How do the top franchises recruit new franchisees?

This question was what we set out to answer in our paper: Franchise branding: An organizational identity perspective , published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

Growing entrepreneurial ventures at a rapid clip in a sustainable way is challenging in the best of times. Franchising provides a valuable mechanism for doing so while preserving valuable resources. However, attracting the right franchisees is clearly very important for firms opting for this growth mechanism as bringing on the wrong franchisee can spell problems for entrepreneurs.

As content analysts, we were naturally interested in how the top franchisers present themselves to potential franchisees differently from everyone else. It didn’t fully click with us at the onset, but our reviewers helped us to find that we were looking at the branding of franchises. So we set out to examine the role of language in franchise branding. Specifically we sought to understand how franchisers used language associated with entrepreneurial orientation, market orientation, and charismatic language to attract franchisees.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we find that top franchisers tend to use more language associated with an entrepreneurial orientation (i.e., autonomy, competitive aggressiveness, innovativeness, proactiveness, and risk taking; Lumpkin & Dess, 1996). Franchisees essentially become entrepreneurs unto themselves when launching a franchise. While the structure of these ventures differ from what we often think of when we discuss entrepreneurship, franchisees nevertheless take bold entrepreneurial action in the face of uncertainty. Our findings highlight the importance of communicating with potential franchisees as such.

We also find that top franchisers tend to use more language associated with a market orientation (i.e., Customer Orientation, Competitor Orientation, Interfunctional Coordination, Long-Term Focus, and Profitability; Narver & Slater, 1990). Firms that are more market oriented routinely outperform those that do not. Accordingly, top franchisers should want to identify franchisees who are market oriented and may communicate this orientation in franchisee recruitment materials. Here too, our findings point to a higher emphasis on market orientation among top franchisers.

The role of language associated with charismatic leadership in franchisee branding is less pronounced. On the one hand, the franchiser-franchisee relationship is not dissimilar from the leader-follower relationship, and charismatic leaders tend to be particularly effective at influencing followers to forsake their individual interests for the advancement of the collective (e.g., Shamir & Howell, 1999). In-line with this, we find that the top franchisers do generally use more charismatic rhetoric. On the other hand, we find that this effect is primarily driven by the collective focus, values, and tangibility dimensions of such rhetoric.

On the whole, there do seem to be significant differences in the way that top franchisers communicate with potential franchisees. I suspect that these differences of language in franchise branding are not limited to entrepreneurial orientation, market orientation, and charismatic rhetoric. Perhaps better understanding these differences may provide key insights that help entrepreneurs pursuing a franchising growth strategy do so faster and more sustainably.

“Family businesses may be neglecting an important source of sustainable competitive advantage by failing to nurture a market orientation”

Mind Your Market

Family Business and Market Orientation: Construct Validation and Comparative Analysis in Family Business Review was my first journal article.

In this article, Miles Zachary, Jeremy Short, G. Tyge Payne, and I develop and validate dictionary-based computer-aided text analysis dictionaries for market orientation. We then use these dictionaries to examine the market orientation of family businesses and compare them to those of non-family businesses. 

Market orientation is a strategic orientation used by organizations that generate, disseminate, and use market information throughout the firm. In this study, we draw from Narver and Slater’s (1990) five-dimensional conceptualization of market orientation as Customer Orientation, Competitor Orientation, Interfunctional Coordination, Long-Term Focus, and Profitability. We developed and validated a content analytic dictionary for each of these dimensions and used them to assess the market orientations of the S&P 500 firms, comparing those firms that might be characterized as family businesses with those that were not.

We found that family businesses were generally less market-oriented than non-family businesses and that these findings were driven in large part to a lower emphasis on competitors and profitability. Such results aren’t surprising given family businesses’ dual focus on economic and family goals. However, it does suggest that family businesses may be leaving money on the table: the marketing literature has routinely found that a market orientation leads to better financial performance.

In our 2018 Journal of Management paper, we refine the market orientation dictionaries to improve the reliability of the dictionary-based computer-aided text analysis measures. The new measures can be found here as well.

Starting Afresh…

A new look to keep the trains running smoothly.

404 – Page Not Found… it’s there, I swear!

Error Establishing Database Connection… *grumbles in PHP*

This is why I am in business and not computer science. (Seriously, I was a hair away from being a computer science major in undergrad, but debugging PHP during the dot-com boom turned me off of it.)

Anyway, welcome to the refreshed and It’s now a WordPress/BoldGrid site instead of my own custom PHP code, so hopefully that means less upkeep and fewer bugs. It also enables me to do something I’ve been meaning to do for some time… this.

I’m doing this mostly to hold myself accountable for staying up-to-date on reading interesting things from both the academic and popular business press. As I get engrossed in my own research, I often slow down on reading other work not directly related to the paper in question. Some of that is natural and appropriate, but sometimes I end up taking it farther than I should… I want to see if this helps.

What to expect…


WILT  – What I Learned Today

I love learning new things, and I suspect I’m not the only one. So when I learn something I find novel/interesting enough to share, I intend to post it here. It’s not going to be every day, but a couple times a week seems reasonable.


As I publish new work, I will provide an extended abstract of the work, perhaps some thoughts about it, and provide a link for those interested in reading more. In academia, we typically take a bit of a passive view on promoting our work. I appreciate the modesty of it all, but it does lend to the feeling that we’re talking (only) to ourselves. Maybe this is a happy medium between isolation and aggressive self-promotion?

Useful Tools/Techniques/Tricks

Jeremy Short and I designed the computer-aided text analysis package CAT Scanner to provide researchers with a free text analysis tool. In my research, I’m often developing little tools to help me do things faster/ easier. If I think others might be interested in trying out these tools, I’ll share them here as well.


As I am working through perplexity—whether theory development, methodological choices, or pedagogical decisions—it is tremendously helpful for me to get my thoughts down in writing. By trying to articulate my thoughts in a clear manner, I often find that the solution becomes more apparent as well. I see this being useful to that end as well.

At any rate, welcome to the new, cleaner