The benefits of being the first franchisee of a system can be summarized in three words: ground floor opportunity. Yet being a system’s pioneer often means being a guinea pig, too. You’re buying into a system before anyone else even hears of the opportunity, but you’re taking on the risks of the unknown that, say, a McDonald’s franchisee doesn’t necessarily face.
It was a risk Laurie Radloff was willing to bear. Radloff was a 24-year-old branch manager of a small travel agency in Cranbrook, British Columbia, with seven years’ travel agency experience when Uniglobe Travel approached her in 1981 about being the first franchisee of its fledgling chain. Though she had no entrepreneurial intentions, Radloff was attracted by the idea of being part of a travel chain with global aspirations. “One of the concerns I had, being in a rather rural community, was access to things like training and supplier programs, and we’d gone from being part of a 17-branch chain to a three-branch chain,” she says of her employer at the time of the Uniglobe offer. “At the time I met with Uniglobe, the fundamental things they planned on building were the very things I saw a need for.”
Franchise Zone spoke with Radloff, who has been president of Vancouver-based Uniglobe Travel Western Canada since 1986, about whether it’s a good idea to become a system’s first franchisee.
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