Growing a franchise brand is no easy feat, and frankly it’s just not set up to be. The reason behind growth becoming an arduous task in franchising can be boiled down to two opposing forces that tax your development most. First and foremost, protecting the equity you have built in the business creates friction that is an undeniable necessary barrier to growth. Opposing that force is the challenging element of identifying the perfect sources to make that initial connection with the right candidates.
This push and pull creates a dynamic that can be undeniably puzzling for franchise concepts. Combine these forces with the uncertainty of the pandemic that has escalated career insecurity for tens of millions of professionals, and you’ve got a whole new slew of variables testing franchise expansion.
Yet, this does present an absolutely enormous number of possibilities in 2021 and beyond for franchise growth. In fact, in its recent 2021 “Economic Outlook for Franchising,” the International Franchise Association (IFA), along with franchise industry analyst company FRANdata, projects that more than 26,000 new franchised businesses will open in 2021. This is extraordinarily good news. Franchise business growth and economic output within the franchise industry should return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year.
How do you get your slice of the franchise growth pie in 2021 and beyond? I’ve been in franchising for 37 years and have seen recessions come and go, albeit nothing like what we’ve endured in the past year as a country, and there are very effective solutions that I have created and implemented to spur franchise growth. Amid the chaos of the pandemic, our team at Intelligent Leadership Executive Coaching (ILEC) successfully launched a strategic franchising initiative with these three principles in mind.
1. Elevate your franchise’s key differentiator
Every great business idea has to fill a void that must address a gap that exists in the marketplace. Franchise development business strategies are no different. It is critical to identify and exploit your franchise model’s differentiator, which creates a new, untapped opportunity for your franchise prospects. This is the edge needed to help your franchise grow.
For ILEC, our distinguishing franchise development differentiator is the tech-driven, virtual operating model. Our franchisees can work wherever they want, when they want and with clients in every corner of the country. Our virtual model facilitates the income, lifestyle, wealth and equity goals of our franchisees, and we have the ability to show clients a measurable ROI for the coaching engagement they’ve invested in.
Cue the pandemic, where just about every nonessential white-collar worker had to suddenly start working from home. This experience amplified the strong positioning of our virtual model. Our team didn’t have to pivot; we were already virtual and were able to continue operations with no downtime. This turned out to be a massive opportunity for us because of the increased importance of career ownership as several industries faced unprecedented layoffs and new levels of instability. ILEC’s attractiveness as a franchise investment soared. In fact, we’ve already awarded more than 10 franchise agreements in less than a year of executing our strategic expansion initiative.
A crucial lesson for you in this would be to take time to take time to map out your franchise development differentiators, conduct a franchise development SWOT analysis, go through the process of doing a competitor analysis and determine the single differentiator that makes your franchise opportunity unique. Then, leverage it to the moon to tell your franchise candidates why your concept sticks out from the rest.
2. Desperate times for some, don’t mean desperate times for you
In times of crisis, it’s good to remember not to panic. You have core qualities that you seek in franchisees for a reason, and deviating from this can have serious consequences. If you start to let prospective franchisees who aren’t a great fit into the system, you may be left with ones who don’t have a passion for the brand.
You should remain selective during this time, especially because the level of career desperation in America is intensifying. I recognize the sadness in this fact, but for the sake of your franchise, you cannot jeopardize the qualities that you are looking for in your franchise prospects. Franchising is a prime next step for many professionals facing unemployment and underemployment or those just looking for their next chapter, but you have to remain focused on identifying opportunities to award franchises to the right people. Of course, there may be an executive who recently lost her/his job who now realizes that she/he wants to become a franchise owner and used her/his time off to recognize this. These are the types of people who do have potential. What should not be acceptable is offering the franchise opportunity to people who don’t “get” your business but are applying to everything and anything. The difference between these two types of people is the passion for your brand, which should not be underestimated.
3. Emotional intelligence goes a long way
During times of instability in America, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, franchise development leaders and their teams need to brandish a potent level of emotional intelligence. My ILEC colleague and co-founder, John Mattone, wrote a fantastic blog on this topic of emotional intelligence.
First, emotional intelligence relates to your interaction with franchise prospects on several levels. In times of economic chaos, industry contraction and job insecurity, we can all understand the level of anxiety your franchise candidates carry with them. Recognize that they’ll be coming to you with countless questions and discomfort about what is next for them. Your ability to put yourself in their shoes, anticipate their needs and concerns, while also demonstrating a vision for their future is invaluable to the franchise discovery experience. This holds especially true in the pandemic, when instability reigns supreme for many and career ownership may be their best and only next option. Over the years, I have literally seen millions of individuals consider taking control of their future, and I expect the pace at which individuals consider career ownership to magnify by five times over the next five years.
Another aspect of emotional intelligence in franchise development to keep in mind right now relates to how franchisors and their leadership are engaging with their teams. Specifically, an important piece of emotional intelligence is having the imperative social skills to effectively work with others when large amounts of variability infiltrate workplace continuity. The pandemic has done just that. When you consider threats your team has faced with their health, family and finances, these are emotional times. Wielding razor-sharp emotional intelligence can come in handy during times like this to facilitate focus and calm, while life may be swirling outside of work.
As we look at the past 12-plus months, we have been challenged in ways like never before. While I don’t see another pandemic like this coming in our lifetime, normalcy will undoubtedly be disrupted again for you because one thing we can count in is change. Be ready for it and in fact, act as if you expect it. To grow your franchise when chaos challenges order, I encourage you to keep these three ideals in mind as guideposts for your development strategies.
Terry Powell is the co-founder of Intelligent Leadership Executive Coaching and the founder of The Entrepreneur’s Source. He is a leadership coach and an author with the John Maxwell Leadership Team. His unique abilities as an entrepreneur are envisioning possibilities, creating dreams with bigger stakes and rewards and innovating and packaging solutions that differentiate, create synergy, and result in a uniquely valuable experience for all.