot of credit for biting me with the franchise bug.

How long did you work there? I know it’s off and on depending on the season.

It was through college so probably on and off for six years, high school then through college. I ended up moving to Las Vegas from Reno and working at the Nevada Bob’s corporate headquarters, which was based in Las Vegas. When I came down here, I came to Nevada Bob’s and applied for a job. They heard that I worked up in Reno. They called up there and got a nice reference. I got the job with no questions asked. It worked my way through and in that franchise at the franchisor level.

That was my first exposure working for the franchisor, where I saw the desire and emphasis put on selling franchises, building relationships, key relationships with vendors, and preferred vendors. All sides of it opened up international franchising. Nevada Bob’s was a franchise at the time. It still has international legs. That was my first introduction to thinking past Nevada and the US as a business to get into the globe as a whole. It was pretty cool for me. I was very fortunate.

Anybody that plays golf has to be a great guy. What a fun business. In franchising, you talk about anything being franchised. What a great specialty there. It sounds like that was a great pit stop and a segue into franchising. Along that vein, you went from Reno to Vegas. Where did you work on the franchisor side? Was it just those two stops or anywhere else?

Franchising is a smaller community than you may think. It’s like Reno. It’s the biggest little thing. Franchising is maybe the biggest little thing in business. I’m not going to make up a phrase here but it turns out it’s a small community once you get into it. If you do the right things and you listen, as I tried to do to Scott and other mentors that I had, you get recruited.

LUNL 17 | Franchising Master

I got recruited when I got to Vegas and then into GNC, which is General Nutrition Centers. I met a gentleman there, JJ Serenty, who brought me into GNC from Nevada Bob’s. There was a purchase thing on Nevada Bob’s and that’s a longer story. One of my best skills is listening to the right people at the right time but not always. You can’t get it right every time.

If you can get it right a lot of the time or most of the time, it can make a big difference. If you can stop and slow down long enough to recognize quality people when you’re around them, maybe listen to them, take their advice, and pay attention to what’s going on. The path can be easier. I talk about getting debris off my runway so that my plane can fly. That’s exactly what I’m getting into.

You spent plenty of time getting exposed to franchising. It’s a big space but a pretty close-knit group. You navigate through on the franchisor side. You learn plenty about supply relationships and franchise owner relationships. It was franchising in the inner workings in general. You then decided to become a franchise owner. What led to that? Can you share a little bit about what you did as a franchise owner?

You’re skipping a lot. A lot happened between me getting into franchising and becoming a franchisor. I’m a franchise owner. I’m not going to tell you how old I am. I’m older than you are but we’ll say I’m middle-aged. At this stage of the game and in my career, a position that I’ve long wanted to have was to be in the franchisee position.

Now that I’m there, it’s tremendous. I have a position within this particular company that I own and run. It’s not necessarily that I get to do what I want when I want, all those things that you think and dream about as a kid but I have a lot more choices, freedom, and options. I can spearhead and determine what direction the company goes, how fast we go there, and how big it goes. I cherish, want, and love all those scalability issues that some people may not want. That’s my dream so here we are.

There was a lot to get me here. There were a lot of people involved along the way that I learned from. I’ll keep saying it. The number one thing is to try to pay attention and recognize the mentors you have and the great advice you get along the way. I’m a compilation of a lot of different influences. I put in some work and I do my part if I listen to all of that stuff.

I can’t say enough about it. It’s so much easier. It’s between the people and experiences. I have worked outside of franchising. I was successful there and I enjoyed that but I didn’t enjoy it like I do franchising. I’ve had a lot of different roles, working either for franchisors or franchisees. I loved it all. I’ve only ever left positions for corporate reasons.

Sometimes a corporation is going in a different direction, I’ve been recruited somewhere else, and the travel is too extensive. Depending on the role, you can spend a significant amount of time on the road. It looks like you know that. I’ve had rules as a franchise coach and senior director of franchising where you’re in charge of hundreds, if not thousands of stores across several states.

Those are great jobs. The money, people, and experiences are great. The only negative for that in my opinion would be, for my case, spending 48 out of 52 weeks a year on the road for 6 years straight. At that time, I was having kids with my wife. The kids were young. I was missing birthdays, Christmas, and holidays. I missed the first day of school for the first 5 or 6 years of their lives.

It got to a point where that wasn’t working for me. I can’t be anywhere near my wife and kids. We had to make some changes there but that’s not the franchise’s fault. That’s a choice that we made to have kids and a choice that I made to want to be around more than that job was allowing. I came back. I got into Corporate America and did that for a while. I’m not going to say I hated it but I didn’t love it. I got back into franchising as soon as my kids aged a little bit.

You’ve had to do a tremendous amount of listening. That’s a part of developing and adding skills. Are there any mentors that stand out to you? Do you have anyone in particular? How did they make a big impact on your career from a franchise standpoint?

I haven’t always been a good listener. I was a young man with an enormous ego that I probably still lugged around. I didn’t always listen the way that I did in my late twenties and thereafter. In the beginning, I certainly would call out Scott Hickey. He was one of the first people in franchising who introduced me to it. JJ Serenty was the one of recruited me out of Nevada Bob’s and brought me into GNC. Those two are going to be the most influential in my franchise life from a mentor standpoint.

On the other hand, I’ve been afforded some pretty high-level positions in franchising and have had the opportunity to work with some people who reported to me that I respect, admire, and think the world of and learn from them also. It’s not always top-down to me. Sometimes, it’s up so the listening can go both ways. I would call out Michele Popelka, Nathan Milhous, and some other folks that I’ve worked with. I’m sure I’m leaving some people out. You’re making me feel like a word acceptance speech here but there are people on both ends of it that I’ve become better for knowing. By all means, take all the credit.

Humility is such an important part of high performance no matter what the industry is but business in general requires so much humility. It’s a people business. That’s how business is done at least until technology and AI take over.

It served me well. I wasn’t always this guy that looked at it that way. I was very different but as you get older, you learn some things and take some time. As I say, “Do not question the gift horse, just ride it.” Sometimes you get a good horse. What I try to do is recognize opportunity. Do not overthink it. Accept and be appreciative. Off we go.

As they say, if you can surround yourself with good people, top, lateral, or below, it doesn’t matter, things are easier and better. You can get a lot more done. There was a time when it was important to be one of the smart guys in the room and know as much as I could possibly know about every possible thing because I didn’t want to be left behind, miss out, or not know something.

That’s not critical for me anymore. I want to know people that know the things I don’t know and they can handle the things that I don’t know. That’s allowed me to scale. That is probably the number one difference. I don’t necessarily want to be the smartest guy in the room. I would rather be in a room full of people who are a lot smarter than me. That’s a good room.

That’s a healthy position to be in. I can most certainly relate to that. I’ve been a part of some groups where that wasn’t the case. I don’t want to do anything else but run. It’s always great to feel small. You’re speaking in the context of having the correct posh. You’re in those moments or around those individuals where there’s no need to establish what you know but rather be a sponge. I’m thinking a lot about business, whether you’re an employee working up the corporate ladder or you’re a franchise owner.

There are there are mentors within the franchise system. The greatest thing about franchising is the collective talents and experience that can be shared. You miss out on that without humility. We talked so much about humility and coachability. That is probably the single most telling characteristic of how successful you’ll be in the speed at which you’ll be successful in the leaps that you make. Your ability to level up is your ability to be humble and take that posture. Your career wasn’t perfect.

LUNL 17 | Franchising Master

Taking that humble posture throughout your career has been at the forefront of how you’ve had success in your career. I appreciate you sharing that because it is the core of business. It’s the core of being on the franchisor side, the franchisee side, business ownership, and entrepreneurship. Business is all about people. Humility is key to doing business effectively.

A secret that you are sharing, although, it seems so obvious, is you’re giving a testament to the fact, “I wasn’t always as humble as I am.” It’s something that you’ve had to fail forward with. I appreciate you giving that testament because it’s paramount in franchising. You’ve had this career not planned but you received the franchise bug. I wanted to hear about your background as a Chief Operating Officer. Give some context here. I can speak to what I know.

Our business changed when we started implementing a system called the Entrepreneurial Operating System or EOS. Gino Wickman wrote a book called Traction. I highly recommend it. It gives you a process to build a business and gain traction. A big part of that is having a visionary and an integrator. A visionary is more so wearing the CEO hat and the integrator is wearing the COO hat. Together, that partnership within an organization creates tremendous leadership for the traction that the business obtains. That synergy between the CEO and the COO is paramount.

I appreciated that being implemented in that line. I tested very high on the visionary and integrator hats. I had to give one of those hats away but the area where I loved it and where my skillsets that I double down on is more the CEO, the visionary side. I love the integration side. I had to let go of the vine and hand that over to our VP of Operations. It wasn’t easy finding the right fit. It took some work. There’s this synergy amongst the leadership team. The right folks have to be on the bus.

Once it gets right, and there is traction there, as Gino Wickman calls it Rocket Fuel, that’s what’s produced between that synergy for an organization. It’s something special. I wanted to get some of your perspective on how you worked your way into that CEO hat. Can you tell us a little bit about from your operation standpoint some nuggets of wisdom and what your experiences were like as a COO?

I reached out to one of my headhunters and said, “This is the field that I want to get into.” It’s like when I look for a house. I go into a neighborhood, decide what neighborhood I want to live in, move into it, and then find a house. I picked an industry which was medical sales. It’s big. I could go in there and start hopefully a little bit above the bottom, maybe the bottom of the middle or the top of the bottom. I work my way up.

I did not go in thinking, “I’m going to be the CEO of a medical manufacturing company,” because how am I qualified for that? I do understand sales, business, and people. It turns out that’s a lot of it. I went in and was interviewed by the owner and founder. They mentioned they had a couple of other candidates for the vice president of the sales department. He said he’s going to make a decision in the next week or so. It was in Vegas.

This was on a Tuesday. I went back in on Thursday in person, which is different. This was not that long ago. I asked him, “Did you make the decision?” He said, “No, I haven’t.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “I can’t get a hold of this guy. I’m trying to schedule a guy.” I said, “If people don’t have time for you, that’s got to tell you something.” We had a conversation and a couple of comments like it takes no talent to be on time and if people don’t have time for the interview.

He said, “Maybe you’re the right fit.” I said, “I think I am. I’ll tell you what, I’ll do your favor. You hire me and I will contact the others and let them know that they’re not the right people.” That’s how I got that job. I was referred by a headhunter and then I went in and made myself known. You’ve got to go for what you want sometimes. That’s how that started.

I started in the sales department. He immediately wanted to bring in salespeople to hire and start selling. I said, “Before we do that, I’d like 1 month or 2 to understand the product.” I didn’t know anything about the equipment that we were selling. I didn’t know a thing. It took some time to understand it and I said, “I want to sell it myself, understand how to sell, do some market research, find out what we can sell it for at the right price,” and all of that fun stuff.

I did that and reset the pricing. We brought in a couple of people. It’s a long story. The end of the story is within six months, I moved into the CEO position. I developed a process or a plan to work with outside salespeople as opposed to inside salespeople and use chiropractors to promote the products and pursue other verticals. Upon my arrival, we only sold it in the chiropractic offices.

I was able to open up some other venues like tanning salons and other things that hadn’t been considered before in X sales of the company previous to my existence. That was a fun place. I renewed my love for sales. I’ve forgotten how much I love to sell. I love selling high-ticket items. These were medical beds that were $95,000 apiece. It’s not like we were selling something cheap and easy. You have to deal with a lot of compliance and some other things like the trademarks and all that fun stuff.

Once you get past all of that and get into the sales of it, if you can figure out how to help your client use the product and affect their clients, then the sales get easy. The same thing works for me within franchising. I don’t just sell franchises like yours. I specialize in emerging brands which is why I’m here because that’s what you are. You are an emerging brand. As a broker, I do have the opportunity to sell other franchises but that’s not all that I do or all that we do here.

The other thing that we do is provide what I have created nicknamed FLIP. I wasn’t going to talk about this because I don’t want a bunch of people stealing it but you’re a nice kid so I’m going to tell you anyway. FLIP means Franchise Life Improvement Program. It’s where we take different things. We offer those to franchisees after they’ve purchased the franchise in addition to what you the franchisor do.

We also offer to franchisors as you know to ensure that vendors are staying on top of things and offering the best price. We’re out there negotiating on franchisee and franchisor’s behalf but without the restraints of your franchise system. I can come in and say, “I’ve got 300 franchisors that comprise X number of franchisees. What does the deal look like at that number versus any other conversation that’s happening?”

It’s a multiplier way back in the day with Scott and JJ. I learned the value that you as a franchisor try to bring the franchisees. We want to be a tool not only to sell franchises for the line but also to bring you the best programs to offer your franchisees. You’re going to do that because you have to. You’re obligated to do so. I’m not but we do it anyway and we can do it at a larger scale. If I bring that benefit to you, everybody wins.

It should be about getting it right, not being right. That is the core of being a great franchisor. When it comes to outside vendors from a painting standpoint, we have national suppliers who make up most of our gross margin. We’re putting a lot of paint on the surface but there are other services like a technology platform, the ability to receive reviews, or a KPI dashboard. A lot of technology can bring value to an entire organization that might not be implementing it. It could be a substitute.

I gave an example of an opportunity but you could be substituting an existing partnership, service, or widget. There’s a lot that goes into running a business successfully and nationally. A very practical example would be let’s say that the organization doesn’t do marketing in-house. They outsource it. An outside marketing vendor would be pretty important. Another easy example would be an apparel company.

All these different vendors provide value to a network. If you’re able to bring in substitutes that are at a better price, if it’s about getting it right, not being right on the franchisor’s part or a franchise owner, at the end of the day, if it’s going to save folks money and improve the bottom line, and it meets all the needs and wants of the system, then it’s an improvement. That’s the right answer.

Outside of the change that it creates in the network, it’s not easy to unplug an outlet and plug it right back. When you unplug a vendor, there’s a lot of work that goes into that and effectively implementing it throughout the organization. That creates change. There are appropriate processes for implementing that but on the front end, it’s not about being right. It’s about getting it right.

Thomas, that’s a wonderful value add. It shows how much you care about what you do and how much you genuinely enjoy franchising. You’re finding ways to bring folks value after you’ve worked with them to find the right franchise fit for them. I’m sure franchisors appreciated it, depending on the particular brand and partnership. If it’s a brand that wants to get it right and not be right, why not?

It’s up to you guys as franchisors to figure out the right ones for you but it’s about choice. I’m a big believer in choice. That’s why money matters because money buys choice. If you can have money and make proper choices, then it’s great to be rich. The rich people with complain can’t make a good decision or have strong choices, which nobody wants to hear about.

Nobody wants to hear the rich guy or gal complaining about how hard it is to have money. That’s not the challenge. The challenge is to make a good decision. I spent a lot of time with a lot of wealthy people. To buy franchises, you have to be somewhat successful because they’re not free. Everyone that I’ve ever dealt with is looking to buy a franchise and has had success somewhere else. That’s an absolute part of it. They have to have the financial wherewithal to do this.

They’ve made choices that have put them in a position where they can go buy a business, which for the most part is one of the top three purchases that anybody’s going to make. You have your home or multiple homes and maybe some other large asset but then your business is going to be in the top 1, 2, or 3 somewhere for most people.

For most people that I’ve dealt with, the business is a large expense but not everybody. Some it’s a hobby. That’s a different conversation altogether. I believe franchising should be a lifestyle, not a hobby but if you are getting into franchising as a hobby, that’s okay. We need to let upfront so we can get you into the right one. Most franchises don’t want you to buy them as a hobby.

There’s so much wisdom that you’re stating here. I hope it isn’t overlooked. You can see where the operations and the appreciation for sales come together in Thomas Walker. There’s a ton I don’t know about you but I’m glad I learned the work that you did with the organization that you were working with 5X or 6X there. Their revenue is in an operations role. Your aptitude for business and creating value is incredible. Thank you, Thomas, for being on the show and sharing this wisdom.

This is one of the top three purchases in somebody’s life. It’s a very important decision. You should know upfront what is the lifestyle that you want. Is it a hobby? Will it be a lifestyle? What are my interests and skills? That is ultimately the lens that you’re helping provide to somebody as they’re navigating these 4,000 plus brands and franchising to ultimately help them become an entrepreneur. As we covered, you’re able to provide additional value to not only them but also their fellow peers within a franchise system. You’ve talked to me about something that I want to transition into. You’ve talked about this concept of shark real estate or being a shark realtor. What do you mean by that?

When people contact me, the first thing they’ll ask is, “What’s the best franchise?” That’s almost everybody’s first and favorite question. I don’t answer that because it’s different for everybody and nobody loves that answer when they first hear it. I use the continent term shark realtor to explain it to them. Most people have seen the show Shark Tank and have heard of that. Most people have dealt with a realtor in their life at some point, especially the people that I’m dealing with. These are successful people who have bought things before. These are not foreign terms to them.

I combine the two to explain what we do. We will go out and find the proper emerging brand for the brand that you think is best after an extensive interview process takes place, which covers what you talked about. There are a lot of different categories not just Burger King and McDonald’s. There are cleaning, financial services, and food and beverage. There are 30 or 40 different categories. In each one of those categories, there are 20 to 50 subcategories.

There is a ton of franchise opportunity out there that people don’t know exist. 1) I can’t tell you the perfect and best franchise. I don’t know what you’re going to be into or interested in. 2) It’s a financial thing. The best one at $50,000 isn’t the best one for the person who has $500,000 or $5 million. They’re best the answer to each of those people is different because we’re talking about different financial levels. It is what it is. Money matters.

With the shark realtor, the real estate part of that is our firm will go out and find you the franchise and present it to you free of charge. We don’t charge anything for the record to our clients. That’s the way it works on my end. As the client, you are the shark in my scenario. You get to sit back, be presented, pitched, and decide which one works for you and which one you are going to invest in like the Sharks on the Shark Tank.

If you don’t like it for whatever reason, I’m not here to make you take a franchise. I’m here to find you the right house or franchise that fits your needs and greed. There’s need, greed, and all these other things that go into it. I’m okay with people that tell me out front, “I’m greedy. I want to make money. I care about the ROI.” That’s good to know. For some people, it’s a religious thing, “I want one that is based on this particular faith.” It’s good to know because that matters. “I can’t and won’t work on Sundays.”

All of these different things are fine but whatever your answers are, there are no wrong answers because you’re the shark. It’s your money and investment. Our job is the presentation. We want to give you the best options. From there, you move forward. People then ask me, “What’s your favorite franchise?” I don’t answer that either because it’s different for me than it is for anyone. I have favorites that I would like to have.

A lot of them are like, “I’m buying these ten tomorrow. I have a list of them.” I have my favorites because I like the people that are in the franchise. I’ll do a podcast for them for example because I like the founder, the vision, the mission, what they’re doing, their youth, and their growth. They know who they are. I’m talking about you, Nick. I like what you guys are doing and how you’ve mapped out who your target client is. Some franchises are like, “Everybody’s a client.” Not everybody’s a client, not generally for most businesses.

You aren’t unapologetic about this is who we want to target. To me, that is a very good thing that I’m proud to tell a client about. I’m like, “If you want to go somewhere with some clear vision, this is an area that I can put you in.” You’ve never thought about paying before. Did you ever think you woke up and thought, “I got to get a paying franchise?” Probably not.

“After we look at certain criteria that you’ve told me you want, this is what you’re talking about. This is the company. That’s what I mean by a shark realtor.” The client is the shark. We’re the realtor. That’s the harmony that my company exists in. That’s the universe that we operate in. It’s your decision and money. It’s our leg work and presentation.

What a neat way to put it. I could imagine being a client. That would be exciting. The first time you put it toward me that way, I couldn’t help but smile. If I were working with you, that would be a pretty exciting experience. It would make something that is ordinary or you go about buying things. This is a very important purchase but it gives that context and vision. It makes it very practical. As a byproduct, it makes it pretty fun.

People struggle. It took me a minute to figure out that analogy but that wasn’t a forever question. That’s the first and constant question. “What do you do? How do you do what you do? What does it mean for me?” People who are looking for franchises know what shark tank is and we’ve all thought about being in those chairs. It’s being presented as you are. That’s what this is. It’s real estate because we don’t charge fees upfront. We don’t have a retainer. There’s not a $10,000 or $20,000 on a seller’s stuff. We do our work.

Until there’s a decision made, we don’t see a penny and even then, as you know, we’re compensated by the franchise that the person chooses. For me, it answers a lot of questions. They want to know what’s in it for me, what’s my motivation, and how I get paid. That’s fair. I call them fair and reasonable questions. That’s reasonably fine. I’ll tell you what’s my motivation and how I get paid. There you go. I’m going to tell you how I service. You want a silver platter. “Whose decision is it? When does it have to be made?” That’s a question you ask in the mirror. That’s up to you.

Building on that concept of being a shark realtor, how do you help folks find franchises that they love?

I find out what they love first, like health services. I do this with my clients. We won’t do it here for time restraints but we go through a list like home improvement, landscaping offers, painting, and pet services. As we say certain things, you can see in people’s faces different emotions. You can tell, like a comic, if you’re losing the crowd. You say pet services, painting, home improvement, or health services. What does that mean?

That’s a huge category from servicing the elderly to children to fitness to all these different things. It’s hard to find people who say, “I don’t care about my health,” although there are some, or, “I don’t care about anybody else’s health.” That’s big. We go through all these different categories. Also, waste management. It doesn’t sound exciting but the person who says, “IROI,” that might be something they want to look into because that’s exactly what waste management is. I don’t mean Tony Soprano. I mean the actual waste management.

We asked these questions and got through all that. More often than not, there’s a frame of people that come. They either come and think they know which franchise they want. They fall on one side. “I want a blank,” and they fill that in. They come and say, “I don’t know what I want but here’s what I’d like to get out of it. This is the feeling that I want. This is the amount of time and investment I want to put in. This is the location that I want to be.”

We start asking questions like, “What about growth? Do you only want to be in Las Vegas or expand into Nevada? Do you want to go outside in Nevada?” “I don’t know if I can do that.” Yes, you can.” All these questions unfold and things that they may not even know and may not have thought about. It’s my job to get you to think about all that stuff.

You’re getting somebody to think about all these concepts they’ve never considered. I could only imagine that a lot of folks lead with something based on their passion and give a cliché, maybe fitness. That’s a passion play. That’s easy to fall into. That would be an easy idea off the top of your head. How do you balance that with the opposite side? It could be waste management or even painting. You mentioned you’re losing the crowd here. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone get excited about owning a paint company. I had to sell myself on being the owner of a painting company. How does that work?

Do you want me to sell you your concept? Is that what I’m hearing here, Nick?

It’s not a sexy business. Let me tell you.

Your concept is about what it generates and who it generates it from, in my opinion. When people talk to me, they’re usually analytical people. They may or may not want to be on hands. They might want a general manager to come in but they want very defined lines and want to know who their audience is. That’s you. They want a small inventory. They don’t want to deal with a brick-and-mortar or the location. They don’t want to deal with thousands of products, a ton of employees, and red tape as far as licensing.

Some of these things deal with chemicals and things where you need licenses or certain people. Suddenly, your job pool. Who you can hire gets limited and difficult. When I’m talking about your particular concept, if somebody comes to me and they’re saying, “I want to get into something and I don’t care what it is,” you’re right. I haven’t had anybody come and say, “I have to have a paint franchise.” That’s true. I will admit that but at the end of the conversation, they realized that I do want the results of what this paint franchise yields. That’s a whole different thing.

A lot of these business owners will come and say upfront, “I don’t know what I want. I don’t necessarily care but this is what I want to feel like. This is how I want to feel in the business. I don’t care what the widget is.” That’s what I call it. I ask point blank, “Do you care what the widget is or not?” Depending on their answer, a bunch of things come in and out of play. If you care about the widget, I’ll use food service. I have to have a QSR, Quick Service Restaurant. That’s what I want to do. I’ve always wanted to have an In-N-Out Burger. They don’t franchise. I figured out that a lot.

The conversation is over and you don’t get what you want. Are you sure it has to be that one? Can it be a different burger? It could be. It’s even the ones that come in and end up going into something like your franchise. Plus, you’re new. You’re young. I don’t mean you personally. I mean your franchise. I should have clarified that earlier.

You are young but your franchise is young and falls into my category of emerging brands. When people ask me what’s exciting, that gets mentioned. Emerging brands that are on the rise and are on a steam incline are exciting because you want to get into a brand that has a couple of things like open territories and the ability to get in, take over, and play your Monopoly.

Established franchises are great but can you get a territory? Do you want that territory? I have an issue with a franchisee that can’t expand. She’s stuck where she is unless she wants to skip over 2 or 3 states. She doesn’t want to do that and that’s her choice. She’s the shark. I can’t make her open where she doesn’t want to be. It’s either a different brand in the area that she wants or she skips states. That’s it.

I can see the overlap with real estate like, “We want these types of schools. We need this many bedrooms, this yard, or near to a pool.” It’s based on what’s available in the market, budget, and all those different factors. Unless you’re in the real estate market, you don’t know what’s out there. When you mentioned shark realtor, it hit home. I appreciate you sharing that. I want to move on. Once somebody has become a franchise owner, what happens next?

In most cases, that’s where we, the broker, are out of the situation. The deal is done and they found the house to take it back to the real estate. This is not sales because there’s no exchange of money between myself and my client which is the definition of sale. I’m more of a consultant with the whole thing so I sell or consult for the franchise plus the additional franchises. We always have conversations.

I’m going to steal a term and repurpose it into franchising. I call it the point of endowment, which is how many franchises can you own and operate well before adding one more crumble to your empire. That’s what I call the point of endowment. I talked to my clients about that. That is going to play into but it also leads to my next sales and transactions. If I can bring you a client and tell you, “This person already has aspirations about X number of territories, locations, or stores,” we already know and then it gets back to why an emerging brand with open territories and possibilities is so attractive.

If I get somebody who’s thinking that way, wants to build their empire, and they understand that that’s not one location, it’s generally multiples of 3 or 6, not 12, and so on. An emerging brand with open territory, that group, the number of those that exist is smaller. All of those become very hyper-focused and of great interest. Unless you want to go international and you want to do it here, then you have to get into an emerging brand sooner rather than later because it’s emerging for a reason.

I’m having the same conversation with the person before you and the person after you. When people say, “How soon do I have to do this?” That’s a question for the mirror but here are the things that are true and undisputable. I am going to talk about this brand and the territories they have open with everybody until it’s sold. That’s my business. However, the sooner you want to gamble within is up to you. You hold a territory. You can have that conversation with a franchisor. They might. If you put some money down, that will change the conversation but I can’t answer that question for you. That’s a franchisor’s decision. You’re not going to be like, “I said so.”

You can see what qualifies Thomas. If I’m going to buy a home and it’s my forever home, it’s an important purchase. It’s up there. Buying a business is up there. It’s the top three. You want somebody qualified and understands the space. Thomas, you’ve had so much wisdom that you shared. I appreciate how gracious you’ve been with your time.

I have most certainly appreciated this conversation. I feel like I could chat with you maybe on just this show. Thankfully, we’ve had that opportunity. I wanted to wrap up with this. You’re somebody who is obsessed with franchising. You’ve spent your career on the franchisor side and franchise owner. You’re helping folks understand what you love so much about franchising. Thomas, would you share why you love franchising so much?

At this point, I’ve done it for more than half my life. I’ve made a bunch of choices. I haven’t been forced. I’m not overly religious. We’re not going to go down that path but I feel blessed and very fortunate. I’m happy it’s done. It’s great for me, my wife, and my family. I’ve learned a lot. Every step of the way, there’s always been another job within franchising that I can take or recruit into.

It’s always been wherever I needed it, lived, or wanted to be. I’ve always been able to come back to franchising. Find a career, not a job. You can find jobs anywhere but find a career that you enjoy. Do it for years until another bigger franchise opportunity comes along. I don’t know where else I could have done that. For me, it has been the best fit.

You’ve landed at your biggest opportunity of impact, which is helping folks navigate such an important decision and investment in their life. I commend you. You are truly qualified. Thomas, if anybody wants to get in touch with you to learn more and chat it up, how can they get in touch with you?

That’s kind of you to give me the ceremony plug. You can reach me on my website, which is They can call me directly on my cell, which is not on the website but I will share it with you. The area code is 702, which is local for Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s (702) 742-8751. Give me a call and mention Nick Lopez and the show. Not that we’ll take any better care of you than we would anyway but I would love to find out that you know about us here. Nick has been a good friend to us and we want to do the same for him.

Thomas, I appreciate it. Thank you so much for your time.

You’re welcome.

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About Thomas Walker

LUNL 17 | Franchising Master

With a proven track record of success, Thomas Walker has developed a set of impressive skills, including business planning, operations management, retail expertise, sales acumen, and team-building capabilities. As a skilled business development professional, Thomas knows how to make an impact in any organization he works with.

He has a deep understanding of the consumer goods industry and knows how to create strategies that deliver results. Whether he’s overseeing the day-to-day operations of a company or working to grow a team of top-tier professionals, Thomas brings a wealth of expertise and knowledge to the table.

Thomas is passionate about creating business solutions that drive growth and success. He knows how to balance a strategic approach with the operational details required to execute plans flawlessly. As a leader, he is adept at creating strong teams that work together to achieve their goals.