Robin Gagnon of We Sell Restaurants: “The first thing an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book is to be authentic.”

For our brand, We Sell Restaurants, we find that the book lends immediate credibility. Our agents and franchisees nationwide take our book into listing appointments and literally tell their clients, “We wrote the book on selling restaurants” in order to close the deal. It has been a game changer in projecting authority in the marketplace […]

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For our brand, We Sell Restaurants, we find that the book lends immediate credibility. Our agents and franchisees nationwide take our book into listing appointments and literally tell their clients, “We wrote the book on selling restaurants” in order to close the deal. It has been a game changer in projecting authority in the marketplace for a niche business segment.

As a part of our series about “How You Can Grow Your Business or Brand By Writing A Book”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robin Gagnon.

Robin Gagnon is the CEO and Co-Founder of We Sell Restaurants and, the nation’s largest restaurant brokerage firm and the only national franchise specializing in restaurant sales.
One of the most prolific restaurant brokers in the industry and a franchise resale specialist, she holds the Certified Business Intermediary (CBI) designation from the International Business Brokers Association. A CBI offers the most experienced professional representation available during the process of selling or buying a business. She has also achieved the Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) designation from the International Franchise Association and holds an MBA.

Robin is a writer and speaker that has addressed many groups nationwide. Her expert articles appear online and in print across the country. In 2012, she co-authored Appetite for Acquisition, an award winning book on buying restaurants.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what motivated you to become an expert in the particular area that you are writing about?

I recently heard a branding expert tell someone to “nail their niche” and in the case of our brand and subject matter expertise, that’s exactly what happened. I am a passionate advocate for entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry and my brand, We Sell Restaurants is definitive in what we do and who we serve.

In the early days of our business, everyone we encountered was a generalist. That flew in the face of what I believed about the business world where you dedicate passion and energy in a direction that would deliver the greatest return. While skills like marketing and finance can be general in nature, I envisioned a brand that leveraged those skills into a single vertical that would ultimately dominate the field.

Most established players were quick to point out that we were, “limiting our earning potential” and “leaving money on the table” by focusing purely on the hospitality industry. Twenty years later, we have proven that investment in a single vertical not only makes us the best at what we do but allows us to franchise the brand and strategically position ourselves for continued success. While others in the industry remain fragmented and struggle to find a marketing position, we have emerged as the clear leader in restaurant brokerage and have consolidated market share. The positioning of our brand has been crystal clear from day one.

Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?

I gauge my career in two parts, before and after my MBA program. Before my MBA program, I had an undergraduate degree in communications, no real business experience and quite by accident, found myself operating three small businesses in a college town. After a decade of successful operations, I returned to school for an MBA and a “formal” business education. That was eye opening for me as I was attending a program with recent graduates and virtually no experience.

Upon graduation, I left my “small” businesses behind and joined Fortune 100 companies, in finance and marketing. That’s where the pieces came together. The responsibility of small business ownership and real world experience provided me an incredible advantage in climbing the corporate ladder. I treated the company’s money like my own scarce resource and vowed to come to work each day to add shareholder value. After a successful corporate career path with multiple Fortune 100 companies, I went back into business for myself, founding a restaurant brokerage firm in an unknown specialty that is now the largest in the nation. The decision to pursue an MBA program was pivotal in moving me from small business ownership to big business experience and ultimately launching my own success story.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?

The restaurant industry faced enormous challenges in 2020 and as a restaurant brokerage firm, we pivoted to provide information and resources rather than pursuing our core mission to sell restaurants. As of April 2021, I published 46 articles on relief measures, tips and ideas to help the industry survive during the daunting times. While I never intended to be a specialist in PPP funds or Restaurant Revitalization grants, the timing and crisis demanded the effort.

Thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you please tell us a bit about your book? Can you please share a specific passage or story that illustrates the main theme of your book?

Appetite for Acquisition puts every reader on the path to fulfilling the American Dream of business ownership. Each chapter follows the route of a buyer and most importantly, includes actual stories from our clients. In the section I believe sums up the book, I write, “Restaurants are the fabric of our culture. The neighborhood restaurant is where we go on our first date, celebrate a promotion, and gather the family to announce our engagement. In today’s society, the neighborhood restaurant or pub has taken over the corner for the place to gossip, hang out, and learn your neighborhood. In a high-tech world, the restaurant is a high-touch environment where we still interact with one another. It is no wonder that buying a restaurant is such a personal journey.” The theme of this book is the path to that personal journey of restaurant ownership and the stories of others who have already take those steps.

You are a successful author and thought leader. Which three character traits do you feel were most instrumental to your success when launching your book? Can you please share a story or example for each?

In my opinion, the most important character traits instrumental to launching a book are discipline and commitment to the process. For many people, writing a book is a “bucket list” wish without a game plan and actual due date. Under those circumstances, it may never materialize. The year I took on the challenge of writing Appetite for Acquisition, I set a specific deadline to finish by year’s end. I told everyone I met or interacted with that year that I was in the middle of writing my book. Then I asked them to hold me accountable. My request was simple, “The next time we meet, ask me about the progress on the book.” It worked and Appetite for Acquisition was finished just before Christmas.

In my work, I have found that writing a book can be a great way to grow a brand. Can you share some stories or examples from your own experience about how you helped your own business or brand grow by writing a book? What was the “before and after picture?” What were things like before, and how did things change after the book?

For our brand, We Sell Restaurants, we find that the book lends immediate credibility. Our agents and franchisees nationwide take our book into listing appointments and literally tell their clients, “We wrote the book on selling restaurants” in order to close the deal. It has been a game changer in projecting authority in the marketplace for a niche business segment.

If a friend came to you and said “I’m considering writing a book but I’m on the fence if it is worth the effort and expense” what would you answer? Can you explain how writing a book in particular, and thought leadership in general, can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?

I have had a passion for reading since I was young. My father taught me to read the newspaper to him while patiently explaining the words each time I stumbled. Writing a book fulfilled a lifelong dream and I would encourage anyone that is a subject matter expert to commit their thoughts and knowledge to a similar project. The word “author” after your name gives you immediate thought leadership credentials that cannot be duplicated solely by a digital presence. There is something about the physical aspect of the written word that conveys thought leadership unlike anything else. Margaret Fuller said, “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” I would modify that to say, “Today an author, tomorrow, seen as a thought leader.”

What are the things that you wish you knew about promoting a book before you started? What did you learn the hard way? Can you share some stories about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?

There is never anyone as passionate about your book as the author. The main advice I would offer to those promoting a book is to simply write within your subject matter expertise and then enfold your book into the opportunities you have already developed around that niche audience. Offer your book at all interaction points with the audience most inclined to learn from it. What I learned the hard way is that no one shows up for book signings.

Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own and when would you recommend engaging an expert?

As a lifelong student, I rely on the expertise of others. Where feasible, I recommend you engage an expert to assist you in promoting your book.

Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your own experience and success, what are the “five things an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.

The first thing an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book is to be authentic. If you are not truly a subject matter expert, then don’t fill the pages of a book with information that will not inform and uplift others. The second thing is to be helpful. In my case, Appetite for Acquisition was written with the buyer navigating a path to business ownership in mind. I assumed they needed advice and support and wrote to fulfill that specific need. Thirdly, be passionate. If you are not passionate about what you write, that’s the message that will resonate with the reader. The fourth thing any author should do is ask for reviews. The greatest source of readers for a niche-specific book like mine are other customers that tell someone, “this is the must-read book” on the subject. Lastly, an author needs to know is what they don’t know. If promotion is not their expertise, but writing is, enlist support and hire assistance.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love to have a sit down with Gary V (Vaynerchuk). He has obvious love for the hospitality industry, speaks passionately about his family and has empathy for others, traits I work to emulate. He has unmatched brilliance in online marketing that I would love to absorb in even a few moments with him.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit my website, and read through my blog articles posted there.

Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success with your book promotion and growing your brand.

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