Letting Go: Running a Franchise Does Not Mean Always Doing Things on Your Terms

The type of person who is going to open a franchise is more than likely going to be someone with an entrepreneurial spirit. Like starting any business, getting into the franchise game can be a risky and expensive proposition, with the promise of opportunity on the other end.

However, with many franchises, there’s a key difference between a small business owner with complete control over his or her business, and the franchise owner, who may have to be implementing and executing a business model and a brand bigger than oneself. Think about some of some of the top franchises – Subway, Pizza Hut, Dunkin’ Donuts, 7-Eleven – and what makes them successful. It’s a combination of product, brand and efficiency of service. While the average franchise owner, no doubt, has great experience to offer in terms of managing a franchise, and new ideas that could energize the business, running a franchise is also a great lesson in letting go.

Why Letting Go is Good for Business
Small business owners are often meticulous about every detail – they know how the business runs from top to bottom. Their knowledge and attention to detail help make them a good leader. The other part of leadership, though, is freeing yourself of the minutia and managing the big picture. Allowing your employees to take on more autonomy, outsourcing where appropriate, looking to the future, while the system works continuously and seamlessly.

In a franchise scenario, an owner is taking the qualities that make the franchise successful – the things that drew him or her to invest in the first place – and executing them to perfection.

3 Things You Can’t Change, But You Can Work on Perfecting
1. The colors and shapes and signage that we associate with successful franchises are a big part of their appeal. We associate these things with that cup of coffee or a particular sandwich. It’s not just the pizza we’re drawn to, it’s the box it comes in.

Something about it just feels right. So obviously the branding is not going to change when you take over a franchise, unless it’s a failing franchise. Franchise owners that better understand their franchise’s brand and how it impacts customers will be more successful in Running a Not Always Your Terms supporting that brand with service, friendliness, cleanliness and whatever else makes it shine.

2. The process of delivery is also a big part of a franchise. Some places we go to for the speed, others for the experience. One franchise may serve up sandwiches in minutes, others are designed for us to pop open the laptop and stay awhile. Franchise owners can’t try to change fast food into fine dining. They can’t turn a business that caters to high-end professionals into a business casual environment. Instead, they’re making sure the business runs the way it’s supposed to, and customers are getting what they expect.

3. The culture of a franchise is also a big part of how it serves its demographic. Some franchises are going to blast rock music all day, others are going to be quiet and serene.

Franchise owners have to fit into that culture. They’re not going to turn off the rock music and play classical, even if that’s their personal taste. Before buying a franchise, it’s important to understand the culture and make sure it’s a fit.

What You Can Change

This will vary from franchise to franchise, so it’s important to understand how the larger company works with its franchisees.

A new franchise owner is likely going to see things that can be improved and many franchises will be responsive to those ideas – be it pricing strategies, areas of the business they can outsource, better vendors, or more efficient workflow processes. Some things are universal, too. The way a franchise owner treats employees, maintains the quality of the product and  is responsive to customers’ needs is going to be important everywhere.

This is where the qualities of a good leader can have a significant impact.

A mix of entrepreneurial spirit and yielding to a larger organizational structure can make for a successful business endeavor.

Andy Roe is the General Manager of SurePayroll, Inc., a Paychex Company. SurePayroll is the trusted provider of easy online payroll services to small businesses nationwide. Sure Payroll compiles data from small businesses nationwide through its Small Business Scorecard optimism survey, and exclusively reflects the trends affecting the nation’s “micro businesses” — those with 1-10 employees. You can follow Andy on Twitter


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