Anna Wilds is in the business of getting people in business for themselves.
Wilds is a certified and award-winning FranChoice franchise consultant, and her job is to talk with people interested in buying a franchise to see whether it’s a good step for them.
When most people think of franchises they think drive-thru restaurants, but Wilds said that’s just one small category.
“The biggest challenge is destroying preconceived notions,” she said.
Wilds’ consulting services are paid by the franchise company, so talking to her is free to potential clients. It’s in franchisors’ best interest to deal with potential franchisees who are well-vetted and knowledgeable about what they’re getting into, Wilds explained.
“The franchisor only succeeds if the franchisee succeeds,” she said. “You’ve got to do your homework, and I just help with that.”
When Wilds first meets with potential franchisees, she asks a long list of questions to find out what kind of person they are, why they are interested in a franchise and what they think owning a business entails.
Getting into business for yourself isn’t for everyone, she said.
Some people she talks with get hung up on what product or service they’re selling, and not on what selling it will be like. While it’s important to believe in the quality of your work and enjoy what you do, a franchisee’s first love has to be for business itself.
“They don’t have to be passionate about the literal product. They have to be passionate about being a business owner,” she said.
Wilds began working as a consultant after serving in the Air Force and starting her own medical equipment company. She got married and decided to “retire,” but after her two sons reached school age she found herself looking for a new challenge.
Owning her own business left her selective about who she would work for, so she started exploring options that gave her freedom. A friend suggested franchise consulting, and she found she not only enjoyed it but also was very good at it.
“It’s like I’m a guidance counselor for adults,” she said. “You’re helping them on their path to what they want to do.”
FranChoice invites franchise consultants to join their brand after they demonstrate exceptional skills and produce good results. Wilds calls them the Cadillac of franchise matchmaking; they’ve placed more than 5,000 franchisees since 2000.
You won’t hear Wilds name-drop franchises she works with, and that’s because the list of FranChoice franchises is constantly changing. Wilds will recommend a franchisor only if she is positive they will do a good job of training the franchisee and following up on them.
“Any franchise worth your check should have outstanding training and support,” she said. “They don’t just take your money and say, ‘Hope you make it.’ ”
Mike Toomey is the owner of Signs By Tomorrow, a franchise Wilds helped him decide on after retiring from working as a vice president at E-Z-Go. Her thoroughness and the FranChoice process was such a help, he said.
“There’s gazillions of franchises out there, and the FranChoice process was so deliberate I felt much more secure,” he said. “Some of the things I had never even thought of, and it was a very thorough process.”
Toomey bought Signs By Tomorrow in 2005 and has enjoyed the ups and downs of owning his own business.
Wilds said this kind of success story is why she loves her job.
“What they learn from me, they can’t Google,” she said. “I’m helping people realize their dreams.”