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?

Advertisements

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.

Recruit SMART, Grow SMARTER

One of the (many) things I do harp on about to new prospective franchisors is: be specific and very clear about what a good franchisee looks like and then go out and with the precision aim of an assassin….find them, bring them on board and LOOK after them.

Franchisee recruitment is not dissimilar to normal business staff recruitment. You need to be incredibly mindful of the ‘job’ at hand, what the skills are that are needed to carry out that ‘role’ successfully and most of all…look for what the career growth path would be for that individual. The extra element that you want to perhaps plan for in recruiting for franchisees is cultivating a ‘perfect’ franchisee who will end up with the operational, hands-on experience that might well be useful to you in 5 to 10 years time.

What do I mean by this? Well, if you are smart (and I hope that you are) – you are setting up a franchise with two views:  1) To Grow and 2) To Exit. By recruiting some golden nugget type franchisees who have the special ‘putty’ to become fantastic, you will be sowing the opportunity for having a managing director, operational manager or even a team of super-staff who will add value and a glow to the business…making it even more attractive to a buyer. Having a team that doesn’t purely hinge on you or your operational knowledge makes a business very sellable.

Bear in mind, these individuals would not remain as franchisees should they start to work for the franchisor – so you will need to think about what you can offer them that will make the career move from business ownership more enticing. Some suggestions on what to offer them:

(a) Taylored package that is heavily incentivised by their results and input (commission %; target incentives like holidays; etc)

(b) Good company benefits (which are rare to find, especially in the UK, and will therefore be very attractive!)

(c) Small shareholding in the business (relative to their role of course)

(d) Input into how the business grows going forward (i.e. make them an integral part of the executive team)

I’m sure there are many more elements you could incorporate into  a package to tempt an existing franchisee into your franchisor fold, all I’m saying is – bear this in mind right from the beginning. Imagine having a team of strong franchisees who (at any point) you will love to be your right hand man/woman? Now compare this picture to merely having the recruitment criteria mindset that anyone with a pulse will be accepted to become a franchisee! (My fury over this point is enough to write a whole post just on this!)

So, what’s my message? When you are planning who you are going to have as part of your network: think long and hard about where you want to be in 5 to 10 years time and how much value you can add by recruiting the right people. By being SMART in your recruitment tactics, you will be growing your business in a much more planned and efficient way (i.e.SMARTER growth!)

Rise of the Green-Collar Phenomenon

I’ve come across the term ‘green-collar sector’ and was intrigued to learn more. As a responsible person-of-the-planet I do feel that if you can choose to do something in an eco-way, then do it.

I was always brought up to believe as a child that ‘waste not want not’. For example: in South Africa (where I am from) you are very aware of how precious water is so you do not leave a tap running (while washing dishes, while brushing teeth, etc) because you never know when a drought is going hit. Also, at the dinner table…you never leave anything on your plate (because there are starving people all over the world and you do not waste food).

So, when I saw this ‘green-collar’ term being used, I was interested to read how this was infiltrating into the world of franchising.

As slightly predictable (at least in the UK), it seems the property market is being targetted as the ‘industry’ of choice when it comes to choosing a franchise business that is eco-friendly. The ones I could find are based on:

  • Eco-friendly property maintenance/home improvement
  • Improving air quality in the home
  • Enery efficiency reporting for properties

I’m sure there are more! I know of some children’s franchises that are aimed at the eco-market which are fabulous and are really just bringing things back down to the good old days when we used to just use what was lying around the house; keep using items until they were broken or worn out before buying a new one; etc.

I would be really interested to hear more about the evolution of green-collar franchises and hope that they will be both genuinely eco-minded and ethical in the structure of their business models.

How could you bring in some eco-ways to operate your business? Well, here are a few of my suggestions – take from them what you will and if you are doing some that I haven’t mentioned, please do drop me a comment and let me know!

  1. Only have staff come in on certain days (work from home on other days) – save on petrol/carbon emmissions
  2. Recycle everything that you can in your office (paper, cardboard, tins, printer cartridges, etc)
  3. Buy recycled goods (e.g. paper, folders, etc)
  4. Hold virtual meetings with national staff (avoid long travel and staying in hotels)
  5. Re-use folders (lever arch files) from one year to the next
  6. Use a server host who has eco-friendly systems
  7. Try to keep as much written communication saved on your harddrives (less printing) as possible

If more and more franchisors could incorporate a green ethos within the modelling of their franchise offerings imagine what a difference that could make in growing businesses for the future. Wouldn’t it be great if it almost became a STANDARD in all franchised businesses?

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.

GTH56P4TNB9S

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!


A ‘FAN’ yet of my Expert Franchise Guide page on Facebook?
Go to: www.facebook.com/expertfranchiseguide