Nick Francis is the Chief Visionary Officer (CVO) and founder of The Franchise Group (TFG) formerly Franchise Studios, an award-winning agency located in Boston and the south coast of Massachusetts. Francis brings many assets to the design process including proficiency in web, film and motion graphics, event creative and production, and new media as well as an affinity for new collaborative processes and technologies. Follow him @the_franchise.
What is the first thing you did to turn your current business from an idea into a reality?
I signed a client. It sounds simple, of course, but in reality I was well groomed. With a great mentor (my first creative director in an agency), along with plenty of professors and a businessman for a father, it was time to take the leap on my own. So I signed a client I knew would sustain me for several months. In the interim, I figured out how to fill the gaps and the work started coming in.
What is the scariest part of being a young entrepreneur and how can others overcome this fear?
I’m likely on the tail end of being considered a “young entrepreneur,” but really being scared is a great trait to have. It’s part of what makes us human and should never fully go away. If you aren’t scared, then you aren’t taking enough chances or setting high goals.
To tackle the fear, the best advice I can offer is to simply try. Alan Watts famously said, “Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.” I couldn’t agree more. Starting with your idea, vetting it properly and drafting a solid plan is a great way to shake off the scary part and focus on what matters; becoming a success.
Were you ever told not to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams? Who told you that, what did they say and why did you ignore them?
My parents; six, seven or eight times over. Of course I’m mostly joking, but they feared my undergrad and graduate school loans would be too much to overcome when starting my own shop. I tried to block out their concern. But because they are my biggest fans and (fortunately) a last resort safety net, the last thing I ever want to do is disappoint. It’s actually what allowed me to grow my business.
I have a background in visual design (undergrad) and motion graphics/film (grad) so I understood those worlds. But what put me over the top was joining forces with a former college friend who was well-versed in web. It gave me a full design studio offering of capabilities and allowed me to almost always be a “YES” man from the start.
What is the No. 1 thing you wish you’d known starting out and how did you learn it?
There are so many lessons I learned along the way. Because we offer a service as a business, the importance of a buttoned-up service agreement, contract and proposal can’t be emphasized enough. We experienced a few sizable clients defaulting on payment due to a lack of a solid service agreement early on, when we relied on those payments as a means of survival.
What do you recommend all new founders do for their business — or their personal lives — that will help them the most?
I read recently that millennials don’t want work-life balance. They prefer (and are seeking) a healthy work-life blend. Sure, it can be argued semantically — but it made me stop and think. Being passionate about what you do and loving your job/business often blurs the lines when it comes to what is work and what is play. But making sure you have a solid blend of work and life (together as much as separately) will lead you to a life that is satisfying AND gratifying.
Be sure to carve out “you time” each and every day, even if it’s shutting your eyes for five minutes on the train into work to be still or stop and appreciate a family walking through the park. You time is so important. Work-life blend is so important.
How do you end each day and why?
During the summer, I end nearly every day with a small dish of mint chocolate chip ice cream as I sit down with my wife to discuss our days. On Fridays, I substitute that with a solid Belgian-style beer or Hendrick’s gin and tonic. I do this to reward myself for a great or (sometimes) trying day. Talking with my wife helps ground me and remind me of what truly matters.
What is your best PR/marketing tip for business just starting up?
We are in marketing/advertising, yet we’ve never placed an ad, marketed ourselves or cold called anyone.
The best thing you can do is twofold: network and make sure you build personal connections. Personal connections help build trust rapidly and networking allows you to have that one-to-one interaction where you can practice your pitch and really find out what resonates with others.
We’ve built our business on our network and how well our clients perform when utilizing our agency. That same network has taken us from company to company, as senior level executives changed jobs and created new opportunities several times over with their networks as well.
What is your ultimate goal? What will you do if/when you get there?
My goal, or more my mantra, is to stay hungry. Never be satisfied. I never truly set ultimate goals. We set goals as an agency every year. We’ve fine-tuned our service offerings to really focus on our strengths. In 2015, we’re focused on taking those strengths and tackling new areas of business. We’re currently well-versed in tech, enterprise software, enterprise social media and healthcare.
This year we’ve been actively working on growing into retail and destination marketing. We’ve seen successes early on and have several proposals out that will help us achieve those goals and really round out our portfolio with regards to business specialties.