The role of family support: Couples cope best, while married franchise owners outperform singles


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Married couple Ownership Of Coffee Shop

heartsFebruary is the month of love… so this month we look at the role of relationships as a factor in entrepreneurial success. It turns out that a franchisee’s family is as important a support network as the franchisor.

Recent women-focused research published by the Sage Foundation and Living Facts suggests that married women are more likely to be successful entrepreneurs than single women. The same could probably be said for men, because the assumption taken by the research was that the married women – or women with partners – have more financial support and help with family and household responsibilities, than do single women (or men). This eases the pressure and demands of starting a business compared to a single person.

Some franchisors argue in favour of couples. For instance, Sandwich Baron founder and CEO Sally J’Arlette-Joy claims in a release on its website that women franchisees are on average better franchise owners due to their superior people skills and greater persistence, but that best is a husband-wife combination. The reason is that men and women have different skills sets which complement each other.

According to ‘The Hidden Factors: SA Women in Business’ research report, 70% of respondents who had their own business were married or living with someone, thereby receiving support, financially or otherwise; while 28% admitted their family commitments didn’t allow them to start their own businesses.

‘If you want something done, give it to a busy person’

busy personAmong the reasons women in relationships may be more successful franchisees, is that most are already balancing home and work life and accustomed to prioritising and organising. As a result, they’re likely to be better at communicating and compromising – two necessary business skills.

A precondition to success for the partner running a franchise is to have a spouse which is supportive and that can be relied on. Such support means financial, emotional, administrative and logistical assistance. The Sage research suggests that a familial support network means entrepreneurs with spouses are more capable of riding the ups and downs of their own business, compared to those who are single.

Only 20% of those who did not own a business felt they had the necessary network to support their family responsibilities. The study identified the most significant factors holding back female entrepreneurship in South Africa as being a need for financial stability and a low tolerance for risk-taking and failure.

Other obstacles the research identified that women face include:

  • low exposure to entrepreneurial role models in their family
  • inadequate access to funding
  • difficulty balancing personal and work responsibilities

Work life balance

Work-Life-BalanceThe need to balance work and family life is not a problem faced only by franchise owners. Many people in fact become franchisees as the solution to balancing work/family responsibilities which they already experienced in the corporate world. Fully 59% of respondents who quit corporate jobs in favour of entrepreneurism identified a key reason for doing so as wanting flexibility around how they juggled family and work commitments. In contrast, 19% cited the identical reason for giving up their entrepreneurial dream to return to corporate.

A significant advantage of franchising is the ability of couples, and even entire families, to balance the two components by all working together in the business. This addresses the guilt felt by many working parents that they’re not devoting enough time to their families. This is one area where single people have the upper hand (assuming, of course, they’re not single mothers).

Many married couples enjoy running a business together and there are advantages: working with loved ones usually means you need worry less about employee trust. However, couples need to work on transitioning between their personal and business lives, something they’ll need to do many times each day. Both should have agreed roles with responsibilities assigned according to ability, not perceived gender norms or personal preferences. Don’t take work home, and the responsibility for children has to be shared. The result can be a much more successful business and a happier couple.

Not enough hours in the day for both?

Ultimately all entrepreneurs, irrespective of their relationship status, are after the same thing: to make a success of their business – and both might feel there just aren’t enough hours in the day to make it happen. To free up hours to spend more time with family may require, where possible, outsourcing some functions and automating as much as possible so you don’t become a slave to the business.

Franchisees – married or not – often don’t realise how much time and energy goes into starting and growing a business, even with the support of franchisor and family. It’s one of the major reasons many return to a corporate job after giving franchising a shot. By knowing what to expect, you can plan ahead and lean on support systems for a better chance of success.