Who are the people you should surround yourself with when you’re making a major career pivot? Who are the people you should avoid spending too much time with when you’re facing some career challenges?

In Episode 44 of Career Relaunch, Adrian Knight, managing director of Knight Franchises, shares his perspectives on how to handle the range of people who affect your career plans. He’ll also share some insights from his experiences helping professionals transition out of corporate life into franchise business ownership and discuss how franchising can be a doorway to career change. I’ll also share my personal thoughts on the importance of being selective about who you allow to be a part of your career and life decisions.

Key Career Insights

  1. Sometimes, you have to take a hiatus from people who may have some preconceived notion of how your life should look so you can focus on what you really want.
  2. Be careful about allowing others to critique your career decisions. They may not share the same outlook on life, values, or perspectives on what truly matters to you.
  3. Remember that your choices are not always going to make sense to others. Make sure you surround yourself with people who believe in the agenda you’ve decided is best for your life.

Tweetables to Share

Resources on the people you allow into your life


Listener Challenge

During this episode’s Mental Fuel segment, I talked about pinpointing someone in your life who’s been a positive force for your career.
It could be a good friend, a family member, a colleague, or even an individual you’ve JUST been following online. Then, take the time to get an extra dose of their presence in your life this week. You could drop them a note to say hello, set up a time to reconnect over the phone, or better yet,
make time to meet with them.

While you’re at it, please don’t forget to let them know how much you appreciate the positive impact they’ve had in your life. I’d love to hear whom you choose to reach out to. Leave a comment below!


About Adrian Knight, Managing Director of Knight Franchises

Adrian-Knight-FranchiseAdrian Knight is the Managing Director of Knight Franchises, an executive search firm that helps professionals transition out of corporate life into franchise business ownership. Knight Franchises are fully accredited members of the British Franchise Association and in 2017, won an Entrepreneurship award from NatWest for Innovation and Accelerated Business Growth. Adrian’s focused on helping professionals evaluate whether franchising is a viable vehicle for you, educating them on the industry, and identifying the models that best meet their financial and lifestyle aspirations.

If you want to learn more about franchising and whether it’s a viable option for your career, you can schedule a 1-hour consultation with Adrian’s team at Knight Franchises.

Schedule franchising consultation with Adrian’s team

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Episode Interview Transcript

Teaser (first ~15s): You’re seeing your friends who are very settled in their careers. I was sort of stepping back thinking, ‘I don’t know if I want this.’ It took a long time to realize that it was okay to have those other thoughts, but that process was ambiguous, uncertain, and scary.

Joseph: Hello, Adrian. Welcome to Career Relaunch. It’s great to have you on the show.

Adrian: Joseph, It’s great to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Joseph: I was wondering if you could kick us off, Adrian, by telling us what you’re focused on right now in your career and also your life.

Adrian: I run a career transition business called Knight Franchises. We’ve been going for about three years, primarily in the UK. We’ve really been going from strength to strength. Right now, I and my very small team are focused on building what we’re doing, building our presence in the UK, but also in the US where we have been working as well.

Joseph: We’re going to get into franchising a little bit more later in our conversation after we talk about your own career trajectory, but can you just give us give us a quick glimpse into the types of people you work with or the types of clients that you have?

Adrian: Fundamentally, we work with people who have reached a stage in their career, and also in their life, where priorities have begun to shift and they’re looking to do something different than what they have been doing over the past.

Business ownership is always a very popular channel for people to look at, but I think it could be such a big thing that a lot of people don’t know where to start. We really present franchising, which is a form of business ownership, as a potential avenue and really help those people, first of all, evaluate whether franchising is a viable vehicle for them, and if so, working them through that process, up-skilling their franchising knowledge, and helping them to understand which franchises would be most suitable for them.

What we’ve found is that, in terms of the people who we work with, they can vary greatly from someone who is in their late 20s and just doesn’t want to be doing what everyone else is doing, all the way through to directors and vice presidents who have spent 25+ years working in a corporate environment and have just had enough. They want to do something different. It’s quite a varied business in the people that we work with, but it’s fascinating.

Joseph: I am looking forward to hearing a little bit more and learning a little bit more about franchising, Adrian, because that’s actually not an area that I necessarily know about. I also know that when someone’s listening to the show, and maybe they’re thinking about leaving the corporate world for example and maybe starting their own business, automatically people think, ‘I got to start my own independent business,’ which can sometimes feel a little bit daunting, and it sounds like franchising is just one other avenue that we haven’t really talked about on this show before. I’m looking forward to taking about that in more detail.

Before we do that, I was wondering if we could talk a little bit more about you and your own career trajectory, because I know you’ve also navigated some career changes yourself. I was wondering if you could take us back to the time when you were working in recruitment. I think there were a couple of companies you mentioned to me before: IT Talent and Red Hat. Can you just tell us a little bit more about what you were up to then? Then we could move forward from there.

Adrian: I went into recruitment straight out of university, because I really wanted to develop my sales skills and my business-facing skills. During university, we had started a student business, and it had grown. It was going really well, but obviously, that dream came to an end, and I knew I had to grow up. I went into recruitment largely because my friends did. To be honest, Joseph, I was very intrigued by the whole notion behind it. It was almost unintentionally that I started to progress through.

I started off as a trainee, and from there, I was promoted to a consultant and then a senior consultant and then running a small team of recruiters. While it was great fun, there was always something in the back of my mind saying ‘This isn’t it.’ I didn’t know what the other thing was. That really took me on a mental and emotional journey while working in recruitment, still exploring all of these different other paths and avenues and trying to work out what my thing was, where my place in the world was.

Joseph: Before we get to your transition, Adrian, we have had a recruiter on this show before, but we were treating that conversation more informationally for people who were interested in trying to find their next job and how to work with their recruiter. I was wondering if you might be able to—before we get to your transition—give us a glimpse into what it’s like to be a recruiter.

Adrian: I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve worked in a couple of different recruitment roles. There’s many different types of recruitment.

I think recruitment gets a bad name. It’s certainly tarred with the wrong brush in many instances. In my first recruitment role, that was very much almost like a boiler room environment. The people in there, there was a lot of big egos, there was a lot of testosterone, there was calling a hundred companies a day as a target. If you didn’t, you were severely reprimanded for it. It wasn’t the best of environments, and it certainly wasn’t one that was congruent with my personality.

I then moved on after a few years. I moved on to what’s known as internal recruitment. I was very fortunate to land a job working for a global technology company who were, at the time, equivalent to Microsoft when Microsoft were 15 years old. They were a billion-dollar company, but they were still growing rapidly. That was the complete 180 to what I had just come from. In that role, it was very much about head hunting, about taking time with people, learning to understand people and their motivations and what they’re looking for in their next career, in the next step.

I was very fortunate to progress quite well through the company. I was initially in charge of recruiting a small part of the Red Hat’s business in the UK and also in Denmark and Sweden. Just after a year, I was responsible for recruiting across Europe, Belize, and Africa. That was 13 different countries, 13 different cultures, many different people. It was just a remarkable experience, the best job of my life.

In terms of what it’s like to operate in recruitment, my two experiences were chalk and cheese. Interestingly, both of them have greatly contributed to what I’m doing now.

Joseph: It sounds like you had a diverse experience in the recruitment industry. You alluded to the fact that you decided at some point that maybe this wasn’t for you. Could you take me back to the moment—if you remember it—when you decided that you wanted to make a change?

Adrian: I was approaching my 30th birthday, and I was just going through a phase where I knew if I wanted to make a change, then it had to be soon. I was doing well in my job, but I was looking around and seeing people who were 20, 30 years my senior, and I was thinking I do not want to be in that situation. I didn’t want to live that type of life. If I was to do something, it had to be sooner rather later. Particularly at the time, I didn’t have any major commitments in terms of mortgages or anything particularly holding me down. If I was to take any risks from changing my career, that was the time to do it.

Joseph: Before we started recording, you had mentioned to me that you went through what sounds like a very long period of time trying to figure stuff out. That is often times where people find themselves when they’re listening to this show: that state of uncertainty and confusion. I was wondering if you could give us a glimpse into that transitional time for you. I understand you actually traveled for a few months.

Adrian: During my 20’s when I was working in my first recruitment role and then with Red Hat, I took a lot of time to go off traveling. I was very fortunate to visit a lot of countries. I had employers who were open to that. I’ve really used those travel periods as a time to step away from the norms, step away from my friends and family, their expectations they may have around me, and to really figure stuff out.

During that time and during my roles, I was always testing things on the side, like putting up a blog and seeing how people respond to it or trying something else, little business ventures, just to see what it was like. That period lasted for 10 years before I really found where my button was.

It was a very challenging period because you’re seeing your friends around you who are very settled in their careers and in their lifestyles and looking forward to their future. I was sort of stepping back thinking, ‘I don’t know if I want this.’ It took a long time to realize that it was okay to have those other thoughts, but that process was very ambiguous, uncertain, and scary.

Joseph: How did you ultimately figure out that you wanted to move into the world of franchising?

Adrian: I don’t think it was even a question of figuring it out. When I saw it, I knew it. That was the difference. I’d found something that truly sparks something inside of me. I became very curious about it and wanted to learn all about it. When I saw the type of roles within that space, it immediately made me realize that’s going to build very well my skill set that I’ve developed to date and also where my real core interest lie. It was almost that intersection between where my interests were, my core skills, and this thing that kept pulling me towards it. That’s how I knew. Everything just kind of float from there.

Joseph: I see. Let’s talk a little bit about the next chapter of your career. You spent some time trying to figure out what you wanted to do. You traveled. You had this moment where you realized that the franchising world was where you wanted to head next. What then happens next for you once you decided that this was the direction you wanted to take your career?

Adrian: It actually took about 18 months to fully make the transition. Once I knew that this was the place where I wanted to be, I’d actually found someone in the US who offered training in the particular area where I wanted to operate, and I really took the time to be able to put myself in a position where I could go out to the US, train with him, learn how he was doing things, and then come back and begin to set the foundations of what is now our business that we’re doing.

The big moment, it was probably about 12 months from when I handed in my notice left my role. That was a pretty big moment. Then it took another six months from leaving my job to really getting things up and running. Again, it was a very ambiguous and uncertain time. Even though I knew what I wanted to do, there were so many unknowns. It’s worked through almost with your hands out in front of you, dealing with whatever came up.

Joseph: That’s a really interesting transitional period of time, Adrian. When you’ve resigned from your role, you know that’s what you don’t want to do, but you haven’t completely ironed out what’s next for you. What do you think was the hardest part about that transitional period before you ultimately landed on what you’re doing right now?

Adrian: In a way, the people around me. My family and friends have always been very supportive, but they couldn’t understand why I was leaving what was, at the time, a very good job, to go and do something that was completely unknown and in a way was not a very good time. In my mind, I just turned 30. I was thinking this is the best time, and everyone was saying to me, ‘Well, now, you should be settling down,’ but that wasn’t on my agenda just yet. That was a challenging period to go through.

It also reinforced that I was making the right move because I looked around at the people who were saying these things, and I looked at their lives, and I realized that’s not the life I want to live. Logic would imply that, therefore, what they’re saying is not necessarily the right advice for me right now.

Joseph: That’s a really great perspective, Adrian, to have because sometimes we get critiqued by people. I don’t know about you, but that definitely gets to me even though it might be the case that actually their life isn’t one that I necessarily want to have. Yet, I still take it quite personally. I think it’s important to remember that.

I’d love to change gears a little bit now, having talked a little bit about your own career transition. I think it’s about time we start talking about exactly what franchising is, because I have to admit, before we spoke, I’ve heard of franchising, I’m familiar with the concept of franchising, but for those listeners who maybe aren’t familiar with franchising, could you just start off by defining exactly what is franchising and what happens when you’re in that world as a franchisee?

Adrian: First of all, when talking about franchising, it’s very common to hear the names McDonald’s, Dominos, Subway, those real fast food concepts, but a lot of people are surprised to learn that there’s actually over 900 different franchise opportunities in the UK and nearly 4,000 in the US.

A franchise is essentially a pre-proven business. It’s, dare I say, a business in a box. It’s a business model that has been proven to deliver a particular product or service to an end customer, and so much so that it creates enough value that the customers are willing to pay for it, and therefore generates in your profit. It’s a real great way of starting a business without a lot of the young unknowns that come with business ownership. Franchising is essentially a business model plus a brand, a well-known brand in which you’re operating under and licensing their brand.

Joseph: One of the things I’ve always wondered about, Adrian, you’re exactly right. The first companies that come to mind for me, when I think about franchising, are Dominos and McDonald’s. Those are the first two that come to mind. I was always just curious about, as a franchisee, if you’re running one of those franchises, how much scope do you have to do what you want versus just executing what the brand strategy, the brand vision is for that particular company. I’ve always wondered how much latitude those business owners have.

Adrian: With the bigger brands, such as Domino’s and McDonald’s, you have very little wiggle room. In fact, it’s almost the same as being in a corporate role, really. McDonald’s and Domino’s will run those businesses, the operations so tight that you don’t have a lot of room. In some of the younger brands that don’t have such a wide spread, there is a bit more scope to be entrepreneurial. The big question to really be asking yourself if you’re thinking about that when looking at franchising is, is franchising really right for you?

What we’ve observed is that entrepreneurs, people with a real entrepreneurial spark, aren’t necessarily best suited for franchises, because what they will do is they will go into it and try and change everything. They fail to realize that really what they’ve got here is a proven business model, and all they need to do is to use their skills and experiences to bring that business model to life. So when going into these, you really want to be following the guidelines of the franchise or following their system as closely as possible because that’s what’s going to make you successful much quicker.

Joseph: Are there any particular types of people that you think are especially well-suited to become a franchisee? I know you mentioned just now that maybe those hardcore entrepreneurs, it’s not for them. What about the types of people who you have noticed do tend to excel in the area of franchising?

Adrian: I’ll say people who are earlier in their career, so very much almost where I was a few years ago in terms of they’ve spent maybe 5, 10 years, working for other people, and they’re not quite sure if that’s what they really want to do. They look around and see other people who are 10, 20 years ahead of them, and they know they don’t necessarily want those lives. Those type of people who are ambitious and want to do something for themselves can do very well in franchising. We’ve seen some really great success stories.

Also, people who have spent 20, 25+ years working in a corporate environment, and who have built a real great skill set, quite a lot of experience over that time, but want to start applying it in a different way. We found that they can make fantastic franchisees and really bring a lot of value and a lot of success to their doorstep, primarily because they’re using their skills to bring to life a business model that’s already been proven.

Joseph: If somebody is listening to this and they are interested in exploring the world of franchising, one question I’ve got in my mind is how you get started. Let’s say that I’m bought into the idea of franchising as an avenue to career change, as an avenue to running ‘my own business,’ and I want to go out and start a Domino’s pizza. What do you do next? How do you start in this industry?

Adrian: It’s really down to research, jumping online and doing your research, finding out everything you can from a high level about franchising and the idea behind franchising and what a franchisee is, what a franchisor is, how those two work together, and really observing your feelings and how you’re responding to when you’re researching this stuff. If it’s aligned and if it’s right for you, you will notice yourself getting very excited, and you will naturally want to know more.

As you begin to move along the educational process from the higher ideas of franchising through to start looking at the specific franchise opportunities out there, again, you will notice particular brands that will really jump out at you, at the concept. You would just find yourself taking a natural process into researching those further.

If you are eventually inspired to reach out and speak to particular brands, franchises themselves have a very structured process on how you can really go about finding out more about them and helping you to understand whether they’re right for you.

Joseph: Have you noticed any particular patterns that people have gone through related to some of the challenges of actually succeeding as a franchisee?

Adrian: One of the biggest challenges and patterns we see is really again going back to how willing they are to follow the guidance and the model set out by the franchisor. I think it could be very common for people to come in and to see something and be, ‘Oh wow, what if we’ve done it this way, or what if try this?’ when really the most successful people are following the guidance letter by letter. They’re the ones who’s getting established as quickly as possible. That was probably the biggest differentiator we’ve noticed by far.

Joseph: I guess the last thing I was hoping to talk with you about, Adrian, before we wrap up with some of your current initiatives is to go a little bit back to your own story and revisit this idea of career change because I know you’re been through career change. You also see people who have been through career change as they end up getting into franchising. When you look back into your own career change, is there something in particular that you wished you had known that you now know about making a change in your career?

Adrian: By looking back over those 10 years of searching for my thing, it was quite easy to get down about the whole process and to not really see a light at the end of the tunnel and to just keep going along looking for new things and trying different things to see what works. Looking back, I wish I had known that it was okay to be feeling those feelings and to be going through that process.

If I may share an experience, we were at an engagement party a couple of months ago, and I was with a lot of friends from 10, 15 years ago. During that time, during the last 10 years, I always looked around at them and saw them succeed in their careers and really propelling forward and building this great lifestyles and really enjoying themselves. I was giving myself a hard time because I wasn’t feeling the same feelings and really progressing, just having that focus.

When we’re at this engagement party, it was astonishing to see that things have flipped 180. A lot of the people, a lot of my friends, they hadn’t aged very well. They were complaining about their jobs and that this wasn’t really what they wanted to be doing. I was thinking how grateful I was that I’ve invested the time and spent the time going through those earlier emotion and motions to really put ourselves in a place where we were very passionate about what we’re doing and very excited about each and every day.

Joseph: That’s really interesting, Adrian. That’s something that I think about a lot especially in this age of LinkedIn where, I don’t know about you, but I get those updates from people who have either gotten promoted or they’ve landed a new job. It’s hard not to think about how ‘successful’ they are, and yet if you end up digging a little bit deeper, and you have a conversation with them, you start to realize that it’s not exactly what it seems on the surface and that people sometimes are actually less happy than it might seem on the outside. Having been through this career change also, is there anything in particular that you learned about yourself through the process?

Adrian: I think one of the biggest personal lessons I’ve had is I wasn’t who I thought I was earlier in my life and in my career. I’ve learned there’s a lot of things I’m not good at, there’s a lot of things which I thought I was good at, and there’s on the other side, things that I’m good at. It’s really been a process of letting go of the things that I wasn’t good at and accepting that I wasn’t good at them, rather than trying to do everything, and instead focusing on doing the things that I was more natural at and building a support team around me to help with those other things. That’s been probably one of the biggest lessons.

Joseph: What I’d love to do now, Adrian, is to wrap up with what you’re focused on now at Knight Franchises. Can you just tell us a little bit about what’s next for you guys over there?

Adrian: We’re very busy growing our team. We’ve been working with more and more people and helping them transition from corporate life into life as a franchise owner, have even more conversations just helping people to understand even if this was a viable part for them. We are very busy building that over here. Also, from early next year, we’re really pushing forward with getting things more established and launched in the US as well.

Joseph: Very exciting. If people want to learn more about franchising or if they want to reach out to you to maybe explore some options related to franchising, where can they go to learn a little bit more and to get in touch?

Adrian: To get in touch, the best way is my personal email address which is Adrian@KnightFranchises.com. Alternatively, please visit our website KnightFranchises.com. You’ll find a lot more information on career transition related to franchising and some case studies of other people who have gone through the same.

Joseph: Thank you so much, Adrian, for taking time out of your busy day to tell us a little bit more about your own career trajectory and some of those things you learned about yourself along the way and also giving us a good snapshot of the world of franchising. I definitely found this educational, and I hope other people do too. Best of luck with everything you have going on there at Knight Franchises, and I look forward to staying in touch.

Adrian: Thank you so much, Joseph. It’s a real pleasure and honor to be on your podcast.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu is dedicated to helping people relaunch their careers and have more meaningful careers. As a public speaker, career consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch® podcast, he shares insights from relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals to more effectively marketing their personal brands.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu helps aspiring professionals relaunch their careers to do work that matters. As a keynote speaker, career & personal branding consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, his passion is helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands.