POSITIVELY MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES – THEY’RE NOT JUST FOR CUSTOMERS! (Part 2 of 2)

Moving the Positively Memorable Experience Forward

Just like at many of the hotels mentioned in the search results on TripAdvisor.com, there must be clearly defined criteria — a filter of sorts — that every customer, and in this case, every franchisee, must go through at every stage of the relationship and on a daily basis. This is essential to creating positively memorable experiences. Here are five tips that will help move toward this end.

Understanding the true meaning and spirit of interdependent franchise relationships. This must be shared and exemplified at every point of contact with franchisees.

Image result for the right cultureDeveloping the right culture at all levels. Be careful — culture is also defined as bacteria. This takes time and commitment, and is a reflection of how people, whether franchisees, employees, suppliers or others, are treated at all times.

Creating an environment of truth, trust and transparency based upon open, two-way communication — the cornerstone of creating the right culture. Think of a three-legged stool that could hold a great deal of weight when fully intact, yet would immediately fall under its own weight if one leg was compromised.

Establishing your franchise system as family. Treat them as such, but understand that this is not the typical type of family of yesteryear with subservience to the head of the household. Mutual respect is paramount.

Building an environment of bottom-up profitability and growth with all parties to the franchise agreement and other related agreements focused on mutual goals and objectives. All must sing from the same hymnal, and not just for dress rehearsal; be sure to give them the hymn book.

Certainly, validation and multi-unit ownership are strong indicators that positively memorable experiences exist within your franchise system. Another way to confirm the existence of these experiences is simply to ask your franchisees: Would you do it all over again? However, as a franchisor you must first earn the right to even be taken seriously if you ask this question. That starts and must continue by consistently working through the criteria identified above.

As you head down the path of creating positively memorable experiences with each franchisee, be sure to consider all touch points, even those beyond the obvious mediums of in-person, by phone and via email. Think digitally. How do you interact with franchisees on Facebook? How do you come across to your franchisees in LinkedIn discussion groups? Is there common courtesy? Are you proud of each other’s actions within these platforms?

Many will refer to all of this as being great in theory, and not really practical. But just think what could happen if every touch point were seen as another opportunity to create or enhance positively memorable experiences. How would that change the culture of your system? How would that lend credibility toward growing your brand? Think of the ripple effect.

Live it and breathe it every day for optimum results!

This was originally published in Franchising World September 2014

POSITIVELY MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES – THEY’RE NOT JUST FOR CUSTOMERS! (Part 1 of 2)

A recent Google search for the phrase, “positively memorable experience” revealed results that were exclusive to customer experiences, and TripAdvisor.com garnered one-half of all results with the phrase. So, what causes customers to be so emphatic about their experience that they deem them “positively memorable?” experienceFurther, what implores them to share their thoughts so openly within a public forum?

“Certainly, validation and multi-unit ownership are strong indicators that positively memorable experiences exist within your franchise system.” 

To answer these questions, we must first examine the definitions of the words that make up this phrase as shown on Google:

Positively: In a positive way, in particular; with certainty, so as to leave no room for doubt; used to emphasize that something is the case, even though it may seem surprising or unlikely.

Memorable:  Worth remembering or easily remembered, especially because of being special or unusual.

Experience:  Practical contact with and observation of facts or events.

Now that we fully understand the meaning of these words, their impact when joined together truly makes sense, not only as a powerful phrase, but as a compelling statement. Clearly, this is a statement we should strive to hear from customers at every location within our franchise systems; such a clear, concise message is something we want to share every chance we get. It speaks volumes of the relationship between customer and business, one that both sides can agree on as a benchmark for excellence.

Utilizing this phrase as a filter, ask yourself if your franchise relationships merit the same sentiment. Better yet, imagine if your franchise relationships were deemed as being “positively memorable experiences.” Is this possible or even practical to consider? Of course it is!

The Beginning of the Experience

Pick one franchisee and think back to the time when he first inquired about your franchise. What made him want to continue through the next steps of your franchise sales process? Now, think about what that franchisee must have been feeling along the way through the due diligence and validation processes.  Imagine how he must have felt when he shared with family and friends what he was going to do. Then, after signing and remitting a check for the franchise fee and committing to the initial investment along with a five, 10- or 20-year term, imagine how he justified his decision to these same confidants.

Do you think this was all part of a positively memorable experience? I believe most within franchising would agree that this is the case or the franchise sale would not have occurred. Yet, too often the positively memorable experience diminishes from this point forward. Sure there are many happy, satisfied franchisees across many great franchise systems. But how many, during or after the fact, would actually say the experience was positively memorable?

Part 2… Moving the Positively Memorable Experience Forward

This was originally published in Franchising World September 2014

Culture Is A Work In Progress

Work in ProgressI do believe, in many cases, the level of business success contributes to the decision on whether or not a high performer is let go because their style is detrimental to the culture. In the case of a high performer in a business that is barely making it, that high performer probably stays. This situation works for the immediate time being but not for long-term growth. It’s difficult to build a team in this scenario. A high performer with a bad attitude in an environment with other high performers, probably should go. But not without trying to get the person in line first. Bad attitudes are detrimental to team building. However, often times a bad attitude actually develops as a result of how people are treated by management, or by a particular manager. There are various other scenarios as well.

Culture lives and breathes in all organizations. It must be nurtured – fed and taken care of. If sick, the virus causing the sickness must be addressed. In the case of cancer, it must be identified, isolated and removed – making sure to properly treat closely affected areas to be sure of total elimination. If healthy, it must continue to be fortified – an immune system built and new well-being programs developed.

At the end of the day, Culture is a work in progress! It must be fluid. It must fill in the cracks and gaps, and reach it’s own level. It must be understood by all. It must be allowed to grow. But, it must be managed. The key is whether you do so reactively or proactively!

Recently, I read an interesting article about strategy and its affect on culture. Key paragraphs and link to the article follows…

Does strategy matter?

If you do not think that it matters then you are in good company. There are many who question the value of strategy. And I see many companies where there is no formal strategy; the informal strategy is to keep doing what has worked in the past or to chase what is fashionable today.

Strategy v Execution

When it comes to questioning strategy there are two schools that are particularly prominent. First, there is the school of execution. The execution school which says that strategy is waste of time. Why? Because strategies are generic-obvious and what matters is execution. The ability to turn strategy into the daily live of the organization. Clearly, there is some truth in this school. Strategy which cannot be operationalized is waste of time-resource.

Strategy v Culture

Then there is the school that says “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Yes, culture is powerful. Culture determines what gets done and how it gets done. A strategy that does not take into account the fit with culture will meet lots of resistance. Getting people to enact such a strategy will be like fighting a guerilla war with an enemy who is patient and cunning. What is forgotten is that culture can be and is influenced-shaped-shifted through strategy.

To see strategy and culture as being separate and distinct is a gross misunderstanding. This misunderstanding arises due to our reductionist-analytical thinking. Strategy and culture are interlinked. Put differently, if you change strategy, you will take actions that will influence the culture. And if you change culture it will eventually influence the strategy.

Read more HERE.

When Culture is Out of Alignment

Recently, in a discussion about culture on the IFA’s FranSocial site, the discussion was quite robust and included the following statement… “The challenge becomes determining where things might be out of alignment and methodology to realign.” My response was as follows:

To me, the development and management of culture is much like that of a brand…

It must be planned.
It must be nurtured.
It must be allowed to grow.
It must be invested in.
It must be protected.
It must be promoted.
It must be cherished.
It must be the center of the universe.

I believe it’s fairly easy to determine when and where things are out of alignment in a franchise organization – disgruntled franchisees, frequent franchisor employee turnover… just to name a couple that would be very apparent. Obviously, these are the results of, but not the root of the problem that caused things to move out of alignment. Mostly the problems occur (and fester) due to poor communications and lack of transparency between franchisor and franchisees. Inconsistent messaging adds fuel to the fire. Basically, similar problems to a marriage or other types of relationships that fail.

As for methodology to realign that takes full commitment from all parties to the relationship. However, in a franchise relationship it takes the franchisor to take the bull by the horns and lead the charge. It takes full commitment to open, honest, transparent communications. Even through difficult scenarios. After all, franchisees have made a significant investment and they do need to understand the good, bad and ugly. The precarious issue is, how much is too much? do franchisees need to know everything? Getting back to square one, a benchmark of sorts is critical as emotions running high will dictate more rather than less.

I talk a great deal about positively memorable experiences and I believe it applies to the franchise relationship as well. I won’t get too deep here as I’ve authored an article on the topic in the IFA’s Franchising World magazine. But I will share my thoughts on what I refer to as, “The Emotion Circle”. This circle could be looked at in any transaction or relationship.

Emotion CircleThere are seven key steps within the circle. Think in terms of a clock with the top being the starting point. That’s where the relationship begins. Once something occurs that doesn’t meet expectations the first step is surprise. From there it may escalate to the next steps of disappointment and doubt. Or, it may not escalate but the next “incident” moves the needle along. Sometimes an unaddressed issue moves it. Now, it’s inevitable things happen and expectations aren’t met or even understood. Which is why open, transparent communications are paramount. If the issues are discussed openly and frankly in a respectful way, the needle can be moved back to the 12 o’clock position with no or minimal chance of fueling a fire.

However, if not addressed in a timely and respectful manner the fire burns rapidly and on occasion to the point where it’s out of control. And, just like wildfires in the forest, these fires can jump across roads from house to house and community to community with devastating results. In the case of the Emotion Circle burning out of control, the next steps, often in rapid order include frustration, anger, hostility and remorse (think “buyer’s remorse). The end result is typically broken trust and as we know, trust is the backbone of ANY relationship.

So, in order for there to be realignment, trust must be rebuilt. It’s not easy but it can be done, but it takes a huge commitment.

Thoughts on Developing Corporate Culture

Corporate CultureAccording to author, Kris Dunn in her blog post, Keys to Developing Corporate Culture, “Corporate culture is all about really what you value as a company, what you value in terms of how you serve your customers, how business gets done, and what you value from a performance perspective across your talent base.” Although he concedes that there is no single definition that could be overlaid across all of corporate America, Dunn stresses that, at its core, culture represents the manifestation of the guiding principles that underpin every part of your company.

“Like style,” Dunn says, “you kind of know good culture when you see it.”

Culture is less about “free soda and ping pong tables” and more about performance, Dunn argues. Keeping a fun workplace atmosphere may be part of the image that your company presents, but what culture should actually be built on is an unrelenting focus on factors that “create a DNA map of the type of employee that a company looks for.” Find the characteristics that lead to high-performing team members, and your company becomes stronger and more successful.

Recently, I shared Dunn’s blog on within the Franchise Executives group on LinkedIn and posed the questions, “What are your thoughts on developing corporate culture? Would you be willing to let go of top performers if their management style is detrimental to your culture?” Here’s what various members of the group had to say…

“There is no question that any company is only as strong as their weakest link. Too many leaders wait too long before they let poor performers or those with poor attitudes go. They are afraid of legal repercussions or more commonly, those “difficult conversations.” The biggest error is not clearly knowing and expressing the caliber of work expected from the team, giving the team the tools to be successful, and them holding them to account. Leaders don’t consistently document performance. They wing it. Just because someone is in charge doesn’t mean he or she has the knowledge or training on how to create and implement a company culture that endures and helps the company thrive.” – Nancy Fox

“In our business, not one person can be above the values or culture that we have established.  Most franchises, good ones at least, have that culture built into the fabric of their operations and in everything that they do. It’s one of the reasons that people invest in therm. It is what helps make them successful.  I have had to relieve some top performers before because their method or interpretation of our culture was not in alignment with what was important at the client level and the staff/store level.  It looks on paper like it may be painful to the business, but in each case it was the best decision for the business.  Ours is an owner/investor model so day to day is run by an on site manager so it isn’t always apparent at the 5000 foot view.  To answer the question above, if members of our management teams at the store level is not in alignment with our culture and they are successful, it is generally in spite of themselves and our stores and staff are bigger than any one individual or leader.  Make the move and upgrade.” – Bob Chelberg

“If the answer is no, then you have no culture, and culture doesn’t matter to you. Being a top performer is a part of our culture. Diversity is part of our culture. Acceptance of diversity is part of our culture, but style isn’t culture. If style is part of your culture, maybe your culture is superficial? We used to call that an office full of empty suits. If diversity, acceptance of diversity, and being a top performer aren’t important cornerstones of your culture, you may have a dysfunctional culture. The answer has to be yes. It’s a trick question, Right?” – Steve Davidson

There are many more interesting comments in the LinkedIn discussion that may be accessed HERE.

Franchising: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

As I often do on the weekends, I was searching through my personal library seeking out a book or two that might provide me some inspiration for an article or report, and this weekend, I came across a business book that was published back in 1979. The book, “Free Yourself in a Business of Your Own” by Byron Lane, caught my eye for reasons I cannot really explain. Obviously, I’ve had it in my possession for many years, yet, never opened it again since I purchased it for $1.29 at Target. It must have been a clearance book as the cover price was $5.95. Anyway, I can’t even recall seeing it when I routinely search through my library. It’s like it suddenly jumped out front and center and said, “Hey, look here!”

Well, I decided to look through the book because the back cover stated, “This book is about freedom. Freedom from an 8 to 5 regimen. Freedom from dehumanizing democracies. Freedom from job boredom. Freedom from the lock-step culture. Freedom to do your work your way.” Hmmm… not much seems to have changed although lock-step culture is not one I’ve heard of before.

Right away, my thoughts turned to franchising and I began to think about what franchising was like back in 1979. Fortunately, I didn’t have to think very hard, as to my surprise, was a chapter on franchising! It’s placement was to present franchising strictly as an alternative to other forms of business ownership, and in a book with 174 pages, the franchising chapter comprised all of 3 pages. Yes, 3 pages!

Within these pages were a series of bullet points that I found very interesting and it made me wonder how much franchising had actually changed since 1979, and if the changes have improved franchising today. Read the bullet points below and you be the judge.

– While there are no federal laws governing franchising, most states have franchise laws. Get a copy of the law in your state and read it for degree of stringency and coverage. If it is a tough law and a franchising company qualifies to do business in your state, you have one measure of security.

– Don’t believe that acceptance of you by a franchiser means they have evaluated your ability to get the job done. Some franchisers would select a corpse if rigor mortis had not set in and if it clutched in its hand a certified check for the amount of the franchise fee. Do your own introspection and decide if you can handle the franchise.

– Do not deal with profit projections or average profits. Insist on actual financial statements from a cross-section of franchisees. Then, evaluate your expected return on investment.

– Get the financial statement of the parent company and evaluate its ability to provide the services it promises.

– Read the franchise contract. It should be simple, frank, and fair, with complete disclosure, not an instrument of repression. After you think it through with your head, listen to your gut and determine if the contract fits you.

– Finally, and perhaps most important of all, is evaluation of the franchiser’s management team. You should do this from two aspects – their management ability and their humanness. If the management does not measure up to good corporate standards, you will not get the profits you seek. You may turn out okay, but they can bring you down.

Well, it’s no wonder that many individuals had a distaste for franchising. I cringed at some of the statements implying unfairness and deceit, along with an apparent free-wheeling approach to franchising. On the other hand, some of the advice was sound and still applies today.

It’s obvious franchising has changed, and for the better. But, are some of the negatives that’s were stated (or implied) above, still actually cause for concern within franchise organizations today?

I wonder what future generations will think about franchising when they discover some of today’s books and articles on the subject?

Yes, you be the judge…

*By the way, the author is listed as having several advanced degrees in business and psychology, and was a professor at a leading California university. He is also credited with developing several successful companies including a multi-million dollar franchising chain!

Note: originally posted on this site 12/10.


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