Two years after its launch, this course offered by a Florida university is spearheading the teaching of franchising
A small university in South Florida is supercharging the next generation of franchising, one business major at a time. By offering the first-of-its-kind academic concentration in franchising, the Titus Center for Franchising at Palm Beach Atlantic University equips young people to operate as franchisors, franchisees, or industry executives. Considering that franchising gets little mention in most college classrooms, it’s a game-changer for the industry to have access to a talent pool already schooled in principles, operations and best practices.
“The millennials and the YouTube generation, they’re not their parents or their grandparents,” says longtime industry expert and educator Dr. John Hayes, who created and teaches the four-course concentration. “They don’t want a career or a business that’s going to dictate their lifestyle. They’re going to buy franchises that adapt to their lifestyle. There’s an opportunity to train and educate these young people on how to buy a franchise, or franchise their own business, or go to work for a franchisor.”
The center’s 2017 launch was made possible by a $1.5 million endowment from Ray Titus, CEO and founder of West Palm Beach-based United Franchise Group, which includes nine brands and supports nearly 1,600 franchisees in more than 80 countries.
“We all recognize the coming jobs war,” Titus says. “As our population is getting older and older, the franchise industry is creating more jobs than any other. We have to be creative in getting some of the best talent into our industry. Until this, franchising was a footnote in the business schools.”
When his son A.J. (now president of Signarama) enrolled at PBA, Titus saw first-hand the university’s mission to attract high-quality students of exceptional character – precisely the kind of individual he and other industry leaders want to recruit.
One of those young people is 22-year-old Eva Bracciale, a dual accounting and marketing major who is one of 40 undergraduates enrolled in the Titus Center program. Currently interning at TBC Corporation, the parent of Tire Kingdom and Midas, Bracciale says, “I have not met a single student outside of the franchising concentration or at another university who has any idea what the fundamentals of franchising are. It’s perplexing. In Florida, 25 per cent of employees work for or are associated with a franchise. A bigger pool of franchise-educated students and future workers would make a huge difference. Dr. Hayes’ approach is revolutionary.”
Hayes has called upon his vast industry network not only to populate the center’s advisory board, but to visit his classroom. Board members include franchisees, franchisors and suppliers from around the United States. He’s hosted attorneys, executives (Dunkin’ Brands’ Martha Tomas Flynn lectured recently), and international franchisees.
In fact, the entire program is intentionally relationship-oriented. Roughly half of classroom time is dedicated to meeting and hearing from industry experts, which students find profoundly valuable. “We get to have one-on-one interactions with people in the business world with dozens of years of experience, doing the exact same things we want to do,” says 20-year-old Daniel Vreman, the first-ever graduate of the program, who is doing his due diligence to establish himself as a franchise owner in the insurance sector. “In our teen years, we get to ask questions that would take us years to figure out on our own.”
The fact that they don’t have to figure it all out on their own puts Hayes’ students leaps and bounds ahead of other business majors. Daniel Plourde, a 19-year-old sophomore, has his sights set on becoming a single-location Chick-fil-A operator. He’s moving toward that goal not only by working as a manager for PBA’s on-campus store, but by absorbing everything the concentration has to offer. “I think the future leaders of franchising are at PBA,” he says. “We’re going to know exactly what the documents should look like, what to read, what to look for. I’m already two or three steps ahead of the guy next to me.”
The four-course concentration begins with Principles in Franchising, an overview course that explores not only the basics, but teaches students how to evaluate business and assess career opportunities. The second course, Franchise Creative Ventures, focuses on case studies and, as Hayes says, “what really happens in the world of franchising.” As part of the Franchise Management and Operations class, students visit United Franchise Group and sit in on intense strategic planning sessions they’d otherwise never get to observe. The final class in the series is an internship, which has resulted in full-time job offers for several students.
Hayes’ students are looking ahead, not only to their own futures but to the future of franchising. They envision an era that’s led by technology, as franchising makes inroads into new and untapped markets. “In 10 or 15 years, hopefully, we’ll see a lot more technology-based, innovative franchise models that haven’t really been considered so far, something that caters to more of a millennial or Gen Z palate,” says 20-year-old junior Ian McCulloch.
The other major change every student anticipates? That franchising concepts will be taught universally, in the way they are taught at the Titus Center. “Franchising is the backbone of our economy, but nobody’s bothered to teach it,” says 19-year-old Michael Gardiner, a marketing major. “The biggest industry in the world has no program.”
Hayes is working diligently to change that, not just in Florida but around the globe. Recently, the Titus Center signed an agreement with the Middle East/North Africa Franchise Association to teach franchise courses in the Middle East. The international partnership means Hayes will teach courses in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; individuals who complete the program will become certified franchising executives. In May, Hayes leads a group of 15 PBA students on a two-week European Study Tour, where they will visit franchising and marketing companies in London and Munich. The Titus Center is poised to offer both a graduate program and eventually an online program, opening educational opportunities to students worldwide.
But neither Hayes nor Titus want to corner the market on franchise education. In fact, they’re eager to work with other business schools and universities to plant additional centers. “This is not a selfish endeavor,” Titus says. “We’re really going to promote franchising worldwide as the best business model. This is for franchising. This is our giveback.”