Category Archives: Technology

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

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.

Footfall and Location: Retail Currency

For a bricks and mortar business that depends on people coming into the premises to make a profit, there are two main things that a business owner has to focus on: Footfall and Location.

For any franchise business (or any other business for that matter), especially one that involves having a premises (like a shop, restaurant, office, etc) it is really important to get the location right. I know more than enough businesses that have failed purely because they were a road away from where they should be. Plain and simple. So – franchisors – do your homework! The last thing you want is a franchisee to end up in the wrong location.

Good franchisors will have an approval process built in to their models, so that they have to approve a new premises for a new (or existing) franchisee – purely because of getting the location right (but it also might well be a branding issue ). This is not to be tedious – its to make sure that the decision is well-thought out and not merely based on cost-effectiveness. You may end up with a ‘cheap’ rent…but no customers. Beware!

Next element is footfall (tied closely with location). If you are pretty reliant on footfall in order to get interest in your business, you not only have to be pretty strategic about where your premises is based, but you also have to be clever about getting people into the store. This means looking at your ‘Come to my Shop’ strategy. What is this? Its a mix of branding, marketing and PR campaigns to heighten peoples’ awareness for who you are, where you are and what you do.

Enter a free social media tool that is perfect for driving people to your shop…Foursquare. I hear some sighing. But seriously, if you haven’t looked at this tool – then you are seriously missing out. I have spent some time looking at what Foursquare means for a small bricks and mortar business and to be honest…its fantastic to generate interest and to heighten awareness for your business. I think it is superb for: pubs, restaurants, high street shops, leisure venues, sports events, community locations, etc.

For a quick help on the matter have a look at this video from Mari Smith on the Social Media Examiner tv channel. (She also chats about Flipboard and Facebook, but watch anyhow…its short, sweet & to the point – which I like!)

So, my message for you is: if FOOTFALL and LOCATION are two big issues for you as a business, make sure you are paying enough attention to them and you are also looking at innovative ways to get people through your door. What you do with them when they get through your door – I will leave to you to realise the value of retaining customers!

Let me know how you get on.

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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