Category Archives: General

Social Media: Branding and Franchise Recruiting Tool?

A good social media campaign will act as a very powerful brand building and recruitment tool for start-up franchisors (or those thinking of franchising their businesses in the next year or so).

One of the first things I look at when a prospective franchisor approaches me is a good brand image (or at least the beginnings of one). The next thing I look at or question is its impact on the customer target market (is it well understood; is it well respected; is it something they will tell their friends about; etc).

For any small business trying to build a brand, it is very clear from the outset that very few can afford to spend a ton of money on marketing and advertising to get their brand in the forefront of the consumer’s mind. Now, with the advent of social media and its prevalence in the new generation of consumer – growing a brand couldn’t be easier. Of course it still takes careful planning, design and message architecture, so please don’t minimise the importance of that!

Now – where do you start? What kinds of social media should you be using? Well – it does depend a bit on what your target audience is:

1) As a franchisor
(i.e. which prospective franchisees do you want to attract), and

2) As a business
(i.e. the target customer of the product or service).

The things I would suggest you look into are:

BLOGGING: This is an often misunderstood platform and a lot of people fear it because they think that they have to be writers to do it. Not so. I mean – yes its important to not make huge grammatical and spelling errors because this will lead to an unprofessional reflection on you and your business by default. The thing about blogging is h however two-fold: the number of blogger readers in the world is staggering (we are talking in the 100’s of millions) and Google loves the constantly changing and rich content.  For some blogging tips have a read of this article – Top Ten Easy Steps to Starting a Business Blog – by Denise Wiseman.

Denise rightly says : ” Blogging should be one of the cores of your business. It should be right in the middle of your social media mix—the bulls-eye, the main target.”

FACEBOOK BUSINESS PAGE: This is VERY important to set up and I mean VERY important. If you don’t already have a presence on Facebook, then I strongly suggest you get started today. Again – please pay attention to your brand, your message and what you want to get out of the exercise. If you want to know more about what Facebook is about have a listen to my podcast here and it you need tips on how to get started on Facebook, think about buying some very easy to understand guides by Kirsty Wilson of Interim Business Solutions…click here.

Through this Facebook Business (Fan) Page you will be able to engage with an audience, find out what people think about your brand, and run recruitment campaigns for new franchisees! Never minimise the importance of creating (and sustaining) a buzz about your brand or business culture.

I think to start, these two major platforms are good to go with, I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much in one go! As a business you will also need to look into Twitter and some of the social news bookmark mediums – but we’ll save that for another time!

Do let me know how you get on!


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Family Franchise Businesses

More and more the trend nowadays is for a family to come together to make a business work.

Through a survey I did towards the end of 2009  – I’ve found that the growing trend is that people are pushed out of employment and into self-employment for a variety of reasons. Some of these are:

1) Dissatisfaction with the quality of management within their current job

2) No incentive provided in the workplace for any initiative or true involvement in the business (in fact any ideas are squashed before they are even heard), and most of all…

3) No real financial reward (vs the time and effort put into the job) that matches expectation (this includes time in lieu of many hours of overtime above and beyond the call of duty).

So, what does this mean? Well, you will probably be so unhappy that your family around you may well say ‘Hey, why don’t we just do something for ourselves?’. This is why franchising then becomes an attractive idea – because:

  • There is a lower risk at start-up (especially with established franchise models with proven statistics and performance from current franchisees)
  • Any money invested upfront is going towards business support, set-up etc – and this has all been worked out for you
  • Working with people you know and trust (your family) helps to eliminate the worry of employing unreliable staff

Now, of course, we could have a whole discussion on the dangers of going into business with family – but there are more than enough families out there making a go of it than you think!

The top tips for making a family run franchise business work?

  • Everyone needs to have their own roles very clear from the outset
  • Someone is elected as the Boss (end of story)
  • Someone is elected as the Organised One (every business needs one of these) – to whom everyone needs to listen to in order to be efficient and cost effective
  • Someone is elected as the Finance Person (every business needs one of these – this maybe outside of the business)
  • Everyone needs to be earning a salary (or at least agree what that WILL be in the future…give a date…if there is a consensus to hold off for the first few months)
  • A Team meeting needs to happen at least every two weeks to have a talk around the table to clear any issues, or PAT anyone on the back for a job well done

Respect who you are working with and they will respect you – this goes DOUBLE for family run businesses. Mom, Dad, Daughter, Son, Aunty, Uncle….those titles are not relevant during the work day.

Have you had any experiences working in family-run business? Please do let me know about it in the comments box below! I want to hear good and bad stories!

Will the Banks Step Up Now?

One of the crucial keys to keeping businesses moving and healthy is a trustworthy source of ‘Parent Finance’.

What do I mean by Parent Finance? Well – that’s what I call the ‘back-up-plan-for-when-the-fat-hits-the-fan’ option. Nowadays its hard enough growing up, but trying to afford to buy a house, start a business, grow a family….these things are becoming more and more difficult for each new generation.

Now you could argue that older generations were less materialistic and more realistic about what they could afford and well…credit cards hadn’t been invented. I would definitely agree in part with this – however there is a huge chunk of reality that slaps new generations in the face:

(a) out-of -reach mortgages (home loans),

(b) property prices and

(c) the cost of living being at an all time high.

My worry is that this will adversely affect the sprouting of new businesses and the future entrepreneurs out there. Heck I have a daughter that is 4 months old and my biggest wish is for her to be able to do absolutely anything her heart desires and florish at what she is (will be) good at – what I don’t want is money to stop her being all that she can be.

I have never been one to lend money – but you can see why you need to…when it comes to trying to start and/or grow a business. For franchises – financing is pretty crucial especially for a start-up franchisor. He/she has a lot of work to put in, in order to get his/her model into a healthy franchisable position and be able to support a new growing network of franchisees. What I don’t understand is banks that have dealt with some business owners for years (even in a personal capacity) are not willing to sit down, have a chat mano-e-mano (or womano) and see what is POSSIBLE…as opposed to immediately jumping on to the fence of ‘NO WAY…not possible’.

I dare any bank to revert back to the good old of days of healthy client relationships based on give and take…and most importantly trust. As with disciplining children….parents oddly end up punishing the good kids…because one bad kid messed up. I feel that the ‘loan requirements’ nowadays are a result of years of bureaucracy and once off fraud cases….and have become as stifling as a mole that can’t find away back up to the light.

What are your experiences or thoughts on the subject?

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Social Media – The Business Case

The scary term is “Social Media” – the actual meaning for me is “Community Building and Trust”.

If, like many people you have been dodging the SocMed bullet, I’m here to help you understand it, dispel the mystery and urge you to look seriously at the huge potential this phenomenon has for you as a business owner.

Let’s think back to basic historic business and remember what it used to be called: TRADE. If I wanted meat, I could trade my cabbages for your lamb chops. Business was simple – it was about (a) your word; (b) whether you arrived on time for the trade; and (c) whether your goods were “of quality” to ensure future trade. The things that could potentially scupper trade however was rumour; reputation and remissiveness (if that is a word!) By this I mean that your return business depended on happy returning customers and them referring you on to others.

This dependence forms the foundation of creating a community of people who love you and your business…and are happy to steer more ‘fans’ your way which in turn means more trade for you. Does that make sense? Yes! We have lost sight of how easy it can be to engage customers with truth; vitality; enthusiasm for our business; and the belief (and proof) that we can offer something great to them.

This, my readers, is the basic tenet of community building, a.k.a. Social Networking. The premise of Social Networking is that it is only one small part of a Social Media Strategy…which in turn is part and parcel of your overall marketing plan. Business planning can be complicated however it can also be pretty simple – if you don’t lose yourself in all the jargon. Stick to what our forefathers used to cherish as rudimentary to being thought highly of in their social and business communities: “Attract good customers, be good to them and deliver what you promise when you say you will.”

By sitting down and ‘listening’ to what Social Media has to offer – you will soon learn that it is in essence a FREE and hugely comprehensive business attraction tool that can mean a boost to your business’ bottom line. Please do take heart and know that I wouldn’t support this if I didn’t believe it works, but I am very strict about also advising that social networking and community building has to be done responsibly and with a clear focus on message, audience and content. No-one wants to collect more spam – so don’t be a spam spewer!

For franchised and non-franchised businesses Social Media represents an ideal way to not only build a national brand and listening for your product/service; but also an opportunity to connect with the local (and international) community and drive customers to your website and/or business door.

With Twitter, you attract ‘followers’ and with Facebook Pages you attract ‘fans’ – these people become your prospective lead generators and/or customers. Consider that each fan or friend you attract may have 200 to 300 friends (on average) and if they like what you have to say they will very easily pass a link on to their friend base. It is obvious what the ramifications are: exponential exposure to an ever growing audience.

Be smart: review your offering, see where you can take advantage of having a captive audience and tap into this new way of doing business – which isn’t really very NEW, so much as the re-invention of an old lamb vs. cabbage trade situation…but online.

If you would like to have your finger on what is going on in the world of Social Media, here are some resources you may find useful to follow:  Social Media ExaminerMashable

Strategic Partnership Choices

This is a really crucial subject that many business owners don’t look at hard enough when they are mapping out their business models.

I am a firm believer in businesses keeping their focus on what they are good at delivering, however I also believe that they should be grabbing viable opportunities when they arise.

This means that if there is something that your clients are asking for time and again, and your standard response has been “We don’t do that” – please realise that you are losing out on income every time you say that! (Or worse…pushing clients towards your competitors.)

So, what is the solution?

Forge some solid strategic partnerships and ‘white label’ them. What does that mean? Well, you engage businesses as ‘partners’ for all intents and practical purposes and they deliver what you need them to – but under your name.

What is the catch?

You need to be careful in your strategic partner choices. My top tips in securing long term, sustainable partners are as follows:

1. Interview them as you would a valuable employee
Remember that they will be the ‘face’ of your business – so there is a definite need to ensure that the partner business shares your values and has the same ethical business practises as you do.

2. Get References
Don’t take the prospective partner’s word for it that they are ‘fabulous’ – get some examples of their work and speak to their clients. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

3. Don’t jump at the first attractive proposition
I always ‘watch the waters’ for a while and see if the partner business remains consistent in their communication and that their reputation in the connected business circle ‘rings true’. The partnership must be lucrative for both parties – so make sure its attractive for you and the partner. Anything that is profitably unbalanced is fishy!

4. Have a trial period to test the relationship
As with a new employee – make sure you build in a probation or trial period, where you and the partner can work out if this is a partnership that will be lucrative and sustainable for both of you. You will also need the time to work out any ‘kinks’ – because you don’t know how anything will work out practically.

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The Opportunity in Regulation

If there is one thing any British entrepreneur will tell you, it’s how much the government likes to have a ‘hand’ in how they run their businesses. As a non-Brit born entrepreneur operating in England, I do sometimes despair at how much regulation there is and how very little faith the powers that be have in our ability to be adults and run our businesses responsibly. I reckon it’s all about the old adage of “punish the group, instead of just the naughty.”

Unfortunately, until we can all put ourselves forward to be MP’s (and who really wants to?) – we have to grin and bear it. After a lot of thought on the subject and being quite bored from fighting it, I have to say that along with regulation… comes an element of opportunity as well. If you, in your industry or specialism, can find a way to work with the regulation and even find a window of advantageous possibility – you may well surprise yourself with what you find.

What do I mean by this? The one defining thing about regulation is…you have to do it. By businesses having to comply to some form of rule or regulation in order to operate, there may be an opportunity to provide a service or product that helps the business owner do this in a cost effective and painless manner. Most business owners are happy to pay for someone to ‘just sort it’.

Tips on How to Make The Opportunity Yours

1. Ask yourself: What regulations do you know of, that have recently come in (or are about to) and what do businesses have to do or change within their operation to comply? Also – when does the regulation come in (if it hasn’t already) and how much time do business owners have to get themselves sorted.

2. Map out what your strengths are and where can you help? Draft a service package or product outline of what you can do and/or provide and get some feedback from a few business owners to see if it’s something that they would find useful.

3. Research the size of the market and the potential for profit. Do some serious market research to ensure that should you embark on providing this product/service, there is definitely a good reason to do so!

4. Carefully choose the right partners and routes to market that will suit your service/product and maximise the opportunity for your business.

5. Be smart: Automate and outsource how you can provide this product or service! This will help create a ”bolt-on” revenue source that will add value and not drain your current business.

Always remember to apply the smart principles of franchising behind every new element you want to add to your business. Why? Because the basis of franchising is that it doesn’t need you in the model – it runs itself or is easy to teach someone else to do.

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Develop a Standalone Business Model

With my background in franchising, it’s quite natural for me to look at just about every business and wonder what the ‘model’ is behind it. What I mean by this is – what do the cogs look like; what do they do and what results do they generate. I have to look at businesses in a structural way, because that is why franchising is a successful growth or exit model: it’s about finding a winning formula, sticking to it and repeating it over and over.

A trap that most business owners fall into very early on is in trying to do everything themselves for one of two reasons: 1. fear of losing control or 2. not trusting that anyone else can do the job properly. The biggest learning for a business owner to latch on to is to build a business that does not depend on him/her.

Even if you have not franchised your business, you should be following the principles – starting with removing yourself from your business. This is your first step to creating a Standalone Business Model.

Do you want to be frazzled for most of your business life because you can’t walk away for a few weeks? No? Then ask yourself some of these questions which will help you to make a good start to identifying what you can automate in your business:

What are you doing right now that can be delegated?

Make a list of what you do today – everything, down to filing, reading emails, opening post, stamping something etc. Bear in mind processing of enquiries, sales meetings, staff management etc. This will lead you on to the next question…

How much of your business is outsourced right now?

You may already have done an exercise this year to see what you could streamline and where you could save on overheads and staff time. If you have – make a list of what these things were and also look at what you have experienced since actually outsourcing those things (benefits/payoffs). What else are you doing that could be outsourced?

What do you do every day that is repetitive behaviour?

The way to find out what works and what doesn’t is to look at which actions or activities bear which fruits. So, what are you doing that actually doesn’t contribute anything directly to your bottom line? How can you change this and create an action or activity that turns it around and does add to your bottom line?

You may also have certain activities that you HAVE to do, which DO bring in direct business and/or sales – and these need to be repeated and actioned more! This will form a part of working out what your winning formula is.

What are you doing in one area of your business that you can easily replicate elsewhere?

You have some areas in your business that are running really well and very smoothly. Ask yourself what you are doing right in those areas and find a way to replicate the process or structure that you are using there on another area.

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If you can answer these questions in your business, you will be ahead of the game in formulating what business model you are working with and be in a better position to establish how to develop it to be less dependent on you…even if you have to put some things in place that will only create a Standalone Model in a year’s time.

Be smart. Review your model frequently to ensure business longevity and more importantly…your sanity.