It takes a special person to run a franchise. You have to see the value in living at the intersection of being an independent business owner and working to build the broader franchise organization. However, at some point, the cost and risk of failure associated with the steep learning curve of starting a new business likely drove you to consider the franchise path. After all, when it comes to running a franchise, 95 percent of the factors of success are the same factors that any small business owner is thinking about: maintaining cash flow, finding new customers and retaining quality employees to name a few.
However, the best practice for any franchisee is to align and work together with the franchisor in building the franchise unit. As an entrepreneurial franchisee, you must learn the balance of give and take, as well as how to manage innovation within a franchise organization. To be successful in both the individual franchise and the franchise organization, franchisees must learn to strike that perfect balance. Here’s how:
1. Know when to be a TAKER and when to be a GIVER.
As a new franchisee, especially within a mature brand, you have to realize that in the beginning you’re going to take a whole lot more than you’re going to give. Part of the franchisor’s role is to engage with the front lines to gather performance data, test marketing strategies, identify best practices and package them up for easy implementation amongst the franchise network. You paid a franchise license fee to get access to the blueprints and best practices for “the wheel,” now don’t pay to reinvent it!
Franchisees can be competitive – the insatiable drive to “win” is one of the most common and admired traits of successful small business owners – but a key to becoming a successful franchisee is sharing your good ideas and innovations with the franchisor. Any internal competition should be fuel for growth and fun, never a resource-consuming or goodwill-killing headwind. Consider the story behind the KFC bucket. The idea came from Leon Weston Harman, a KFC franchisee in Salt Lake City. He was the mastermind behind the development of the bucket packaging and emphasized the “finger-lickin’ good” motto, both of whihc became staples for the KFC franchise.
2. Engage relationships and leverage peer data.
Part of taking shamelessly and giving freely in a franchise organization is creating personal relationships. Be engaged with your franchisor and peer franchisees. If the franchisor holds an annual convention, conference call, webinar, training event or retreat where a significant number of your peer franchisees are engaged, you should be engaged in the same way. Spend time learning everything you can from more seasoned franchisees.
Good franchisors will measure each franchisee’s engagement with the broader organization in some way: participation in webinars, conferences, online communities, surveys and other activities. Measuring engagement can also help with crafting goals, and projecting profitability and performance. There is an abundance of evidence to show that franchisees that engage their franchisor and their peer franchisees achieve their goals more often and in less time than those who don’t. By engaging in relationships and using peer data, you can glean valuable insights and set your franchise unit up for continued success.
3. Don’t Forget the Big Picture.
The one thing that franchisees tend to do better than non-franchise small business owners is to look at the bigger business picture. While most small business owners would agree on the value of investing time in working on the business, many are so bogged down with the day-to-day operations of running a business, they only have time to work in the business. Their days are so consumed by things that feel most urgent, they never make time for things that are most important. The work you do in your business provides you with a paycheck, the work you do on your business provides you with a retirement and perhaps your kids with an inheritance; working with a franchisor tends to help you take that step back to look at what needs to be done on your business.
As an entrepreneurial franchisee who is involved in and committed to making your own franchise location run like a well-oiled machine, remember to listen, to follow and to execute the franchise model in your business every day. When you position yourself as both an entrepreneurial spirit and an interdependent member of the organization, you, your franchise, your peer franchisees and your franchisor will be much more successful.
Ben Davis is the chief franchising officer at Lendio. The franchising teams he’s built consistently outperform the market by significant multiples. From leading the integration of franchising into a Dow 30 component, to managing successful M&A processes in franchising, to meeting one-on-one with new franchisees to review their business plans, Ben loves everything about building great franchise organizations. Aligned with his passion for franchising is Ben’s belief that empowering small business ownership should be a cornerstone of any collective effort to strengthen individuals, families, communities and countries.