Women Dominating Predominantly Male Industries

Franchise Development

In all cases, relationship building and listening will serve well with clients.

By David McKinnon

For women considering franchise business ownership in a predominantly male industry, there are several real and perceived roadblocks that one must overcome to succeed. Below are five ideas to help overcome these obstructions utilizing tips and stories from three of the top-performing owners in traditionally male franchise systems — who happen to be women.

1. Believe in Yourself

The best strategy to succeed in any business is to have confidence in yourself, the service you are selling and in the team you lead to fulfill customers’ needs. This is even more important for women who may feel anxious speaking with authority on the topic they are selling, such as home repairs and improvements, disaster restoration and large-scale painting projects. Pam Estabrooke, owner of ProTect Painters of Central Gwinnett, Ga. agrees that being a female in a traditionally male industry can be a challenge. Her clients often assume she is the one doing the painting and are surprised when she shows up to provide an estimate and begins talking about their home projects. Try not to take it personally if a client requests a man. Becky Edgren, owner of PuroClean of Dayton, Ohio feels accomplished when customers sense her passion for the business and trust she knows what she’s doing, but she also realizes that part of her job is to tend to customer requests and deliver exceptional service. While a customer may expect a man to complete the estimate or to check on the crew completing a project typically geared toward a male industry, professionalism and confidence will counteract any concerns and will immediately make an impression that other business owners — male or female — cannot compete with.

2. Understand the Model

If you understand the business model and what is required as a franchise owner, you don’t necessarily have to know how to perform a specific service and rather can find an opportunity that fits your talents. Franchise opportunities that skew toward male interests, like Mr. Handyman, ProTect Painters and PuroClean, do not often require the franchise owner to know how to specifically execute the professional service. What is more important are the acquired skills from previous professional or military careers such as hiring, training and managing employees, networking with peers, providing great service, paying taxes, creating a financial plan and marketing. A good franchisor will have vendor partners and training to help support owners in the skill areas, as well. Then, it is up to the franchisee to follow the business plan, execute it and track progress to succeed. Although Jo McCabe is the owner of a Mr. Handyman franchise, she lacked a background in home repairs. Instead, she called upon her training from the U.S. Naval Academy, her master’s degree in business administration from Southern New Hampshire University, and her service as an aircraft maintenance officer and in physical security for the U.S. Navy and Reserves to propel her business forward. McCabe has received numerous Mr. Handyman awards and continues to serve her peers as a member of franchise advisory committees. Like McCabe, these experiences teach confidence, leadership experience and discipline to follow a proven system that can collectively drive the business owner to the top of the franchise system.

3. Take Calculated Risks

Business ownership is not for the faint of heart. The ideal business owner must be open to opportunities, even if there may be a price to pay. Sometimes that means leaving a secure and predictable lifestyle to go after something that seems much larger. Here’s the secret: allow opportunity to come, don’t go looking for it. Sometimes when that window of opportunity opens, it requires a full time, all-in effort and a firm decision to go after the future rather than live in the present. Estabrooke credits eight years of preparation to her ProTect Painters franchise success. After leaving a stable corporate career in administration and IT project management, she moved on to work as an employee in the ProTect Painters franchise she eventually purchased. With her hands-on experience and a full understanding of the brand, she was confident she would excel as a franchisee. There are many who dream of owning their own business, but fear the risk, so they continue their careers. Future business owners realize their dream can come to fruition when they are in a personal and professional position to take a calculated high risk. This usually means quitting their job and investing their life savings into their proposed business.

4. Know Your Strengths

Estabrooke, Edgren and McCabe are only three examples of women who have achieved phenomenal results in their respective traditionally male industries. One thing that each of them wholeheartedly stresses is that to improve your success rate, you must play to your strengths as a woman. Often, being a female business owner helps to remove the intimidation factor for the lady of the house to ask questions about her painting project or bathroom remodel. It can also be a best practice to pay attention to the details of a client’s family life and household routine. For example, if there is a baby in the house, ask if nap schedules are a concern throughout project completion. This consideration provides another level of service not often found in male dominated industries, setting a female owned business above the pack in the eyes of the client, resulting in return and referral business. In all cases, relationship building and listening will serve well with clients, so as a woman it’s important to embrace your feminine edge.

5. Find Friendly Financing

One of the biggest obstacles to business success is not having enough working capital available to spend on approved expenditures. It’s helpful to look for opportunities such as ProTect Painters’ $5,000 discount off the initial franchise fee for businesses owned by a woman. There are also other options like the International Franchise Association’s VetFran and MinorityFran programs’ discounts to help qualified candidates save on their initial investment. When calculating risk and determining financing options, it is important to note that the fastest and most comfortable way to achieve professional potential and flourish in any new business is to have enough savings to invest in the franchise and survive for a year or two. No matter the setback or obstacle that female business owners encounter in traditionally male industries, they can become the best woman for the job with confidence, education and research and support from their franchisor.

David McKinnon is co-founder of Service Brands International.  Find him at fransocial.franchise.org