Steve Beagelman of SMB Franchise Advisors: Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Franchising My Business

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Be prepared to work hard — starting to franchise your business is a new business unto itself that will need a certain level of your time and attention.

The world of franchising offers a unique blend of entrepreneurship and established business models. However, navigating the franchise landscape can be daunting, especially for those embarking on this journey for the first time. There are lessons to be learned, pitfalls to avoid, and success stories to be inspired by. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Beagelman.

Steve Beagelman is a franchise industry veteran, with over 35 years of experience holding various positions from entrepreneur to senior level executive, giving him a unique insight and perspective in growing, operating, and building brands. In 2009, Steve established SMB Franchise Advisors, a franchise consulting company specializing in advising franchise start-ups and existing franchise concepts of ways to drive business growth. Now almost 15 years later, the company has helped over 500 brands launch into franchising. Steve specializes in private equity transactions and in helping SMB clients expand their brands. He also invests in franchise brands across several different industries.

Outside of SMB, Steve regularly writes for as an expert in the franchise industry and has been quoted numerous times in the Wall Street Journal, Franchising World and Franchise Times and recently contributed to a book, “Franchising Strategies.” Steve sits on several boards in the franchise industry and is a frequent guest speaker at colleges and franchise conferences.

Steve’s career began in a family packaging business back in 1986. By the time he was 21 years old, he spearheaded his own franchise operation as the co-founder of Black Tie Express, a start-up multi-restaurant delivery service. The company grew to a successful 30-unit operation, and Steve completed the title sale to Takeout Taxi, the market leader. He has also held top-level positions at popular franchise brands Hollywood Tans, Saladworks, Rita’s Water Ice, and Restaurant Systems International.

In 2006, Steve received his Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) from the International Franchise Association (IFA). He is a graduate of Pace University, holding a bachelor’s degree in business, with a concentration in business management.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about succession, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

My career started in franchising over 35 years ago when my parents opened a small packaging and shipping store that they decided to expand through franchising. I had the opportunity to learn all about franchising while I was in high school including being an intern for the company’s VP of Sales. While in college, I started to sell franchises for the family business and that was just the beginning of my career. A few years later, while finishing college, I created the first independent food delivery service for restaurants that didn’t deliver as I opened my open business. It was a big success and I expanded the business through franchising. This was way before Uber Eats or Door Dash ever existed! We didn’t have any of the amazing technology those businesses all have, but it was exciting and a lot of fun. We franchised the business and grew it to become one of the largest in the world with 30 plus franchise locations before selling the company at the end of 1994 to the market leader at the time Takeout Taxi. I then spent the next 15 years building franchise brands like Rita’s Italian Ice, Saladworks, and Hollywood Tans as a senior executive before starting SMB Franchise Advisors in 2009, a franchise consulting company that helps people franchise their business and supports existing franchisors to grow and expand in franchising.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

With so many years in the franchising industry, I have many great stories I could tell… it is hard to choose just one! It would be the fact that early on in my career I started the food delivery industry before it was a thing. We didn’t have technology like it exists today. We didn’t have GPS or cell phones as they were just starting to come out and our drivers couldn’t afford them. We used two-way walkie talkies to communicate with our drivers and they used Hagstrom maps to figure out how to get to the homes or offices for their deliveries. It is all about how you get things done when you are growing your business, and there are hundreds of great stories like that from the brands we’ve worked with today.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

You can’t bring back yesterday, no matter how smart or rich you are. I learned early in my career that doing things the right way was always better than doing them the quick way, and that with focus and determination your true goal was never out of reach. The only thing you can control is your focus on today’s needs and continue to make a difference for tomorrow.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The thing that makes our company at SMB Franchise Advisors stand out is our Franchise Family! We say that over and over again to the more than 500 companies and brands we have worked with. We truly are a franchise family and that is what makes us different compared to anyone else. We have networking events every year including our annual SMB Franchise Advisors Summit. Here we bring our franchisors together and we have roundtables on best practices in the franchise industry; including topics like franchise sales, operations, finance, private equity, technology, a vendor hall, and a panel of the pros led by successful franchisor clients of ours that have grown their companies to hundreds of franchise locations. We have a keynote speaker and end the our event with an amazing evening celebration. Our franchise family comes year after year to continuously learn and to share their successes.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What factors did you consider when selecting your franchise, and how did you determine it was the right fit for you?

When deciding if your brand is right to start franchising, a founder needs to think about what it means to grow their successful business, what options they can take. Franchising is exciting but a big commitment. You are about to help others become franchisees of your brand and operate in their communities across the country. Are you ready to train and support others to do this? Are you willing to give up some control? Can you devote the time and attention you need to start and run a franchise company? Franchisees will rely on you and your team to help guide and train them on the business model you have created.

Can you share a significant challenge you faced while establishing your franchise? How did you overcome this obstacle, and what did this experience teach you about running a successful franchise?

Our mission is to educate and empower leaders who are ready to grow their business by franchising. Challenges in franchising include all of the normal business challenges, and then layer on growth concerns. For example, when considering training best practices, we ask founders if they are ready to go from a player in their business to a coach of other operators; can you train and teach others their business? Are you a key person in making day-to-day operations of your business successful? To overcome these and other early challenges, our team offers boutique fractional support in every function to cover franchise growth that is needed while a founder prepares their business to scale.

Looking back to when you first started your franchise, what was one aspect that completely took you by surprise? This could be related to the franchising process, customer interactions, or day-to-day management that you hadn’t anticipated.

The one thing that seems to surprise some clients of ours at SMB Franchise Advisors is the fact that they are no longer the operators in their business. Franchising is not only a new industry for your brand or a new way to grow the business, but is a new business in and of itself.

Founders should be excited about the opportunities franchising will afford them, but also be ready to manage the needs of their new business, the “franchise company”. It involves a lot of responsibility! Overtime, founders need to consider when and how to hire a team to support their franchisees. This is typically a new skill set that most franchisors don’t initially have when they are starting out, but we help develop those skills in them as they grow.

In hindsight, what advice would you give to potential franchisors about their personal and professional goals?

Make sure you are ready to start and run another business with the team you have around you. Be prepared to work hard, it takes time to build any successful business and a franchise brand is no different! Your team, your development partners, your attorneys and all other advisors in your corner should be ready to rise to the occasion and support your success.

How do you balance adhering to the established systems of your franchise with the need to innovate and adapt to your local market? Can you provide an example of a successful adaptation or innovation you implemented in your franchise?

Technological innovation has surely been the number one question we get from our clients. Whether it is driven by their product improvements for operations of their franchisees or the administrative layer of running their company as a franchisor, tools like HubSpot,, ClickUp and more have proven invaluable to many of our brands as they manage the entire workflows of their franchise system to optimize for their planned growth in the future.

What are your “Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Franchising a business If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

1 . Be prepared to work hard — starting to franchise your business is a new business unto itself that will need a certain level of your time and attention.

2 . Grow smart not fast — you don’t want to make the mistakes of growing with the wrong franchise partners too fast, too misplaced all over the country, or too costly until you can support your franchisees the right way.

3 . Make sure you have good books and records — try to start from a place of organization!

4 . Have enough capital to grow the right way — franchising your business will require capital including research and development dollars in the beginning of your growth journey to do it right. Be aware of that and make sure your vendor partners are the right fit to help you get where you want to go.

5 . Hire the right advisors and professionals so you don’t make costly mistakes — from attorneys to accountants to auditors to consultants and development companies, there are many people in the franchise industry who are here to help you. Make sure they fit your culture values, your vision of the company, and your budget so that you don’t need to duplicate your ground work efforts.

As your franchise has grown, what have been the key drivers of its success? Looking forward, what strategies do you plan to implement to ensure continued growth and sustainability in an ever-evolving market?

At SMB Franchise Advisors, we say all the time that our client’s success is our success. Having worked with over 500 brands in 100 industries to grow their business through franchising, the most successful brands match not only franchisee profitability to their corporate success goals, but also their new product innovations, mission, vision and core values.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

Continuing to provide top level coaching and consulting for our amazing franchise founders and executives is truly always on my mind. My team and I, we love what we do and we are proud to do it every single day. We love franchising and want to always provide the best-in-class service and support to help our brands grow, and a lot of times that means having the right relationships in the industry to call on at the right time through our partner network for the good of all of our brands.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want to use the next chapter of my career to educate more and more young people on the franchise industry. It is great to be an entrepreneur and start your own business like I did back in the days of my food delivery business with Black Tie Express, or by becoming a franchisee of a business. There is no more accessible or equitable form of business growth on the planet, where both parties (franchisees and franchisors) have their incentives aligned to WIN!

How can our readers further follow you online?

Whether you are preparing your business to franchise, wanting to launch your brand into the franchise industry, or are ready to Grow your existing franchise brand, check us out at and on LinkedInInstagram, and Facebook. For me, follow Steve Beagelman on where I am a regular contributor on all things franchising.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.