So, you've invested in a franchise, now what? Are you ready for the fun, the money, the freedom and living on easy street? Ok, not so fast. Buying a franchise does not guarantee success, just as joining a gym does not guarantee that you’re going to get in shape. In a franchise business, just like the gym, you have to show up, follow the program and do the work.
If you track success in any pursuit and illustrate it on a graph, you see that the results follow a bell curve pattern. It’s not uncommon to see 20 percent of the participants have outstanding, above average results. 60 percent or the majority of those on the graph will enjoy average results. Another 20 percent are below the standard benchmark and not even in the game.
A commonly accepted principal of franchising is that the organization has a set of independently owned and operated franchised business units that follow a succinct business plan that gives uniformity across the system. If that’s the case, why do some do franchise owners have great results and others just get by or worse, fail, all in the same system?
Franchise executives are constantly searching the answers to this question. The reasons are plentiful. However, there are many top performing outliers in every concept who don’t operate businesses in the best areas with the great demographics. They lack having the best corporate experience, backgrounds and education - which one would think adds to the likelihood of success. However, these outliers, against all odds, still end up in the President’s circle every year with great accolades and kudos. What’s their secret?
I sat down with six franchise owners from different industries to understand their secret sauce for success. I believe that these insights and practices will help any owner in any franchise concept.
Here’s what I found:
Corrine Mack who is a relatively new franchisee with Patrice and Associates, a franchise model that does staffing and recruiting in the hospitality industry, said, “If you buy a franchise, you are really buying the recipe, so don’t alter the recipe!” Ms. Mack added, “I am a believer in following the system I purchased, and not questioning it or trying to alter it. It’s already proven to be successful.”
CertaPro Painters may not be a company that comes to mind when you think franchising. Despite that, they have more than 300 franchise owners around the country who have teams of people who execute indoor and outdoor, residential and commercial painting. One of their consistent top preforming owners, who happens to be a woman - unusual for this concept, has a definitive plan for success. Paige DeJain who operates in the Boston area said her franchise success formula is as follows:
- Like Corrine Mack, Paige follows the franchisor's instructions and methods carefully. “I bought a franchise since I didn't have all the answers, so especially in the beginning I followed their instructions and methods closely.”
- Paige also advises to get involved with the franchisor. “I am on a few committees at CertaPro Corporate and covet these roles in order to have face time with other top performing franchisees and upper management. While at these offsite meetings, I pick up new ideas and methods and make lots of friends along the way. There's also a sense of comradery when folks who do the same thing every day get together. This way a problem I'm having can be troubleshot by my cohorts in an instant because they've experienced the same issue.”
- Help the rookies. “It's great to meet the new franchisees each year and learn from them. They have a fresh take on technology and know the workings of other companies better than I do,” Paige added.
Lily Carson of MaidPro residential cleaning in Chesapeake, VA, worked for two different Fortune 500 companies before franchising. As a top performer, she said she has her focus on three things:
- Keep an open mind and always be open to learning from different perspectives.
- Keep things simple. There's no reason to makes things complex when they don't need to be.
- She is always making notes on staff's talents. She said that is her key to finding great managers for her teams.
Dr. Chris Mulvey, a FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Center franchisee, quickly reached the two-comma club in gross sales after overcoming massive challenges in his business. The doctor’s prescription for success is clear:
- Have a clearly written marketing plan and focus on it daily. You must measure your success daily, monthly and yearly and respond to shortfalls. Growth can come organically or sometimes it must come from acquisition.
- Have a GPS for your business. Identify where you want your business to be in five years, then work backward from there. Your plan should include a list of task-oriented goals, that will get you to your ultimate goal.
- Hire and retain great staff. The secret is to help each team member to see their personal growth with the company.
Even newbies have great insights for franchise owners. Bill Sellers is the “2017 Rookie of the Year” for the 39-year old, 183-unit, Money Mailer franchise, a direct mail and marketing concept. Bill says:
- Go beyond my comfort zones – Many people get too comfortable in their outreach to existing customers or business partners, focusing only on keeping what they have rather than expanding. I make a point to reach out to nearly 40 new people each day in some way, shape or form (whether it’s in-person, on the phone or online). It can be as simple as a hello – but the more people I contact, the more opportunities I give myself to create new relationships.
- Embrace face-to-face interaction – In today’s digital world, email blasts and automated phone calls are becoming the new norm. Instead of relying on technology, I get out of the office and visit potential buyers or clients in person, a tried but true strategy to successfully landing sales.
- Make building friendships my primary goal – Instead of walking through the door of a business and immediately making your sales pitch, I try something less invasive. I’ve found that when you find a mutual connection or common interest, it’s much easier to create a business relationship out of the initial friendship.
- Always follow up when asked to – Business owners may tell you as soon as you walk in the door that they are busy and don’t have time to talk with you. If they offer me to come back or call them in two weeks, I make sure to do so. Following up demonstrates commitment, and can be the finishing touch on closing the sale.
Lauren Macaulay is the top owner at the 170-unit Title Boxing Club which is a boutique kickboxing franchise. Lauren’s secret is to get involved with the community.
Lauren has been recognized as a strong leader in her community, club and the brand. She is also a member of the brand’s Franchise Advisory Council. Her locations frequently partner with local charities, schools and community organizations. Lauren holds ‘box-a-thons’ to raise funds for various causes. She participated in Title Boxing’s inaugural Warrior Week initiative, donating a portion of proceeds to American Red Cross Hurricane Disaster Relief.
In addition to the insights and suggestions above, the International Franchise Association, (IFA) has many educational opportunities to help owners with their day to day operations. As a member of the IFA myself, and a Certified Franchise Executive (CFE), I encourage everyone to check out www.Franchise.org for information that can greatly increase one’s success by learning best practices in franchising ownership from luminaries and peers in the industry. A top goal for the IFA is to have more franchise owners, the real core of the franchising, be involved with the trade organization and the franchise community as a whole. This makes the whole industry stronger and better at serving our customers. After all, the owners are the backbone and the future of franchising. Get involved in making our industry robust and resilient.
If you want to take your franchise to the next level, really stand out among your fellow franchise owners and be a top performer, you need to go the extra mile. Be involved with every aspect of the business in addition to being involved with your franchisor corporate offices. Have a great plan and execute on it daily. Motivate your staff and do professional follow ups with customers.
A great franchise organization depends on the franchisees and their staff on the front lines and in the trenches who meet with customers face to face every day. If customers are happy and are coming back again and again, the franchise outfit and franchisees will have a thriving business. If you take one or two pieces of advice from this article, you just may be in the President’s circle in at your next franchise conference!