Category Archives: General

How You Can Contribute to Fostering Global Business Confidence

Confidence is an elusive concept, yet it defines how we move forward and by how much, doesn’t it? Being a specialist in the field of “small business” which is what franchising is at the end of the day – I am fascinated to see the very real link between how a country moves on from a recession/hard times and the health of small businesses. Unsurprisingly there is a strong correlation (and you may agree or disagree on this)…because, at the end of the day, our economic world as we know it revolves around people…their perceptions and their experience of the world. Is it as simple as that? Yes, I think it is.

It is my (perhaps naive) thought that if everyone decided tomorrow that they are going to get up, go to work and do what needs doing to get to their next phase of growth or development – the economy would start to balance out. Which means:

  • make that stationery order that you need, to print off the handouts for that course that you want to run;
  • hire that extra member of staff you need to relieve you to go out and get more business;
  • get that bigger office you have needed for the last 18months and make sure your staff are comfortable and you have the extra space for that new staff member;
  • go on that course you know will give you the knowledge or skills to pump back into your business.

There is only so long that you can sit waiting for the Economic Gods to turn around and annoint you “able to get on with business”. I realise there are some very real issues for people at the moment around cashflow and the inability of bank managers to actually deal with good customers the way they should be – and I can appreciate that – but there are little ways that you can start to get money moving in the economy again – and…that stationery order could just be it.

Here are some thought provoking elements for you to consider:

A. Good CEO’s Think Before They Spend

But – they do spend. They realise that they can only move forward by investing in tomorrow. They properly weigh up what needs doing, what needs investing in, prioritise it…and then DO IT. Are you a good CEO?

B. EMPLOYMENT IS DOWN WITH START-UPS

I read an article recently about how the trend over the last decade has been that on average a small business does not hire more than 5 people – whereas years gone by it used to be an average of 7. That has a massive impact globally – meaning that there will have to be many more start-ups before they can actually contribute signiifantly to reducing unemployment. My point – if you know damn well you need that extra member of staff – don’t hold out – hire them. Your business and country will be better for it.

Techonology has played a big part in this to be fair (i.e. you can do more with less nowadays), so big business needs to pull rank on helping more in the employment %.

PS – Don’t hire indiscriminately! There is an important element of still identifying the real need for extra skills/helps which will make a big impact to the business.

C. YOUR SPOUSE IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT INVESTOR

In tougher times, this can’t be stressed more. If you do not have the support at home to get up every day and keep at it – you will burn out and lose the plot altogether. So, if you want to boost your own confidence in your business, maybe start at home – take your partner out for a nice meal and a bottle of wine and give them an insight into how the “dullness” of the confidence in the economy is affecting you as a business owner and that you want to make stand and not “go with the flow”. You might be surpised how this can help turn things around.

D. DO NOT NEGLECT THE “BRAIN” IN YOUR BUSINESS

Without harping on about this one – because you do know it all – your brain in the business is the reason you are in it. Your Business Plan. Now this could be a flowchart on your wall; a 10 page structured document; or a simple collage of things on your notice board. Whatever that brain looks like for you – make sure that you have revisited it to check where you are, so that you can adjust if need be and you’re not pushing dung (yucky business you’d rather not be doing) up a hill for a client that doesn’t actually need it. In short: make sure you are deliveirng what your customers want and will pay money for it…and that you are paying your bills. Simple as that.

Now – go forth and knock the negativity on the head and start to share good things, freely give positive support for your fellow business owners and let’s just crack on out of this economic puddle of poo (sorry – had to carry the dung beetle metaphor forward here!)

Please comment below and share any thoughts you have on how we can all collectively bring our powers together to lift things into a new, more vibrant year next year. I’d love to hear from you!

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Millennials – A Potential Pot of Gold for Franchisors

I never really understood the term ‘millennials’ until I read this BNET (The CBS Interactive Business Network) blog article from Andrew Tilin aptly titled “What is a Millennial?”. Now, with his thoughts on what a cultural shift the emerging millennials will bring matched with the talent drain from the retiring Baby Boomers – its got me thinking!

If you are thinking of growing your business in the future, you need to seriously read this article and take heed of the global picture of what this cultural shift means for business in general. As a Franchisor, this will affect how you plan to market to prospective franchisees going forward – i.e. will you need to start some more community initiatives to grab a younger audience that will grow to be your perfect franchisee?

Andrew writes in his article that millennials have grown up in an environemnt which understands workloads, appreciates being appreciated, and thrives on technology – so they are confident in time scheduling, taking directions and are really comfortable with the online world (especially social networking). As a Franchisor, I would hope that you are ensuring that you are thinking really carefully about where you will find your new franchisees of the future, because it won’t be as easy as sticking an advert somewhere – the world is changing.

However – there is one main positive aspect which I really liked in this article and that is that this generation of “millennials” or Generation Y are a confident lot…we (because I am one) are happy to work hard, but we are only motivated to work for people in authority who deserve the respect and mentor us. To me, those characteristics are a great foundation for any franchisee.

Upon reading the comments that readers have also posted on this subject, I have to also point out that there are a lot of Baby Boomers who will not just disappear into blissful retirement. A lot of them still like working, even if in a more flexible manner – and this, to be honest, opens up another pool for Franchisors to delve into for prospective franchisees. These guys have life experience and have collected skills which are another goldmine for you – so don’t knock them out of the game just yet.

My message? Get more flamboyant with how you recruit franchisees – but also – think of the global trend of the age we now find ourselves in (the “Information Age”)…we have moved on significantly from the Industrial Age

Economist Online Fairs Presents: The Economist’s Franchise Fair

A GUEST POST by Elizabeth Pace, Marketing  & Online Fairs. The Economist Group (New York) __________________________________

If you are thinking about investing in a franchise, The Economist’s online Franchise Fair provides a unique opportunity to meet a variety of franchisers and consultants in real time. The fair is hosted by Economist Online Fairs and takes place on June 28th and 29th 2011. Admission is completely free, but space is limited so register in advance.

The Franchise Fair will feature over a dozen leading franchises and consultant firms that can offer free tips and advice to attendees, whether multi-franchisees or first-time investors. Exhibitors include Nationwide, Maid Brigade Valpak, Yogurtland and many more. For a full list of exhibitors, visit the registration site.

Fair attendees can join topical chat sessions, access testimonials and download resources. There will also be informational webinars hosted by franchise experts, where attendees can interact and ask questions, including:

  •  International Franchising: What to Look For When Purchasing a Franchise
  • Why Buy a Franchise?
  • Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company: An Opportunity for Entrepreneurs

The state-of-the-art online fair interface is modeled after a traditional tradeshow.  Attendees can log in from their home or office computers and browse virtual exhibitor booths at their leisure. The fair will be open for a full 48 hours. There will also be several live sessions during this 48-hour period where exhibitors will be available to chat live.

Franchise Fair Live Sessions:

  • June 28: 9:00 AM EST to 1:00 PM EST  (1pm GMT to 5pm GMT)
  • June 28: 4:00 PM EST to 8:00 PM EST  (9pm GMT to 12am GMT)
  • June 29: 12:00 PM EST to 4:00 PM EST (4pm GMT to 8pm GMT)

 Register FREE today! 

Questions or comments can be e-mailed to CustomerSupport-OnlineFairs@economist.com.

Top Tips: Capturing Your Winning Formula

One of the very first questions I ask my prospective franchisor clients is ‘What is Your Winning Formula?’….and generally I get a blank look in return! That’s ok though, because that is a normal response.

How many of us business owners ever stop to work out what is working in what we are doing every day and what isn’t? The answer: few….but more than you would think. In franchising this is a crucial thinking step that needs to be taken before you can even consider growing using the franchise model. I’d like to give you some help though – its pretty difficult trying to step outside of yourself and work out what your formula is.

TIP 1: Listen to What Your Customers Say

When you get feedback from your customers on you; your customer service; or your product/service what do they actually say? I mean – look at things like:

  • The service you gave when they approached you
  • The service level by which you managed them through from “order” to delivery of the service or product
  • The way in which (system or process)  they were looked after (and communicated with)
  • The actual service or product delivered
  • Follow-up contact

TIP 2: Study What Comes Absolutely Natural to You

This is the hard one, because most people look too hard and can’t actually identify what that looks like. The best thing to do here is to engage your business circle of friends, contacts, staff and possibly even some trusted clients and ask them this question: What Would You Say is My Natural and Unique Ability?

I did this exercise a good few years ago – via email, so that I could record all of the responses – it was fab! Mainly because my circle very nicely highlighted what they perceived to be my strengths as a consultant – which helped me to be better placed to ‘market’ myself.

Purpose of this TIP is to really get to the crux of what makes your business stand out from the competition because of what YOU actually add to the mix.

TIP 3: Describe the ‘System’ By Which You Work

Everyone has a process cycle they have created in their business – what does yours look like? So, from the point of starting to market your product/service to the end result of having sold something to a client and having successfully completed the cycle….jot this down…step-by-step. (And if you have a good client follow-up or retention scheme…then of course add this in.)

TIP 4: Map It Out

Take your observations and notes from TIP 3…and map it out on a big A1 size flipchart. Then, in different colours, take the feedback and notes you have made from TIP 1 and TIP 2…and bulk up the detail around the flow diagram you have drawn of your process.

TIP 5: Stand Back and Observe

Now, after having completed the TIPS and exercise described above…stand back from the flowchart and have a good look at what you see.

  • What stands out clearly for you (as a Unique Selling Point) of your process
  • Are there any bits that could be taken out (in order to streamline the process and create a tighter model)
  • What is missing (if anything)..and if you just added that one thing it would really make the whole model

In closing…

By steadily working through those tips – you should get a pretty good idea of what your winning formula is. It will become clearer to you perhaps even a few weeks after you have done the exercise – because other seeds start to drop in your mind and you go “Ah, hey…that’s another thing that makes my process (formula) work smoother and convert custsomers faster. Let me jot that down…”

This is an exercise that can go on for weeks….so don’t try and do it overnight and set yourself up for disappointment when it doesn’t all become very clear instantly. You will get there – I promise. And when you do – and you have “bottled” that formula…you will be ready to replicate it!

Let me know how you get on…by commenting on this post (ask me questions too if you need to!) and/or going to my Facebook Page which you can find by clicking here.

Being a Franchise Consultant – A True Story

While pondering and flicking through my gazillion blog and newsfeeds to find something to ‘refresh’ you with, I came to a realisation: I am brain boggled. What does this mean? Well, I am quite literally overwhelmed with information, emails, proposals, call-backs, chase-ups, reminders, social media, ….you name it…I’ve got it on my desk, laptop, Blackberry…and even printed on my forehead.

The life of a franchise consultant is one that requires a certain amount of patience, flexibility, diplomacy, balance, compassion, understanding and a whole lot of caffeine, chocolate, cheese and potatoes (my comfort food). So my post for you today is a small window in to a Day in the Life of Me.

My (work) day always starts at 8am (my actual day starts at 5am with small child en tow) and I start with my ever present four quadrant to-do list. What does four quadrant mean – well the great Stephen Covey would tell you that it is in fact being able to distinguish the priorities of bits on your to-do list as:

  • Q1 = Urgent, Important
  • Q2= Not Urgent, Important
  • Q3= Not Imporant, Urgent
  • Q4= Not urgent, Not Important

But what my actual page looks like is this:

  • Business 1 – what needs doing now (includes mainly client to-do’s and work)
  • Business 2 – what needs doing now (includes mainly client to-do’s and work)
  • Technical issues – adminstrative bits and pieces re my own busiensses that need chasing up on or doing
  • Home – anything that needs doing to maintain the four walls that house my family

With my Franchise clients, there is a certain amount of mothering that I have to do, in order to make sure that I am keeping on top of the things that they need to be doing and putting in place. I am very conscious that everything that I help them with today not only gets them closer to their business dreams, but also helps secure those dreams for the future. Franchising is (should be) quite due diligence based – do your homework thoroughly and get your ducks in a row before you start to bring franchisees on board who will immediately start ‘wanting’ things from you (and quite rightly so). (Here add items to to-do list related to these things!)

So, my next morning step is to double check all of my expertise  feeds. By this I mean, any new blog posts or emails subscriptions that might bear some nugget of information that may be important to me, my followers (social media), my businesses and/or my clients’ businesses. I also check my communities on my social media accounts and post any of these nuggets, or answer any comments that my followers may have posted over night. That should all take about an hour or so….then I move to the kettle and make a BIG cup of COFFEE to actually start my day.

With Franchising, there are so many elements to guiding your clients around the model and its intracacies that my day can literally turn up side down when a client refuses to take the path I’ve advised them and totally side step all the advice he’s received. This makes any consultant’s life a living nightmare, because you know the consequences of going down the ‘easy’ path and not the one that has been advised by you (for good reason.)

Unfortunately I have the added complication of franchising not being regulated in the UK and therefore any advice and guidance that I am giving my clients is really based on generally accepted best practice, bits of competition law and not a lot else. (Best practice of successful and ethically run franchise operations and the franchise professionals who helped them get there I might add)! So, I have to (diplomatically) drive my clients through self-made minefields when they have chosen the more exciting FAST route. Now, I might also add that minefields are not my favourite thing…especially for a suspected control freak who likes to be prepared every step of the way (er, like me). So, my other great skill is in foreseeing where I think my clients are likely to go and stop them in their tracks before they jump into that 4×4 to head into the minefield. This can take me up to lunchtime!

In between the minefield avoidance, I will of course have new prospective client meetings to organise or attend; put together new proposals; answer calls from random individuals who have no idea why they are calling me other than because they were ‘referred’ (that’s always a fun conversation) or even better… have decided that I should definitely, definitely meet up with them so that they can ‘pick my brain’. Super. Look forward to that taking me up to the end of my day…when I get to pick up my bouncy little girl who has had a fantasic day organising the play things in the kindergarten room she is in and playing in paint.

Where did it all go wrong? I loved kindergarten…why did I have to grow up, go to University and earn my drivers license for a 4 x 4 to drive through Minefields? Who knows….but guess what? Tomorrow is another day!

PS – Phew…overwhelm has subsided and I actually feel productive now! What bugs you about your day and pushes your buttons?

Franchising Going Digital?

I knew it would come, in fact, I was waiting for one of my news feeds to have brought me a story about it a long time ago. An American serial entrepreneur, Jim Piccolo, has not only jumped into the world of franchising (for what seems the first time), but he has also leaped into the ‘new’ fandango world of digital marketing. Digital marketing is a relatively new field which has grown off the back of the rise of social media and all the channels that it opens up for business owners in marketing their businesses online.

Piccolo reportedly expects to invest $45million in starting the BizziBiz Franchise business, with the franchisee paying $18,000 for  a franchise with two employees and $25,000 for a franchise with unlimited employees. The franchisee will in essence be selling localised digital marketing – i.e. encompassing social media, search marketing, free and paid media, and blogging.

As ever, I am more than pleased to hear of new and innovative franchise models, but I do still hope that certain rock solution keystones are in place:

  • The Franchisor can recoop what he has invested in building the model
  • The franchise model is sustainable long term
  • The Franchisee can recoop his investment within a relatively GOOD period of time
  • The franchisee’s profitability is secured (i.e. the model isn’t based on a loose wing and a prayer)…obviously matched with a hardworking, amibitious franchisee!
  • The Franchisor makes money in the long term success of the franchisee (and not in the upfront fees and/or a wish for a quick exit at a high return)

So, I wish Piccolo the  best – its great to see a digital marketing franchise take to the stage – I will be very interested to watch how it progresses and grows over the next year.

21st Century Franchising

Although I am an advocate for keeping business simple and always stick to the basics to keep your business model solid and sustainable – there is one more thing I definitely am an avid fan of: TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION.

These are two areas where I really do feel that Franchisors have to step up. When I work with prospective Franchisors who are planning their ‘start-up’ three years as a new Franchisor, we spend a lot of time making sure we have not only highlighted what kinds of support and tools he/she will be providing the franchisee, but we back that up with a sustainable plan about how the Franchisor will offer that support or tool.

Now, in the world we live in today, this does not mean the Franchisor would have to set-up a big office, hire lots of staff and work tirelessly to try and break even, much less enjoy the growth path! My advice is to look at what is important in the delivery of the support/tool and how or what is the best way to deliver it that is not only cost effective, but promises to be personalised and professional.

This is the fun part of the Franchisor drawing board for me. We start to do some research on who is out there in the market in terms of being good at creating, developing and delivering the support service or tool that  we want for the franchisees. Partnering up with specially selected (and qualified) providers can really help a start-up Franchisor be able to hit the ground running and deliver the business support promised from the word go. There are some fantastic outsource providers you can use to provide professional support to your franchisees – just be open to looking for them and finding them! Some suggestions on the support side:

a) Personalised Virtual Assistants to take care of administration, call answering, customer care/follow-up, etc (carefully chosen – recruit the business as you would a staff member)

b) Business mentors/coaches – again select as you would any staff member you would normally employ. By getting these guys on board you are providing your franchisees with professionals who are proficient in their subject and will make the world of difference

c) Franchisee Incentives. Find a business that will help monitor the great performance and also manage incentive /loyalty/ performance plans – so that good franchisees feel appreciated and ‘not so great’ franchisees are picked up on and perhaps then highlighted for more support or training (or at worst – disciplining)

Also, there is a huge amount technology out there (some free) that you can build into your franchise model to ease the day to day management of the network (as well as for the franchisee’s day to day business).

By being open to technology and innovation, you will be better placed to keep creating systems that not only work very well and are cost effective, but they also don’t depend on you (the Franchisor) having your hands on everything all the time.

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