Facts & Perspective on the Future of Franchising

franchise imageTwo out of three isn’t bad. In fact, in baseball that would be a phenomenal batting average never even remotely approached. A winning season percentage? Well, it has been done in several professional sports. However, what I’m referring to are leading stories last week (see below) about franchising. Two of three were positive with growth statistics for franchising shared and the power of the franchise model defined. The other presented as somewhat of a negative perspective on family-owned franchises as being less productive than non family-owned businesses.

In any event, I’d love to see more study done on family-owned franchises and how the notion of underperformance may vary from one industry segment to another. My thought on this focuses on the potential differences between multiple generations of families that own Dunkin’ Donuts franchises as opposed to families that may own a non-food brand that may be more inclined to rely on the performance of one, two or several key staff members. I’d also like to explore the difference between single-unit and multi-unit ownership by families. Any takers to start the discussion?

“Regulations have been trimmed, taxes have been cut, and, as a result, the franchise community has continued its economic momentum. As we move into 2018, we expect lawmakers will remain steadfast in their support for a strong business environment,” said Robert Cresanti, IFA President and CEO in a statement.

The franchise industry is set for another year of major growth!

Franchise establishments are set to grow by 1.9 percent to 759,000 locations after increasing 1.6 percent in 2017, while employment will increase 3.7 percent to 8.1 million workers after growing 3.1 percent in 2017. The gross domestic product of the sector is forecast to increase by 6.1 percent to $451 billion, and will contribute approximately 3 percent of U.S. GDP in nominal dollars, according to the report. Franchise business output will also increase 6.2 percent to $757 billion. The forecast follows a year of slower growth in 2017, mirroring trends seen the year prior in terms of employment and output. Read more.

Family-owned franchises underperform, study finds.

A new study that involved a Ball State University researcher found family-owned franchisees post 6.7 percent lower sales per employee than other franchise owners of restaurants and other chain businesses. “It boils down to the fact that often, family-owned franchises have different objectives as compared to their counterparts,” said Srikant Devaraj, a researcher with Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research. Read more.

Will franchise leaders embrace a new future state of franchising?

A relatively misunderstood business model, with a paucity of academic support, franchising is on the precipice of history.  Defined by the Federal Trade Commission as an ongoing commercial relationship that includes a license to a brand, payment of a modest fee and the existence of significant control or support, the average consumer knows it as Subway, McDonald’s or Anytime Fitness.  In layman terms, a chain of businesses that share a common brand and a consistent customer experience owned by a local consumer.  But the traditional methodology of franchising has been supplanted by an ever-growing array of hybrid formulations that increasingly are revealing the real power of this enigmatic model. Read more.

Is Franchising the Right Way to Grow Your Restaurant Business… or Any Business, for That Matter?

This past January I presented a webinar for RestaurantOwner.com about the ins and outs of franchising a restaurant business. Special attention was also placed on preparing to franchise and how doing so could significantly improve the business itself and provide a road map for multi-unit operations – even without actually proceeding into franchising.

Well, the response after the event was quite robust and led to us performing a number of franchise feasibility studies for independent restaurant owners in various markets across the country. Our recommendations were split on whether to franchise or stay the course as an independent operation. In the coming months, we’ll be able to see how our recommendations play out. In the meantime, interest remains high, not only for restaurants but also non-foodservice operations across a multitude of industries and industry segments exploring franchising as an expansion or growth strategy.

RSG_Logo_Rev3.pngLast month, in Restaurant Startup & Growth magazine, a RestaurantOwner.com publication, appeared an article by the RS&G staff, taking a deep dive into my webinar and philosophy about franchising a business. The article started out…

Some of the most successful brands – in any sector – are franchises. In the restaurant business, they are household names. For many independent operators, franchising their concept is the so-called “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”. Before you take that leap, there are a lot of small and critical steps to consider.

The rest of the article, Baby Steps – Is Franchising the Right Way to Grow Your Restaurant Business? may be read on pages 42-47 by clicking HERE.

#ShopSmall #ShopFranchise for Small Business Saturday

To create awareness that franchises are as much small business as the ones owned by Moms & Pops across America, I suggest using the hashtags #ShopSmall #ShopFranchise in line with each other on any and all social media activity during Small Business Saturday by American Express. To assist, I’m sharing some graphics below that can be used in these efforts. In addition to utilizing them please LIKE and SHARE whenever and wherever you see them on others’ social media before, during and after the event. It is very important franchising be recognized as a cornerstone of small business and a vital component to continued economic recovery. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

ShopFranchise ShopFranchise2 ShopFranchise3 ShopFranchise4 ShopFranchise5

Franchising Not [Completely] Respected by American Express!

Yes, today is Small Business Saturday and I urge you to support local business everywhere. That being said, please remember that franchises are small businesses as well, and are locally owned and operated. Unfortunately, despite efforts to educate American Express about franchising, they still found it necessary to place limitations on franchising’s involvement by excluding franchises with over 100 locations.

I’m concerned about the local franchisees of BrightStar Care, Rita’s Italian Ice, Red Mango, Nothing Bundt Cakes or of the many other franchise brands whose franchisees invested their hard earned money and savings to develop a business in their local area, just like the Mom & Pop proprietors have done. A small business is a small business. Period.

Franchising is very much small business and AMEX would certainly have a different opinion if all franchises stopped taking the American Express Card! Yes, please visit and support local businesses, including franchise locations, but as a true sign of support for ALL small business owners, about your American Express Card, please do leave home without it!

And, it’s not like American Express wasn’t made aware of franchising’s role in small business.

Last year I wrote numerous articles and actually had multiple phone calls with senior executives at AMEX. All appeared to be on track for including franchising in Small Business Saturdays. I even followed up with phone calls mid-summer to make certain last year’s debacle wasn’t repeated. I was assured all was in order, that they did their research and yes, franchising would be well-represented in this year’s Small Business Saturday event. Well, shame on me for following up, but not following through. You can be assured that will not happen again.

Here are links to last year’s articles which I will build upon for 2013…

Franchising Excluded from AMEX Small Business Saturday Events

Franchises Are Not Small Business?

Franchises Excluded From Small Business Saturday – AMEX Responds!

Was Franchising Slapped in the Face by American Express by Accident?

AMEX Reassessing Policies for Small Business Saturday


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Unique Franchise Model Raises Questions…

As most everyone in franchising knows, the Chick-fil-A franchise opportunity is quite unique, especially as compared to thousands of other franchise opportunites across all industry segments.

It appears Chick-fil-A has been quite successful with this unique business model, so why haven’t more franchisors followed suit? And, for the ones that have, why haven’t they succeeded?

With respect to a recent article’s reference to average franchisee profits, are there potential issues with Financial Performance Representations in the franchisor’s Franchise Disclosure Document?

Here’s a thought as I compare Chick-fil-A to other franchises… Should Chick-fil-A really be considered a franchise?

Hey, don’t get me wrong… I admire a company that affords individuals the opportunity to earn significant income, provides a great product and customer experience, and stands by its convictions (Closed on Sundays for religious reasons). My questions are entirely focused on the franchising aspect. Is it really a franchise?

Is the Chick-fil-A model more successful from the perspective of failed locations than other franchise chains?

From a business standpoint it appears there is much to be learned from Chick-fil-A. So, why aren’t more franchisors developing similar business practices, even beyond the franchise practices.

Looking to keep this positive… and really looking forward to all thoughts, insight and perspective!

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Franchising Excluded from AMEX Small Business Saturday Events!

This Saturday, November 26th is the 2nd Annual American Express Small Business Saturday. Most likely you have seen advertising and promotions for the event. Possibly you’ve seen the event’s Facebook page that has over 2.3 million LIKES. If you spend as much time online as I have you, then you have definitely seen promo after promo mentioning the event.

Well, franchising, supposedly the cornerstone of small business and as many claim, the driving force behind economic recovery in America, has been excluded from the event. Here’s the AMEX notice…

ELIGIBILITY: The Program is only available to independently owned businesses. Small business cannot promote any of the following: pharmaceuticals, drugs, politics, pornography or sexual aids, diet aids, gambling, liquor, tobacco, firearms/weapons, or any sensitive topic with respect to current events, and any such small businesses are not eligible for this Program. Franchisees, national chains and government agencies are not eligible. By participating in this Program, you represent and warrant that (i) your business complies with the requirements set forth herein and (ii) you are the owner of the business and have the right to participate in this Program.

Yet, American Express heavily solicits franchise brands and franchisees to accept the American Express Card. And, as we all know, at a higher rate than that of Visa and MasterCard. Not to mention the fact that American Express typically exhibits at franchise conferences and trade shows where they promote AMEX Merchant Services. Besides, aren’t franchise locations independently owned and operated?

At the very least, franchisees should be able to participate locally even if franchise brands are prohibited from participating at the national level!

So, do you believe American Express was correct in excluding franchise brands and franchisees from Small Business Saturday? What are your thoughts?

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The Digital Holy Trinity – Possibility or Probability?

I was recently asked my opinion of Groupon and I immediately thought of its place within the whole realm of traditional and social media marketing, and how I see its sustainability in small business, including franchising, and if I recommend using group coupon deals at all.

Here’s my opinion, subsequent rant… and a bold prediction!

Groupon and others like it should only be utilized strategically and only for a specific purpose such as generating immediate interest and cash flow for a typically slow period, and to infiltrate a competitor’s customer base. Both of these objectives have been achieved by utilizing a Groupon-type coupon. Further effectiveness is evident as the coupon strategy is enhanced by social media.

Personally, there are so many Groupon copycats that the allure, even from a customer perspective, has diminished considerably from just six months ago. Case in point – I had purchased over 30 Groupons and similar coupons and was happy to use them all. That being said, over the past three or so months I have not purchased a single one. Why? Because before it was one deal per day and I was notified of the same and I could simply decide one way or the other. Now, I’ve got to look at deals, is it family based or not, entertainment or service… just too much of a hassle. Not to mention the bombardment of collateral emails like for Social Escapes by Living Social, etc.

Beyond that, coupons and promotions will be very geo-specific. Actually, social media is becoming very geo-specific which will drive the geo-specificity of coupons and promotions. Facebook has a distinct advantage over many others as they have both Facebook Places and Facebook Deals. Further, they have finalized or are close to finalizing a deal with Foursquare whereby it works hand-in-hand with Facebook Places. As it is, Foursquare populates into Facebook (and Twitter). And mobile phone usage will continue to drive check-ins and geo-specific marketing. Customer Review sites are jumping on the bandwagon and offer check-ins as well.

Where I believe Facebook will prevail as the leader, is the community feature. Basically, a captive audience where fans can realize all, including coupons and promotions, check-ins, customer reviews, sharing information, posting comments, etc. The push to a more mobile-friendly Facebook is already occurring. If you can think it, Facebook is probably working on it. If not, they’ll buy it. Long-term contracts? Facebook deems them as not being necessary. They really don’t need to as no one really competes with Facebook.

Now that Facebook has become more business-friendly, the sky is the limit. I project you’ll see Facebook go after LinkedIn or develop something similar. Twitter could be a possible acquisition. MySpace? That will be interesting especially as Zuckerburg feels the under 13 crowd should be on Facebook. With MySpace, he’d give them more reason to do so… or maybe justification. Foursquare? Some type of merger would be practical. How about the rumors that Apple is stockpiling their cash for a run at Facebook? Now THAT would be very interesting!

On the other front is Google. Certainly, they are a search powerhouse. And, with their acquisition of YouTube, they now have the top two search engines. Yes, YouTube is used for search even more than Yahoo and Bing. But, Google has not done well with social media. Think GoogleBuzz and GoogleWave. So, at what point does Google and Facebook realize they’ve each cornered their own parts of the market. Maybe even covering the whole market? Would that then create the possibility of a Google-Facebook merger? Just think of THOSE possibilities! And, now that Microsoft has purchased Skype, maybe the celestial landscape will include Skype… albeit with an improved mobile application.

So, the winning combination in one way, shape or form is… Search, Social, Mobile. I like to call it the Digital Holy Trinity!

*This post was originally posted on this site May 2011.

Author’s note – As for Google +, it remains to be seen what happens with Google’s latest attempt at social media.  I, for one, believe it will also fall by the wayside as their other attempts within social media have in the past.


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What Excites You About Working Within Franchising?

What an extraordinary time it is in franchising. Many of us are still riding high from the IFA Convention. Approximately 160 franchise professionals attended the Franchise Unconference last week in Utah. It is my understanding turnout at this week’s Franchise Finance Conference in Las Vegas was very good. And, in a few weeks many of us will be in Washington DC for the International Franchise Expo. That’s just a great deal of positive energy in a six-week period within franchising. Certainly, it’s exciting to be working in franchising as the economy continues to rebound.

Of course, it’s easy to be excited when there’s a load of positive energy at showcase events. Seeing long-time friends with similar interests and objectives adds to the excitement. It’s also relatively early in the year, and many are filled with New Year’s resolutions that have yet to be challenged. Optimism fuels excitement! But, let’s take a step back and look at the core of franchising. Let’s evaluate why we have decided to continue earning a living within franchising. Through the worst of economic times, with franchise sales bottoming out, why did we hang around instead of doing something else for a living? Sure, many will say there weren’t other jobs available. But, I truly believe there was more to it than that.

Approximately eight months ago, in the LinkedIn Franchise Executives group, I asked, What Excites You About Working Within Franchising? and received over 50 responses. Let’s take a look…

John Teza, President at Janus Brands, responded “Empowering an individual to change their lives. No matter the intended change, be it in terms of income, lifestyle, or equity building, for many individuals, opening a business is a life changing experience. Playing a small part in that transformation is very rewarding.”

Lyndsey Jardine Wolfsmith, Business Coach at The Entrepreneur Source, exclaimed “Love your question Paul! I think franchising is fascinating…there are so many facets from developing a successful franchise model to helping clients understand the sheer breadth of options. When you are surrounded by all that variety, how can you not be excited!”

Even The Franchise King, Joel Libava, chimed in “I really enjoy moving folks away from corporate employment, so that they can have their shot at the American Dream. (Only if it makes sense to do so on a whole bunch of levels) I also enjoy providing an independent perspective on the state of franchising in a very gentle way.”

Many of the responses spoke about the satisfaction of putting people in business, helping them achieve the American Dream. And, despite what franchise professionals went through at the low point of the economic downturn, some only needed to be reminded of the passion behind franchising to get moving back in the right direction as evident by the following response…

Kevin Joiner, former, President at Crye-Leike Franchises, stated “Wow! Reading all of these positive comments re-energize me dramatically. I agree with many of the comments. I am the FORMER president of a Real Estate franchising company that operated primarily in the Southeastern U.S. Unfortunately, I was required to layoff my complete staff effective March 1, 2010 (as a cost-cutting, cost-savings measure) and turn over franchise system oversight to the founder and owner of the parent company. Having grown the organization from virtually nothing, into a $500 million dollar sales enterprise with approximately 50+ franchisees in six years, it was hard to take. However, I am expecting to hopefully regain momentum and move forward with another organization soon.”

Many ask how I would answer my own question…

“I’m excited to work within franchising because I get many chances to help franchise organizations succeed at all levels. I know that’s a lofty proposition, but it’s true. It’s what I’ve dedicated myself to as I have recovered from a near-catastrophic experience ten or so years ago as a once-successful multi-unit franchisee that took his eye off the ball and subsequently failed. Certainly, it would be easy to reflect upon what that experience did to me. But there are other things to consider as such experiences can effect entire franchise organizations. There could be collateral damage, and at times, a ripple affect.

Of course, I do what I do to earn a living and provide for my family. But I could do that in a host of different industries or business environments. Instead, I chose to put the bad experience aside and focus on how I can help others within franchising. Not only to avoid the mistakes I’ve made, but to focus on best practices that lend towards franchise success at levels.

With extensive experience and success in franchise marketing and development, and in training franchisees and franchise staff alike, gained in the various positions I have held for franchisors, I have focused my attention on making a difference in franchise organizations in these key areas. Sure, many know me from my almost incessant social media activity, but I’m just embracing what I believe to be a tremendous technology and communications tool that when utilized effectively and coupled with best practices, will contribute to franchise success at all levels.”

In case you haven’t noticed, it is also the same response when I’m asked, What is it that I do?


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CNBC and P&G… too cozy a relationship?

I find it curious that CNBC would post a clarification and edit an already aired documentary because a willing participant supposedly misspoke in making a misleading statement about franchise royalty calculations? If there was a misstatement it certainly was not one made by CNBC and therefore should not have warranted a correction by CNBC.

In addition, it also may be lost on viewers that the Mr. Clean Car Washes, Tide Dry Cleaners and Dunkin Donuts were beneficiaries of the documentary. And of course it is apparent that Mr. Clean Car Washes, Tide Dry Cleaners are both franchises sold by a subsidiary of Proctor & Gamble, what is not obvious is that Dunkin Donuts brand coffee is roasted and sold under license by Proctor & Gamble in grocery stores across the country and NBC owner of CNBC generates millions of dollars of advertising revenue from Proctor & Gamble.

Did CNBC edit this documentary to protect its advertising revenue from Proctor & Gamble? Did Proctor & Gamble exert undue pressure on NBC / CNBC to change the documentary? This kind of thing is unheard of.


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Social Media… A Jungle for Franchising?

Franchising is no stranger to change. The industry adapted well to the internet when it integrated its then traditional marketing at tradeshows with development of elaborate websites. Next, the industry adapted again as it integrated its marketing efforts and web presence with franchise consultants and brokers through a multitude of franchise portals.

Well, as Bob Dylan once wrote, “…the times they are a changing.” Much has been written and spoken about weeding through the many tire-kickers experienced on the internet, shuffling from one portal to the next with the same non-objective to “see what’s out there.” The franchise industry has literally seen thousands of these leads with no purpose, no chance of ever presenting a franchise opportunity.

Instead of trying to catch fish in a wide open ocean, why not direct your attention to the fish in a lake, pond or even, a barrel? That’s correct, a barrel! In searching for qualified franchise candidates, we, as an industry, need to locate the barrels of candidates that exist in the market today. How do we accomplish this seemingly insurmountable task? We need to embrace new technology and integrate the same with traditional efforts. Specifically, Social Media and all it has to offer.

Social Media is truly extraordinary, consisting of many different aspects beyond the familiar LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. There are wikis, webinars, blogs and podcasts, just to name a few. But there are others as well. To the many, the thought of stepping foot into this jungle is daunting, and therefore, the journey continues to be delayed. So, as the old adage of how one could eat an entire elephant (of course, one bite at a time), it’s necessary to take small bites out of the Social Media elephant and step through the jungle carefully, one step at a time – using all the tools at our disposal to reach our destination… our objective.

The following is a discussion on a blog by Michelle Bonat originally posted in 2008 but still very relevant today. Michelle discusses taking small steps towards integrating Social Media Marketing with classic (traditional) marketing programs.

Babysteps…How to integrate social media with traditional marketing programs

Social media marketing is most effective when it is an integrated part of your overall marketing efforts. But how do you jump into social media when you already have some really effective classic marketing programs in play? Here are a few ways you can babystep into the world of social media by leveraging the good stuff you already have.

1) Maintain a single consistent marketing strategy through classic and social media marketing.

Your goals, objectives and messages should be consistent across all of your marketing. Sounds simple, but unless you define and enforce this it won’t happen.

The good news here is that you don’t have to re-figure this all out just for social media. It is really just taking your existing marketing platform and extending it.

2) Extend your reach – Reach out to your influencers in ways that they like to communicate.

Use your existing marketing knowledge about who influences your product’s purchasing decisions, and use social media tools to create a discussion with them where they hang out.

Some specific examples: Are your influencers kids? Get on the social networks catering to the younger set. IT buyers? Figure out which bloggers are influencing this community. Mobile sales professionals? Deliver content in a mobile enabled way, such as Twitter.

3) Invite your customers into the process.

While you are planning your next product, refining your messaging, or even launching a marketing campaign, figure out a way to get your customers involved whenever possible as early as possible. When you do this they feel that they have been heard, feel more engaged and valued, which results in a tighter connection with your company and product. It also gives you the benefit of upfront input. A product that people actually want? Described in a manner that speaks to them? Wonderful!

A good way to on-ramp this customer involvement include online communities (public or private, even a public group on an existing social network). You can even ask them to deliver their thoughts in video form by way of a contest – “describe what our product means to you”.

4) Turn an online forum into a social media hub.

Make people feel more at home by adding profile information and allowing the posting of pictures (or pointers to a picture posting service like Flickr).

Recognize that you have to give to get. Start a genuine conversation with your audience by having company employees contribute to the forums in their own words. For example, instead of just asking for feature enhancements suggestions, tell them what direction you are headed and, if possible, the timing for these enhancements (without giving away too much info). Then ask them their opinion.

Try these few tips to help ease into a social media program that leverages your existing marketing – and you will soon be on your way!

Note: This post was revised from earlier post on this site, “Web 2.0 – A Jungle for Franchise Development” (Mar 2009)


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