Franchise Success: It Takes More Than an Investment & Hard Work!

Too often than not, franchisees are of the mindset that they’ve bought into a franchise system and just need to sit back and wait for the business to flow through their doors. Sometimes, it’s ignorance and perception that clouds their thoughts. Thinking that the brand name they invested in should be enough for instant business success at their location. But, most of the time, it’s just plain old arrogance that gets in the way.

It’s the arrogance of having committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a franchise as being the sole reason for success. It’s also the basis of feeling that with this level of financial commitment, the franchisor should be solely responsible for making sure franchisees succeed. Almost demanding a guarantee of success!

Well, it is not the franchisor’s sole responsibility, under any circumstances, for making sure that franchisees succeed. Sure, the franchisor must provide franchisees with a proven system and field-tested tools, that when utilized diligently and effectively, should provide them with the foundation to succeed.

But, it’s just that, a foundation. And, the franchisor should have systems in place to monitor franchisees’ progress, provide additional training and guidance, and further the overall development of the brand which all contributes to solidifying that foundation. But, as detailed and comprehensive as all this sounds, it still is not enough for most franchisees to succeed without their own desire, drive and determination.

And, not just words, but actual action.

Failure or Success?

Years ago, I was working with a franchise group on a complex marketing project. The project was ultimately a success and achieved most of the goals and objectives that were established prior to launch. Most of the franchisees embraced the strategy and were extremely instrumental in executing the plan. However, there were five franchisees that just couldn’t get out of their own way to realize the benefits of the plan, and did not realize positive results as their fellow franchisees had.

As with many of my franchise clients, the franchisor requested that I work with these franchisees, ascertain the root of their problems, and develop an aggressive plan of action to move their businesses forward. You see, the franchisor truly wanted to see their franchisees succeed! By the way, these franchisees represented the bottom of the franchise group in average unit sales. Definitely, that was no coincidence. Well, to make a long story short, the obvious problem in each case pointed back to the franchisees working “in” the business, as opposed to “on” the business. Mix in some procrastination, entitlement attitudes, and of course, total denial, and the recipe for total business failure was complete.

I was able to determine that these franchisees were compensating for their path to failure by being at the business location longer hours, spending more and more time taking care of customers, while spending less and less time on anything else. All claimed to be working harder than they had ever worked before. Was it because they had to cut payroll and do the job themselves? Ironically, that was not the case as I found employees standing around while the franchisee did their jobs.

Often, I witnessed franchisees literally stepping in front of employees to take care of a customer. When I addressed the same with the franchisees, all were actually preparing for failure but didn’t want to be considered the actual cause of failure. All thought that by being seen at the business long hours every day and working non-stop behind the counter, no one would be able to say they didn’t work hard at making the business a success.

Certainly, they wouldn’t be blamed for failure.

Of the five struggling franchisees, all but one was anxious to listen and make firm commitments to improve their situations. The remaining franchisee was thoroughly convinced he would fail and there was nothing he, or anyone else, could do to change the situation.

He placed total blame on the franchisor, claiming they didn’t provide support, and strongly professed that he, himself, did everything humanly possible to succeed.

When I asked what he was referring to, he pointed to the long hours every day. When I asked about marketing efforts, he claimed he shouldn’t have to do anything in that regard and pointed back to the franchisor.

He ranted about how the franchisor should have spent money on his behalf in promoting the business and how he spent over $300K on build-out and equipment and that should have been more than enough to ensure his success. Further, he felt he should be able to open the doors everyday, and if the brand name was strong enough, success would occur in a relative matter of time.

As I indicated, four of the franchisees decided to move forward. Agreeing that failure was not an option, we developed and executed an extremely aggressive, yet cost-effective, plan of action centered around getting outside the business location every day to promote their business wherever and however they could.

They all agreed they should have been doing this all along but always seemed to procrastinate in actually getting the job done. They attributed a big part of their procrastination to a strong sense of entitlement that the franchisor should be doing more because they, the franchisees, were the ones that already made an investment to grow the brand. As such, they had convinced themselves that any possibility of failure would fall firmly on the franchisor’s shoulders. In turn, they buried themselves “in” the business and were awaiting the inevitable.

After many hours of discussion and debate about vision, passion, drive and determination, all four franchisees decided to take responsibility for their actions and would hold themselves to a high level of accountability, to their business, employees, family, and themselves.

Each was relentless in their quest to turn their businesses around. They spoke to whoever would listen about their products and services. They were tireless in their efforts to discover new groups and organizations that might listen and learn about what their business had to offer.

They were almost to the point of being ruthless in their desire to ask for referrals and recommendations. They were all thinking outside the box, always asking themselves, “What more can be done?” and never accepting a “nothing” answer.

Needless to say, their new attitudes became contagious and before they knew it, everyone seemed to be spreading the word. Nowadays, we would refer to that as a “viral” effect.

The Final Tally

One franchisee sold his business to an individual he met when spreading the word about his business. The new franchisee became a multi-unit operator and eventually sold the business for a significant profit.

Two franchisees took on partners they met in their efforts within the community. All are now multi-unit operators within several franchise systems.

One franchisee continues to operate her business and although happy to have survived, never had the desire to open additional locations.

And, the franchisee, who said he would fail… was absolutely right!

Have a great day. Make it happen. Make it count!

Exploring a Franchise Opportunity: Do your due diligence… and then some!

Potential franchise buyers know before making a final decision, they need to obtain information from other franchisees and also, their possible franchisors. But what information do they need to get?

Generally, I recommend using the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) as a guide. Read through it and ask a potential franchisor very specific questions about each item listed. It’s a can’t miss road map. Here’s a start.

What is the history of the franchise concept?

What is the founder’s vision? Who is on the executive and support teams? What experience do they bring to the table? If members of the franchisor team haven’t worked at a location, how have they learned about daily operations? Have any of them owned a business before? It’s important to understand how these individuals relate to franchisees.

How high could expenses go?

All expenses should be clearly defined. It’s imperative to gain a complete understanding of the range of expenses – and why they are what they are. Inquire about assistance for everything from advertising to site selection to your grand opening.

Know what’s going on at the front line.

What is the temperament of the franchise group nationally and within your market or region? Of course, I highly recommend speaking with franchisees, too. Make sure to ask them about costs, problems, profits, and trends. Discuss competition with both the franchisor and franchisees.

Ask about exit strategies.

At some point, you may want to exit the system, or you may have to exit. If you have to exit, is there support if you’re in trouble? Ask about transfer fees and the process of selling your business. Understand the franchisor’s approval process. What happened to each franchisee listed under terminated or closed franchisees on the FDD? What happened to their locations? Have they continued operation under a new franchisee or corporate? Is the location still available? Ask yourself if you would consider a long-term relationship with this brand and its leadership.

Before making your final decision.

After this process is complete and you’ve reviewed your notes, trust your gut instinct! Take your time and think things through until you’re 100% sure of your decision. Make sure you have all your support mechanisms in place, including friends and family. Do not kid yourself. Do not lie to yourself. And do not justify any negatives. Being honest with yourself will help you make the right decision.

Get your financial house in order.

Lenders (and franchisors) have certain minimum criteria when it comes to approving franchisee candidates. Some may require a minimum net worth and a certain amount in liquid assets. It would benefit you to set yourself up financially – for example: find out your credit score, calculate your debt-to-income ratio, and even update your resume.

Get pre-qualified.

You do this with a home, why not a business? By getting pre-qualified through a funding provider, you can better identify what you can afford.

Don’t underestimate how much funding you will need.

One of the leading causes of small business failure is undercapitalization or insufficient funding. Make sure you have enough of a buffer to help with any unexpected operating costs.

Are you ready to own a business?

Talk to a franchise funding professional.

Securing funding can be challenging but is one of the most important steps in starting a business. Knowing your options and ensuring you have a solid funding plan in place is often the key to long-term success and profitability.

Benetrends Financial has been funding America’s most popular brands for over 35 years. Their innovative, fast and economical suite of funding solutions is designed to help franchisees secure the capital needed to successfully launch their dreams. Contact them for a complimentary funding consultation or find out your fundability with their free pre-qualification funding calculator.

A quote from Ray Kroc.

There are many quotes from arguably the most successful fast-food retailer, Ray Kroc that reveal what he was thinking and learning about the business as he was building the McDonald’s chain in the U.S. and ultimately around the world. I believe I like this one best:

“It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun. Yet is it any more unusual to find grace in the texture and softly curved silhouette of a bun than to reflect lovingly on the hackles of a favorite fishing fly? Or the arrangement of textures and colors in a butterfly’s wing? Not if you’re a McDonald’s man. Not if you view the bun as an essential material in the art of serving a great many meals fast.”

Domino Effect of a Customer Experience

Here’s a story that was shared with me during our last recession. I recently thought about how such an experience can ultimately affect a franchise brand (or any brand, business or organization) today. So, franchisors, and anyone else that may want to chime in, please keep the following questions in mind:

  • How would you handle this situation if you became aware of it through a customer complaint?
  • If asked by a franchisee about what to do in a situation like this or how to avoid it completely, how would you respond?
  • Are scenarios like this covered in initial and ongoing franchisee training?
  • Ultimately, if similar situations are repeated, how could it affect the franchisee’s bottom line and how could it affect the franchisors’ bottom line?
  • How should a franchise organization go the extra mile in working and communicating with its franchisees about customers, ultimately, the brand’s customers?

When the story was shared with me, I immediately thought about a question that had been posted on a discussion board about what companies were prepared to do in order to retain customers during a recession or time of economic uncertainty.

Domino Effect

Late one morning, a client of mine was told by his boss to purchase gift cards to be given as prizes for that afternoon’s golf tournament. The company had decided to increase the number of prizes as the response to participate by local businesses was overwhelming. The tournament was to start at 12:30PM and my client was playing in the event and also had several of his clients playing with him. Therefore, it was imperative he make it to the golf course by noon at the very latest.

At 10:35AM he went to a national chain restaurant location and found it closed but saw a lot of activity inside by the front desk. He knocked on the door and explained his need to purchase $1000 in gift cards. He was rudely told the restaurant didn’t open until 11:00AM. My client explained his circumstances and the need to get across town to the golf course and not having to wait 25 minutes would really help him. He asked to speak with a manager. He was told the manager was not available and emphatically told once again, we don’t open until 11:00AM. The door was abruptly slammed shut before he could utter another word.

Instead of waiting, my client went across the street to another national restaurant chain location and found it also didn’t open until 11AM. However, as he was looking in, a cook noticed him from the back, hurriedly walked up front and opened the door. Upon listening to my client’s request, the cook cleaned his hands and with the help of two other staff members in the restaurant, they were able to put together enough gift cards to make up the desired amount and complete the transaction. All within a matter of minutes!

Here are a few thoughts to consider:

My client frequently takes clients out for lunch. Do you think he’ll frequent the first restaurant in the future? Do you believe he would go out of his way to dine at the second location?

The gift cards were given to ten participants at the golf tournament. Do you think they may spend above the gift card denomination when they redeem the cards? And is there a possibility their experience at the restaurant may be their first to the restaurant and if they enjoy the experience, they may visit in the future?

How many people will my client inform about his bad experience at the first restaurant and with how many people will he share his great experience?

The list of questions could easily go on with respect to my client’s boss, others in their organization, participants at the tournament, etc.

Yes, there’s a domino effect with a bad customer experience. However, the same is true with a great customer experience. Maybe even more so when the experience is positively memorable.

But the most important questions to ponder are, how much does a negative domino effect hurt a business or brand during a recession or time of economic uncertainty and conversely, how much does a business or brand benefit from a positive domino effect during that same period of economic challenges. And especially in an era of review sites, social media and influencers?

8 Key Focus Areas of Successful Franchise Leadership

From professional athletes to high-tech programmers, every career requires different talents. However, what makes a career as a leader of a franchise system different are skills that do not have to be acquired through rigorous training or years of schooling.

Instead, success in franchise leadership can come to anyone who is determined, dedicated and willing to invest in their personal development—and will pay off tremendously by developing a network of franchisees who respect your leadership traits. Below are key focus areas for individuals to become successful brand executives and great well-respected leaders:

  1. Consistency: As the franchisor, your franchisees will be looking up to you. Being consistent and following through on your word will let them know that they have a leader they can count on.
  2. Planning: Your franchisees are invested in the business, so it’s natural that they will want to know where it is headed and the steps necessary to get there.
  3. Communications: Make certain to share your vision with franchisees as well as with your team in an open, transparent manner to ensure confidence at all levels.
  4. Support: As a franchisor, everyone in the organization is your team member—meaning you have a vital role as a pillar of support and encouragement.
  5. Positivity: Focus on creating a positive space for your franchisees. This will help strengthen your bond and let them know you have their back.
  6. Respect: Every franchisee makes mistakes—it’s just a part of the business. Making sure your franchisees know you still respect them even when they slip up will go a long way. The same will be true for franchisor mistakes, but only if earned through mutual respect.
  7. Face Time: You can’t be expected to visit every franchise location every day. However, the occasional impromptu visit will help you learn more about the day-to-day operations and struggles of each individual location—and let them know you’re invested in solving their problems.
  8. Passion: Franchising means getting to work with talented, passionate colleagues who love what they do. Believe in the brand and believe in your franchisees—your passion will shine through and inspire them, as well.

Developing and Cultivating the Right Culture

Recently, in a discussion about organizational culture, the exchange was quite robust and included the following statement from a CEO participant who stated, “The challenge becomes determining where and when things might be out of alignment. So, developing the methodology about how to realign must be developed and committed to early on.”

To the CEO’s point, the development and management of organizational culture is much like that of developing and cultivating 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 relatively easy to determine when and where things are out of alignment in a franchise organization – disgruntled franchisees, refusal of franchisees to develop additional locations and instead are investing in other brands, frequent franchisor employee turnover… just to name a few that would be very apparent. Obviously, these are the results of, but not the root of the problem that may have 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 and focus 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. The franchisor must spearhead the initiative to create open, honest, transparent communications, and especially through difficult scenarios. Franchisees have made a significant investment in the brand, and they must be kept aware of the good, bad AND ugly. Two precarious points include: 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. Actions must speak louder than words!

At workshops and seminars, as well as within coaching and consulting projects, I talk a great deal about creating and delivering positively memorable experiences at all times. I believe it applies to the franchise relationship as much as it applies to customers & clients. I won’t get too deep here as this past week I shared my thoughts on the topic in this newsletter and in the past in the IFA’s Franchising World magazine. Instead, I will share my thoughts on a guideline that will help monitor the experience factor in any transaction or relationship. This guideline is what I refer to as, “The Emotion Circle”.

The Emotion Circle

There are seven key steps within the circle. Think in terms of a clock with the top being the starting point. This is where the relationship begins. Once something occurs that doesn’t meet expectations the first reaction is surprise. From there, emotions may escalate to the next steps of disappointment and doubt. Or it may not escalate but another “incident” will definitely move the needle along. Sometimes, even an unaddressed issue will move it.

Of course, it is inevitable things happen, and expectations aren’t met or even understood. This is why proactive, 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 minimal or no chance of fueling a fire. We must keep the emotions within the blue section of the circle. This is key!

However, if issues are not addressed in a timely and respectful manner the fire burns rapidly and on occasion to the point where it flares up and / or quickly burns out of control. And, just like wildfires in the forest, these fires can and will jump across roads from house to house and community to community with devastating results.

If not brought under control in a swift manner, the next emotions are often expressed in rapid order through the pink sections and into the red circle. These include frustration, anger, hostility and yes, remorse (think “buyer’s remorse). Ultimately, the end result is broken trust and as we know, trust is the backbone of ANY relationship. Moving back from the pink section is extremely difficult, but not impossible. However, once emotions escalate into the red section, the possibility of salvaging the relationship is almost impossible. Trust will need to be earned back without any assumption on the part of the offending party that it will.

In order for realignment to occur throughout the emotion circle, issues must be addressed expeditiously. It’s paramount that trust be rebuilt before further escalation of emotions. It’s certainly not easy – but it can and must be done. However, it does take huge, ongoing commitment to be established, to remain in place, and to be built upon.

An important question to ask yourself or of an organization’s leadership – Are we truly committed to our relationships? If the answer is not a resounding yes, rest assured trouble is on the horizon. As such, it’s essential to find out the reason(s) and immediately take action to correct. The foundation of developing and curating the right culture depends on it.

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 particular 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 something I’ve heard of before. Lock-step, yes. But not, lock-step culture.

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.

Here we are 43 years later and as I’m in the midst of wrapping up a few last FDDs to be just in time for annual renewals, I find myself asking the question over and over in mind… How much has franchising changed since 1979, and have the changes been for the better? Ironically, I just saw another article about BurgerIM and thought, maybe we need more changes, or are more changes only necessary because of the few who refused to play by the rules?