An Interview with Natalie Barnes, President of Business Alliance, Inc.

President of the premier franchise consultancy firm opens up about why joining BAI is the right opportunity for right now

Natalie Barnes is one of the most well-regarded executives in the franchise broker business, and for good reason.

As president of Business Alliance, Inc., the nation’s longest-running franchise consultancy firm, Barnes oversees a company with a stellar reputation of helping franchise systems with the right entrepreneurs.

The reason why hundreds of brands choose to work with BAI is because our Registered Franchise Consultants are the highest trained in the industry, and our ability to close deals is second to none.

BAI franchise broker business Natalie Barnes President of Business Alliance, Inc

In this interview, Barnes explains why BAI is highly selective in terms of who makes the cut to become a Registered Franchise Consultant, our industry-leading training and support, and why her passion for creating opportunities for entrepreneurs drives BAI’s continued success.

Can you explain what the role of a franchise broker is and why it is so important to the franchise industry?

There’s a huge benefit to what we bring to the table and provide our franchise clients. Sometimes, I explain it like a three-legged stool. One leg is the franchise buyer. The second leg is the franchise company. They get into the weeds and the details. The third leg is the franchise consultant. Their role is to take the franchise buyer through a very methodical process of discovery. Oftentimes, people come to you with one idea, which is usually tied to emotions or an experience they had. They start describing what may be suited for them, but what they do as an owner is something very different.

At BAI, we are in a nice space because we are not representing one brand we have to sell. We represent a few hundred companies in various industries and help identify what is best for that client. At the same time, we look to ensure their qualifications match the requirements of that franchise company. Some people refer to it as matchmaking. So, it’s a really exciting and rewarding journey, working with people with high business confidence who have an entrepreneur background, as well as people who have worked in corporate America who have that dream of business ownership.

What makes BAI stand out in the franchise consultancy industry?

Business Alliance, Inc. has been around since 1991, so we have a lot of history and longevity behind us. Like any company that has been around a long time, we have evolved. And we have evolved into a very healthy space. We are corporate in that we must be relevant to the franchise brokers we have and the franchise clients. So, our selection process is very critical because we need that level of competency and quality. Our franchise brokers are working with clients who have the ability to refer them to that franchise company, so a high level of communication, ongoing professionalism, work ethic, etc., is important.

We are known for quality and for our relevance, and we are very selective because of that. It’s not just the consultants we bring on board, but also our franchise company clients. We are a pretty unique model, as we are performance-based. When a franchise agreement is executed, everyone wins. The franchise consultant gets a very healthy commission, and we get a percentage of that. Our model of support aligns with our vision. We bring franchisees to the franchisors. We are financially healthy because we are tied to those closing deals.

What do you look for in candidates you are trying to recruit for this role in the franchise broker business?

That’s a great question. Who makes a good franchise consultant and who is qualified to be licensed with BAI? We look for a few factors. There is the black and white side of what’s on their resume and what their background has been. Have they owned a business before? Have they been in the franchise world before? But there are also subjective areas. How do they connect with people over the phone? A lot of work done in the franchise broker business is over the phone, via email, and on Zoom, especially now. Do they have that ability to connect with people over the phone? You are going to be asking people about their financials, what their goals are, and very personal questions, so that is where it is very subjective. Their background, their work history, their business competency are all examined.

We also definitely never want somebody who is an aggressive salesperson, but someone who understands sales. This is beneficial because the franchise broker business is a very consultative process, because you are moving that person through that methodical process.

Can you describe some of the advantages of being part of BAI?

Yes, we take pride in our corporate team and the support we provide. Because we are tied to performance, support is critical. We don’t have a receptionist in our office, we have decision-makers, people who are competent in that support.

BAI is tied financially to closed deals, so that is where that support is. We have multi-faceted training from in-person to web-based to different tutorials, round table sessions, but then it goes far beyond that. We are very accessible. Even though our office hours are Pacific Time Zone, we always have two people or more who are accessible seven days a week. The beautiful thing with smartphones is we see those emails coming in, and we want to ensure those consultants are supported. We do take a lot of pride in that.

We emphasize and encourage ongoing education. The majority of us have our CFE designation through the International Franchise Association, which is being mindful of the industry we are in and making sure education is ongoing. We’re not a company focused on “I only handle one department.” If you talk to one person, they can help you, no matter what area it is. Even though every person on the corporate team has an area of specialty, they have the support to help as well.

Do a lot of people on your corporate team have experience as franchise consultants?

Yes. I was actually a franchise consultant for seven years, and I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. I’ve always owned my own business, so I have the experience of being a franchise consultant, working with many clients, working locally as well as nationally, and closing many deals. When I came to this side of corporate, I knew what we needed to do to move to the next step and to be more relevant in the industry, as well as how to measure those results and measure it based on closed deals.

It’s the same with some of our other corporate team members as well. We don’t train, we don’t teach, we don’t support based on theory. We do it based on experience, and that actually ties in a lot to the events we have, the round table sessions we offer, and different events for collaboration with peers. That is a huge benefit, because a majority of our consultants have a home office. The ability to have that support in a peer-based with other consultants wanting to elevate their business is really critical as well.

Can you explain the benefit of being part of a brand that bases everything on performance?

BAI is performance-based, meaning we are tied financially to closed deals. The other option is membership-based, where there are ongoing additional revenue streams where the corporate office has membership fees. So in reality, is their business based on closed deals or income, or is it based on more members? I believe if you follow the money, you know where the energy is spent.

We are directly tied to commissions, and our staff is in place to actually help in that support. So yes, we stay tried and true to that model. I often say it, and it is definitely more difficult, because to have growth, we have to close deals. Since I became president in 2013, it has been multifaceted, but it ties into how we select a consultant. How do we train? How do we provide support? What are we doing for our franchise clients and supporting those franchises so they know how to work with our consultants? That’s not common either. We try to bring them up to speed, so they know how to work with our franchise consultants, and know what our consultants expect from them.

So yes, we take pride in saying we are performance-based. It is unique. That used to not be the case back in 2005, but it is now. Even in the events we do, whether local, national, or even virtual, it is something we are selective in. It becomes a direct value for our consultants with the goal and intent to develop relationships to close more deals. We have one experience after another with the events we have done. It comes out with closing deals and relationships our consultants have developed.

Can you talk about the value you have delivered for your franchise clients?

Our franchise clients are the franchise companies we contract with. We have contracts with each one of them. It’s a much more comprehensive contract that ties to the relationship we have with them and the relationship they have with the franchise client once a referral is executed in a franchise agreement. For those franchise companies we are not getting monthly fees for, we want to actually help them close more deals. We have an internet site that is password protected, and a listing page is very different from what a consumer will see. We provide individual webinars, business development webinars that may have the franchises as panelists covering a certain topic. Right now, we have videos. These listing pages and this Internet site are fluid. There are dozens of things happening, and every Friday, we have an electronic newsletter that goes out to subscribers.

We also do individual training with our franchise clients. We can’t assume they know how to work with our consultants. As I said earlier, it’s a three-legged stool. So, all three are working as a tag team to keep that franchise buyer moving forward. And so, that communication is critical. We are pretty vested. We enjoy the opportunities to see them at a local or annual event. Those relationships are critical. This is a relationship business. There is no question about it. The stronger those relationships are, the better the results. Relationships matter.

Ready for a meaningful career with a franchise broker business?

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