Aicha Bascaro | The “How” Behind Expanding Your Franchise

In today’s episode of the Franchise Freedom Podcast, we chat with franchise industry veteran Aicha Bascaro. Aicha has been in the franchise industry for over 30 years and is the CEO and founder of the American Franchise Academy.

Aicha’s industry experience is largely on the corporate side of franchise transactions, along with managing operations with direct P&L responsibilities for brands such as Domino’s Pizza, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, and Olive Garden.

The American Franchise Academy is a fantastic source of information and focuses on helping franchisees turn their one unit franchise into a multi-unit enterprise through systems that increase employee retention and productivity, reduce costs, and increase productivity.

We’ll chat with Aicha about working with both franchisees and franchisors and improving profitability, as well as…

  • The different stages of a franchise brand
  • Why franchising is an excellent vehicle for entrepreneurship
  • How to expand after you’ve started up your first franchis
  • The best ways to monitor your progress and ensure you’re hitting your goals
  • Why semi-absentee franchise ownership may be counterproductive

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Giuseppe Grammatico: Welcome to the Franchise Freedom Podcast. I’m your host Giuseppe Grammatico your franchise guide, and today we have a very special guest. Today we have Aicha Bascaro. Aicha is the founder and CEO of The American Franchise Academy and a 30-plus year veteran in the franchise industry. Aicha has worked on the corporate side and managed operations with direct p&l responsibility for brands like Domino’s Pizza, Popeye’s, Louisiana Kitchen and Olive Garden.

Her academy focuses on helping franchisees turn their one-unit franchise job into a multi-unit enterprise through systems that increase employee retention and productivity, reduce costs and increase profitability. Her clients are from the US and around the world. Aicha, very excited to be speaking with you today and welcome to the Franchise Freedom Podcast.

Aicha Bascaro: Thank you, Giuseppe. Thank you for inviting me and having me.

Giuseppe: Yes, absolutely. Very excited. I know, you know, we had a chance to speak briefly earlier. It was on the website. Very impressed with what I saw. So I would think it just, we’ll dive right in. I wanted to give the audience, fill us in maybe a little bit on your background. You know, how did you get into this business? And what has that journey looked like?

From Pizza Delivery to Franchising Expert

Aicha: Yeah, you know, like many people in the franchise world, I think, we end up in this industry by chance. I actually had graduated from college, had a little boutique business. And in less than a year I failed miserably because I didn’t really know about business management. And I was 21 years old, and I was thinking, Okay, what job can I do that will make me enough money to pay my bills, and being able to, you know, still have fun while I figure out what my next step was. And a pizza delivery person drove in front of me and I looked at it and said Hey, you know what? Delivering pizzas.

That sounds cool. You can be in your car and listen to your music, make some money and everybody’s always happy to see you. And so that’s how I started in my franchise journey working for a corporate store in Dallas, Texas 32 years ago and change, and it’s been amazing. Since then, I realized how much you could learn in the industry. I was working, like I said, in a corporate environment and corporate unit, and I was able to move up in the world from being a delivery driver, assistant manager, manager, supervisor, international training.

I was in international for about eight years, whether it was training master franchisees or opening new markets. I opened the first unit in Spain for Domino’s, the first unit in Dominican Republic for Domino’s. Supported master franchisees throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Anyways moved up in the world. And I went back and forth from being on the field responsible for franchise organizations, being the liaison between the master franchisees and the brand.

But I also had instances in which I was actually running operations for Domino’s. For example, I actually run 63 restaurants in three states being in charge of the Atlanta region, with Domino’s. I was with Popeye’s, I was in charge of the Atlanta region for Popeyes corporate, 26 restaurants. And Olive Garden I was also in the Georgia region, overseeing several Olive Gardens. And so I went from there to also work in the corporate offices. I worked in the headquarters of Domino’s for four years for the COO there. I also worked for the COO at the Popeye’s.

So I had, I’m one of those rare individuals that had both the financial direct p&l responsibility of operations as well as being corporate side looking at the strategic aspect of the organizations. And so how I, you know, how I ended up where I am today is because after 25, 26 years in the industry, I realized that, you know, especially the big brands have a lot of, you know, infrastructure support. Amazing, capable professionals, but very few people were actually looking after the franchisees.

And so I had a break in my career where I took a little sabbatical that turned into consulting that turned into coaching that turned into building the academy. So it’s been quite a long journey, and I just love what I do now and we’re expanding from, you know, helping franchisees improve like you just mentioned in my bio, their profitability so that they can become multi-unit entrepreneurs, but also are starting to work with emerging franchise stores and helping them build the systems that the big boy brands have so that they can be the same success. So, I mean, it’s been a long, long career, but I loved every minute of it.

Giuseppe: Wow, that’s great. Sounds like you’ve been all over. You’ve accomplished quite a bit. So congrats on the success there. But by the way, I will mention too that my family had owned a restaurant. So very familiar with delivery of pizza. So that, one of my favorite jobs was as you said, you know, got to listen to music, met some really nice people and some nice tips.

So I definitely miss those times as well, Brought back some good memories. So I know we had talked about it, but just for the audience, so, you know, on your, in the new business on the American Franchise Academy, you work, from my understanding, work with, directly with franchisees as well as franchisors. correct?

Coaching Franchisees and Franchisors

Aicha: Yeah, that’s right. You know, the foundation of the academy initially was focused on franchisees, being able to teach them, give them knowledge, tools and resources so that they can implement the systems they needed so that they can improve the profitability, understand their financials, you know, hire and retain great people, do the local store marketing.

The things that, you know, but, you know, that are the responsibility of the franchisee. And Giuseppe, the way that I always tell everybody because I have spent a lot of time, you know, creating structures and ways in which I can communicate these things with people in which they can understand. The way that I always teach the franchise business is the franchise business really has two parts. It actually is not just a franchise business, but any business has two parts. One part is the brand. What you sell, right?

Everything that the customer sees, touches, buys and enjoys. That is the brand side of the business. But then there’s the other side of the business which is a management of it, right? And that is when it comes to the employees, the controls, the financials, local store marketing, cash control, all those things. And so when you buy a franchise, you buy the brand, right? You buy the product, the service, the image, the procedures to duplicate that brand. You do not buy a business degree.

And that is a big confusion that is happening, you know, there has been in the franchise world in the US and around the world because I’m solving a problem everywhere. And so I tell everybody, look, you’re buying the brand. You’re buying an amazing half of the problem. But your responsibility now is to learn how to make the most money out of it. And so our academy focuses on helping franchisees and surprisingly enough intrapreneurs that are independent, how do we implement those business management systems, that business degree, right?

So that they can make the profit out of whatever brand they either invested in or created themselves. And so you have to have that. You have to have a great brand first to be able to then make money. And so that’s why we really have focused on franchisees even though some of our customers today are franchisors because as people have reached out to us, we have learned that there are franchisors that don’t even have these maintenance management systems in their own business.

And so as they develop these great brands, right, they’re probably like great chefs or great creative people with amazing product and serve as an image but they don’t know how to read a profit and loss statement. They don’t know how to hire the best people. They don’t know how to create business systems. And so our clients today are literally a third of them are franchisees, a third of them are franchisors, and a third of them are independent business owners.

The one thing that we are starting to work on 2020 rollout is we’re starting to take in some clients, not a lot, just some franchisor, emerging franchisor clients that want to start implementing franchisor systems. And we haven’t really gotten into that. It was part of our evolution for the academy, which we’re starting right now probably launching full-on next year. Because there are emerging franchisors. I mean, there’s what 300 brands opening every year, and many of them close because they think, right, and I’m sure you’re aware of they think, Oh, you know, I have a great brand and now I can start selling franchises.

And they go get a lawyer, they create great legal documents and, you know, start selling the franchises not realizing that there’s a heck of a lot more behind that. And so being able to properly support and grow those franchisees, which is what I call the franchisor systems, is critical. And so then that is why we started work on that this year and probably expanding a lot more next year. So we do work with franchisees and franchisors but in those terms. Does that make sense?

Giuseppe: Yeah, absolutely. And that, we talked about this on one of my previous shows, but, you know, we talked about not all franchisors or, you know, franchise companies are created equal. Some are at different stages. You know, obviously, the emerging brands are going to need some help. Some of the more established have their systems in place. But when a potential franchising investor is looking at a franchise, they’re looking for that system.

They want the product or service in place. They want that business in a box. They want to be able to invest, train and get to work. So, but, you know, on occasion franchisors, I would see a huge market especially in the emerging brands definitely do need that assistance. And, you know, they may have the capacity to maybe sell out or cover an entire state but they need a little bit of help as they start to expand nationally.

So this is your, this is a huge resource. There’s definitely a lot of demand out there for you, and to anyone listening well at the very end of the show, I would love to give out all your contact information and website so everyone has that readily available should they need to contact you. Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. So, changing gears a little bit. So, kind of taking a step back, franchising in general, why, you know, you’ve worked for some of the brands, you obviously have your, the Academy, you know, why do you like franchising as a vehicle for entrepreneurship?

Why Aicha is Passionate About Franchising

Aicha: You know, I love franchising. And I think it goes back to where it all started. Remember I mentioned that I had a little boutique? It, you know, it’s a creator brand, a created name, a create an image and to be able to have the ability and the skills to create a brand, product, a service, the image, right? That people or customers want and desire and are going to invest or buy from, it takes a lot of abilities because let’s say that it’s a food service, you need to be a chef and have commercial kitchen experience.

You need to be able to understand suppliers and how to manage and negotiate them you need to be able to understand the design and function and colors to put the image of the building, right? In a way that is pleasing and people want to, you know, find enjoyable that they want to revisit. You want to be able to have the ability, you need to have the ability of creating training materials and understanding how adults learn and how to create manuals and documents and training procedures.

I mean, all of those are hundreds of different types of skills and abilities that somebody needs to be able to create a brand that is going to be successful. And this is the reason why so many independent business owners open and close. It’s not because they don’t work hard enough or they don’t, you know, they don’t know, they don’t love what they do, but they don’t have the skills to do all that those successfully. In the meantime, there are brands that have spent time, money, resources and have hired the experts in each and every one of those areas to create a successful brand.

And so that’s what happened with me. My brand failed way back when. I went into this Domino’s Pizza Corporation and I realized how a good brand automatically opens the doors and, you know, for the possibility of success in a way that somebody that is going to do it on their own doesn’t. And so, that’s why I love franchising because it literally solves half the problem. And I keep calling it half the problem because the other part, the other half is actually managing to make profits, right?

So having that ability to be able to acquire a brand and have all of those things already solved, it just makes your probability for success so much higher, but not guaranteed because the other half is up to you. And obviously, there’s another element of having the right location and the right capital to start with. So that’s why I love it. Because if you really truly are committed to being an entrepreneur and you do not have, you’re not one of those rare people that have all those skills and abilities and all the money to hire this, to hire the experts to do it, then a franchise just makes sense.

Giuseppe: Right. Now that’s great. Very well put, could not agree more. And when people ask me for advice, I always tell them if you want to be involved in a franchise or get a really good sense of what’s going on, go work for one of the larger companies that have the systems in place. Maybe see if you can bounce around and work in various departments and get some exposure because you’re not going to learn necessarily all this information or get all this experience in school, right?

I mean, you have to go out into the real world. Sometimes it’s figuring things out the hard way. I’ve owned a non-franchise and franchise businesses. So, but even, you know, with certain franchises, there’s parts to figure out as well. So very well put. That was great. One, this was also a topic on one of the shows and I’m also in the process of finishing up my first book and, you know, the question I get a lot is, so, you know, you talked about a third of the business or clients you’re working with are existing franchisees.

So, you know, being a consultant and helping individuals get into franchising, one of the number one questions I’m getting is okay, I like franchising. I like everything about it. You know, we always start out with an intro call. And they have, they’re corporate executives, they have a great job, they’re making a nice six-figure plus income, but they want to keep their jobs and run semi-absentee. Or, you know, some of them are kind of doing, you know, splitting the time, you know, half the time at the job, half the time running their franchise, and then they just want to expand.

You know, they go from one location to the whole state. Maybe that’s four or five territories or an entire region. So it sounds like you work with those people that maybe have, you know, did well in their first or original location, then they want to expand to more of an area developer, specifically, just because we have such a high demand, so many questions around semi-absentee ownership. How do I, you know, after buying my first unit, how do I expand? Can you tell folks on the call, just specifically how you’re able to help them with expansion and growing their business that way?

How Aicha Helps Franchise Owners to Grow

Aicha: Yeah, you know, part of the, of what we do in the program that we actually provide, is the creation of those business systems, right? Because what happens with a lot of entrepreneurs is that they just run things by whatever happens every day. And the lack of systems is what has them be hands-on and having to be present and answering questions over and over. And a lot of times are the same questions over and over because they have not implemented systems, then train their team members and then delegate.

And so the creation of those systems, so when people say, Well, I’ll have somebody I’m going to hire, how do I do it? If there’s already a clear system with a clear process and clear tools and parameters and policies around it, then it’s a simple thing. You just teach that over and over and is repeated. So I do have to say, though, that, you know, we teach that. And by the way, there are programs, even though we have our direct clients, always includes the right-hand person.

We call them the second in command because one person alone cannot, or it’s very difficult to implement all the systems. So it always includes a second in command and so that as a team, they’re implementing systems through the one to 12 units organization. And so the way we help is to help you create what are those systems that you need to put in place so that the team will know so that you know what to train the team in the business side, right? Not the franchise side, not the brand. The brand tells you the product, service image, all that. How do we replicate the brand, right? So that’s taking care of, those materials are there, you just duplicate that.

So what we’re doing is helping you create the processes and procedures so that you can duplicate the management side. So that way everybody knows exactly how to do all the management side, how to implement and execute it and then we give you the tools for you to be able to follow up and manage the business day by day, week by week and be able to identify where you are, how are you doing, where are the challenges so that you spend your time on the issues and not on the potential issues and redirect towards where you want to go and not just all kinds of things in general.

And that’s what happened. Sometimes we spent a lot of time in the things that were not the issue. And because we don’t have the metrics or the reports or the dashboards, we cannot focus on the things that are what you need to spend the time on. And so by creating those systems, you can then, okay, now you have this in the one unit and now you, then you open a second unit, implement those systems and because they’re the exact same systems, you’re able to duplicate that. Now, it’s is a reality that every franchise, depending on what franchise you’re going to buy, will only have X amount of net profit, right?

And so if you’re not going to run the business, you need to understand that what would have been your salary as the manager of that one unit is now going to go to another person that’s going to be the manager of that unit. And so your revenue is going to be just whatever profit of that unit is going to leave you. Now, that might be enough for you, right? Which is great. But then that limits the income that you’re going to have out of the unit if you’re not going to run it. You know, so that’s the absentee issue, it’s always a question because what do they say? If the cat’s not around the mouse play? What is it? How does that go?

Giuseppe: Yeah, that sounds right.

Aicha: And if on top of that you don’t have the management systems in place, I can tell you nightmare stories about clients that we have had, you know? And it’s challenging. So you need to understand the business top to bottom, left and right, especially if you’re not present constantly. And once you know that, then you are able better to manage it. But if you’re not going to be hands-on one unit is not enough. One of the things that we tell, I think you said that at the intro, right? We’ll help you turn your one unit job into a multi-unit enterprise.

Once you have an enterprise, now you can have not only the managers in place, but eventually what we do is we guide you as to how many units you should have so that you can eventually have a district manager to oversee your unit. So that’s part of the process that we teach. Part of our program is how to train the multi-unit district managers. hat’s included in the programs that we help with because there’s also no district manager training out there that I, you know, with the tactics and the strategies and the systems that we teach.

So that’s part of our program so that we not only give you the process to implement the systems, we tell you how many units you should have based on your profitability, but then we’ll help you develop your district managers so that they can then do the job. And then we show you, as a franchisee, what kind of things you need to look at on a daily, weekly, monthly basis so that you can keep track of your business, you know, from wherever you are.

Giuseppe: Right. Now that’s great. And I appreciate you really explaining that because that seems to be a very common question and I always like to take a step back and, you know, maybe the franchisee wants to start with one territory. Some of them want to jump right in, but if they want to run the business or have the, you know, semi-absentee ownership, I always say okay, we have to, you know, when you’re running your numbers, you have to project the general manager salaries and it’s an additional cost.

So, we have to factor all that in there. Plus we need to find the right people, you know, we have to be able to monitor them because they are an employee as well. So we need them, you know, there has to be some trust but there has to be some ways to monitor and make sure that they’re hitting certain goals, milestones, whatever the, you know, whatever the metrics is. So I’m glad you really got into that because that’s a very popular topic lately on my last call, I’d say the last six months or so.

Aicha: I can say a lot about all that.

Giuseppe: Yes, yes. It’s and I’ll be honest, from my experience, because I’ve been doing this for a while, not every franchise is built for even semi-absentee and they’ll, we’ve had some franchise companies that I’ve worked with over the years and said, You know what?

We allowed semi-absentee but you know what, given what the, given our brand and some of the successes and, you know, things that we’ve experienced, we want to revert back and have that owner at least full-time the first year to really know it so that they can, they call it, in some cases, train the trainer, so that they can truly train the general manager by learning the brand. So not every brand, for everyone listening, will allow semi-absentee ownership. So that’s always something I like to bring up on my conversations.

Aicha: Yeah. I actually highly discourage it.

Giuseppe: The semi-absentee?

Why Aicha Discourages Semi-Absentee Franchise Ownership

Aicha: Yeah, I do because see what happens, I mean, I don’t know what business would actually operate to the level that it can financially, operationally, right? And administratively with, you know, with an owner that is not present and understanding, knowing their people, knowing the system following up on the numbers on a consistent basis, right? It’s, I really can, I mean, maybe it is possible but you’re not going to get the results that you could if you are present. And so yeah, that’s what’s really hard.

And the thing is that if you want to be semi-absentee and then have only one unit, I don’t know if it’s worth the stress, the money and the effort to do that. Now if you want to do it and be multi-unit, which is why we so much focus on the multi-unit side, Giuseppe, because if you do the multi-unit, now you have enough revenue to like I said, pay for the managers and then eventually the district manager too. Now you can really have what we call time and financial freedom, right? Because having one unit will give you the financial freedom. You own the job, it’s your best business, you don’t depend on a boss.

But you don’t have time freedom. You only have time freedom once you become a multi-unit franchisee, and now you can have the managers and even eventually the district manager that will give you the time freedom. And that is where I really recommend people to go. And that starts even from the beginning of deciding what brand you want to buy. Because I have some clients that have, you know, one, two units in one market and they want to and are ready to be, to have 6, 7, 8 units, but now they can’t because the brand has sold the market.

And now they’re going to go into a different brand and that brings a whole, being multi-brand, it brings a whole other set of challenges. And so even from the very beginning, you need to decide, do I want to be a single unit, you know, franchise owner and just have the financial freedom of having my own business or do I want to have true, you know, time and financial freedom, then multi-unit has to be and that means that the brands that you look at have to be the ones that are willing and able to sell you an area big enough that you can have your managers and your district managers and then have that enterprise. Does that make sense?

Giuseppe: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s funny you say that because that is part of our consultation. We always ask what type of owner investor that they want to be. We talked, we always talk about the benefits and give all their options as far as the type of ownership. And we just recently had someone looking at a single territory and ended up investing in the whole entire state. Doesn’t have to develop the whole entire state right away, but has a three-year plan, you know, third, a third, a third, essentially, and will develop the entire state over three years.

But was able to acquire the whole state and did not have to worry about when he was ready to expand if a territory will be sold. So 100% agree. I have a whole, it’s a whole section of what we cover because, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. And I like to educate each one of my candidates just on their options and just giving them the heads up, okay, these are your options just in case, you know, there’s different ways of expanding, whether that be additional territory or additional brands within the same franchise family and we get into that.

But I did want to mention one thing, just I apologize and I forgot to mention this, I dove right in and some people this is probably maybe their first show that they’re listening to, and maybe they haven’t listened to other shows. But when we refer to semi-absentee, that means different things for everyone as well. So we have semi-absentee owners that expect to be in the business an hour to a day, there’s others that are investing 20 hours a week, so it does vary.

I know that’s, I always have to clarify so just for everyone listening, that definitely varies. And so I really appreciate your time. You know, we’re approaching the time allotment and I want to, you know, keep good by the length of the call. So, you know, a lot of people are going to be listening, you know, if they want to get some additional information on the services, The American Franchise Academy offers, they want to speak with you, what’s the best way for everyone listening to get a hold of you or get in contact with you?

Aicha: Yeah, absolutely. Well, we’re definitely on LinkedIn. You can find me as Aicha Bascaro. Also the academy, American franchise Academy is on LinkedIn. We have a website. You can send us messages through either one. We are also on Facebook, as Aicha Bascaro, Franchise Business Coach and American Franchise Academy. You can also find me there. If you don’t mind, Giuseppe, I would love to give your audience a gift. Can I do that?

Giuseppe: Oh, yeah, that’d be great. Absolutely.

Aicha: For any of you. I am also a best selling author of two books. One of them is called The Franchise Fix, which even though it’s called The Franchise Fix is not about fixing your franchise, it’s about fixing the franchise but actually by implementing the business systems because a lot of times we think that the problem is the brand, and it’s not the brand. It’s the management systems.

And so that’s the first book. I would love to give the audience a free copy. If you go to, you’re able to download a free electronic copy of the book and check it out. That is a lot of the what that we teach. Obviously, the programs that we do is how you do it. And so if you want to know what we do, download that book, check it out. It will tell you a lot of the what, and then we just help you with the how implementing.

And that’s just part of it. The other part, like I said, is the multi-unit, which is my second book and then the district manager training and so forth so on. But that will give you a pretty good flavor of what we do and we’d love to be able to hear from the audience. It’s something that we are focused on. Everybody in the team, we just want to protect and defend the American dream of entrepreneurship. And I think that, I believe the franchising is one of the best ways, if not the best way to make that happen. And so, love to hear from anybody, and we’re here to serve.

Giuseppe: That’s great. I really appreciate that. That was a surprise. I know we didn’t talk about that. So for anyone looking at the book, We will put that, as well, in the show notes along with the website together with any other information. And yeah, if you have any questions or would like to work with Aicha, feel free to contact her directly.

Aicha, I really appreciate your time. This was very, very helpful. I’m sure there’s a lot of demand out there. And as I mentioned, everyone can contact you directly. For whatever reason, you contact me I can always send you Aicha’s information as well. And Aicha, thanks again. I hope to talk to you soon.

Aicha:You are very welcome Giuseppe. I appreciate it. And let’s spread the message out there and help people achieve their dream of entrepreneurship and keep the economy going. Thank you, Giuseppe.