How much is your franchise network worth? To put it bluntly, it’s worth whatever a potential buyer is willing to pay for it. Value is all about perception, and if you’re planning your exit strategy, the time to boost that perception is now.
Building a successful business from the ground up is hard work, and expanding your business into a national or global franchise brand is a huge undertaking. So often, franchise founders overlook one important factor — an exit strategy. It can be difficult to think about giving up control of something you’ve worked so hard to build, but it is necessary. What is your plan for transitioning your brand to new ownership? Who are your ideal buyers? How much profit would you like to realize from the sale?
The answers to these questions are vital in planning your exit and building a secure future for yourself and your family. Whether you plan to head on to retirement or to another business venture, your exit should be the first thing you plan, not the last.
Have a target in mind, but strategize with flexibility, too. As Stever Robbins wrote for Entrepreneur:
If you choose the right acquirer, your value can far exceed what would be reasonable based on your income …. If you’re thinking of acquisition as your exit strategy, make yourself attractive to acquisition candidates, but don’t go so far as to you cut off your other options.
So, if you want to see your hard work and investment pay off, it’s time to start positioning your franchise model to achieve the highest possible perceived value to a wide field of potential buyers. In today’s economy, franchise systems are showing impressive growth. Franchising is gaining acceptance as a solid business model. Using public relations to your advantage can help establish your franchise brand now as a great investment down the road, getting you that golden parachute to see you safely to the next chapter of your life.
Here are some of the ways you can position yourself for a great exit with a solid PR strategy.
Become an Expert
Your franchise’s power is owed in large part to the executive team behind it, including you. The more you promote yourself and your operations team as thought leaders in your industry, the more respect and credibility you will cultivate for your brand.
A public relations strategy will put your organization’s executives in the spotlight, promoting their expertise and showing that your brand has a foundation of competent, visionary leadership and proven systems. You can achieve this by media appearances that will catch the eye of potential buyers, like cover stories in industry magazines, contributions to respected publications, keynote speeches at trade shows, television spots and more.
Continually offering yourself and your team to speak or write on topics relevant to your industry will keep your franchise relevant when the time comes to sell.
Almost every industry has multiple franchise brands, but what drives valuation of those brands is their brand identity, that spark of personality that makes a brand unique. Owning and living your brand identity is crucial to setting yourself apart from the rest in the minds of consumers and potential buyers.
What is special about your company culture? What systems or operations support do you have that no one else does? How are you different from the rest? A great PR strategy will answer these questions, then use them to craft your message and get it in front of your target audience.
No franchise network is exactly like yours, and no company culture is exactly like yours. Celebrating that individuality will grow the value of your brand.
Find the Right Channels
Who are your potential buyers? Where do they get their information? Who are they listening to? Even if you’re not ready to sell just yet, you need to be on buyers’ radars now, not tomorrow. Buyers are more likely to choose a known investment, an established franchise brand, over one they just heard of.
Trade publications and trade shows are a great place to start, but social media is also a solid choice when it comes to reaching buyers. Strategically choose the right social media channels to reach those buyers and post material they care about and will interact with. This will gain their attention and grow their awareness of your brand long before your planned exit.
When the time comes to transition to new franchisor ownership, how you deal with internal communication is as important as your external communications. It can be a confusing, stressful time for you, your home office staff, your franchise location owners and their staff. Employees might worry about job security or a change in company culture.
A great PR agency can help you craft those vital communications well in advance of your exit, though. These preparations will frame the sale in positive terms and offer reassurance to everyone affected by the change of ownership. Even better, having these plans in place before the sale shows potential buyers that they have made the right decisions, that they’re purchasing a business cultivated by thoughtful, forward-looking leaders.
A Bright Future
No matter what you’ve planned for the next chapter of your professional life, planning for a profitable exit now will help get you there. With a perfectly honed public relations strategy, you can significantly boost the value of your franchise network, making the purchase process easier and more profitable.
Consider partnering with a professional public relations agency to help secure your golden parachute. An agency with plenty of franchise and acquisition experience will know the right message and the right media outlets to attract attention from the right buyers.
Heather Ripley is CEO of Ripley PR, a global public relations agency specializing in franchising. Orange Orchard, a division of Ripley PR, champions franchisors that cater to environmentally-conscious consumers. For additional information, visit www.ripleypr.com or www.orangeorchardpr.com.