Make me a match

Tim and Leigh Ostiguy knew they wanted their own business. The challenge was finding the right one.

Sylvan Lake’s Snap Fitness is one of the franchises that Marlene Williams of MatchPoint Franchise Consulting Network introduced to its current owners to.

Tim and Leigh Ostiguy knew they wanted their own business. The challenge was finding the right one.

Franchises appealed to the Sylvan Lake couple, who embarked on the arduous process of identifying possibilities and then contacting the companies behind those business concepts.

“It was daunting, time-consuming,” said Leigh. “It was just a big pain in the neck. We just felt like we didn’t know where to go next.”

Complicating their search was the fact the Ostiguys have a blended family with eight children. They needed a business that fit their lifestyle and time commitments.

Enter Marlene Williams, a consultant with MatchPoint Franchise Consulting Network. The Toronto-based company she works for connects franchise companies with prospective operators.

It currently represents about 170 franchised businesses, ranging from specialty retail to automotive to food.

“We worked together for approximately four months trying to find the right business,” said Williams of her relationship with the Ostiguys.

Ultimately, Tim and Leigh settled on Snap Fitness, a network of cardio and strength-training centres that members can access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They opened a gym in Sylvan Lake in January, another in Lacombe in late April, and are now contemplating a third elsewhere in Central Alberta.

Leigh said Snap Fitness has been an ideal business for her and Tim. They like to promote a healthy lifestyle and don’t have to spend long hours at their gyms.

“I know that we wouldn’t have discovered it ourselves,” she said, comparing Williams’ work to that of an introduction service that places compatible people into relationships.

“She’s just a matchmaker, but she does it with businesses and people.”

Williams lives in Sylvan Lake, but deals with prospective franchisees across Canada.

“I just recently placed a client in New Brunswick,” she said.

Central Alberta is her focus, however. Three of the clients she’s placed into franchises since joining MatchPoint in 2007 are from Sylvan Lake.

A key part of her job, said Williams, is learning about the people who approach her for help. She estimates that she spends about 20 hours with each client — learning about their interests, needs and strengths.

That allows her to focus on franchise options best suited for each client.

“Somebody who’s not very sales-oriented isn’t going to be looking for a business that has a high sales component,” she explained.

Williams does not charge for her time. Instead, MatchPoint collects a fee from the franchise companies it represents.

The payoff for those companies, she said, are introductions to quality, prospective operators.

“We’re not wasting the client’s time or the franchisor’s time. You’re connecting two people that you know have a path toward success.”

MatchPoint’s roster of franchise opportunities is growing, said Williams, with each carefully screened.

“We do take them through a very exhaustive background check before we’ll even represent them in our inventory.”

A 55-year-old grandmother, Williams spent more than 30 years in the retail industry before joining MatchPoint. She worked primarily as a multi-unit retail manager for big companies like Movie Gallery, helping individual outlets with issues like cost reduction, revenue growth and staff development.

A decision to operate her own business led Williams to MatchPoint, where she instead became one of the company’s first Canadian consultants. There are now about a half-dozen here, with that number expected to grow further.

Many Canadians are looking for business opportunities, explained Williams. Some lost jobs or investment income during the economic downturn, others have simply grown tired of working for others.

Regardless, franchises are a good option, she said. They are based on proven formulas, allow the operator to jump into business immediately, provide support systems and offer brand recognition and marketing resources.

They are not, added Williams, get-rich-quick schemes.

“It’s about steady, consistent, go out there every day and follow a system.”

She thinks her role in matching entrepreneurs and franchises is critical, because a business person’s commitment to the product or service they sell is more important than the product or service itself.

“I truly believe in my heart you have to be passionate about what you do and love what you do.”

Additional information about MatchPoint Franchise Consulting Network can be found online at www.matchpointnetwork.com. Williams can be contacted by email at mwilliams@matchpointnetwork.com.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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