4 Coping Strategies for Franchise Business Owners
“Where do you see franchisees struggle the most, with what they know or how they feel?”
I recently posed this question to a group of franchise executives at an operations summit hosted by Franchise Business Review. I’ve worked with enough brands to know how they’d respond. When franchisees underperform, it’s usually because of fear, resistance to change, distrust in the system, and other emotional factors.
No one argues the need for hard skills in franchising. People get into franchising to learn the how-tos of the business. But the perfect system won’t work when franchisees lack soft skills. Their inability to manage their thoughts and relationships prevents them from maximizing their ROI from the system they’ve paid to learn and are encouraged to embrace.
Resilience in Business
Among the most important soft skills needed by franchisees is the ability to navigate adversity. That means resilience — pushing forward even when it feels like the universe is pushing back. Running a business is tough. Franchisees must be tougher. The most resilient hang in there longer and find solutions quicker. They endure more and suffer less.
Resilience is as much about thriving as it is surviving.
They’re also the first to see opportunities buried beneath the unpleasantness. Changes we’re forced to make under duress often elevate us. Consider all the pandemic pivots made by franchises these last few years, such as delivery and digital ordering. These features put in place for survival have led many brands to record sales. Resilience is as much about thriving as it is surviving. (I discuss the relationship between adversity and opportunity in a recent TEDx talk.)
Every area of business has both a hard skills component and a soft skills component. This is especially true when it comes to managing adversity. The hard skills component is problem-solving. That means restoring disrupted circumstances or making systemic changes to adapt. It’s figuring out what to do.
There’s also a soft skills side of resilience — coping. That means managing your emotions and thoughts so you can work with maximum mental efficiency. Problem-solving is about making your circumstances less tough. Coping is about making you more tough.
If you run a franchise business, here are four ways to cope more effectively:
Coping Strategies for Franchise Business Owners
1. Feel your Feelings
Conventional wisdom suggests one must maintain a positive attitude. We’re told to “cheer up” and “look on the bright side.” Most of this cliched advice is rooted in denial. For me, that’s never worked. I can’t just turn my frown upside down. What does work for me is owning my emotions – facing them and feeling them without the pressure to change them.
If you have a setback in your business, allow yourself a moment to be bummed out about it. Perhaps sales have dropped. You’ve lost a key employee. Expansion plans fell through. Go ahead and think about the problem. Journal about it. Complain about it! (Best to do this with someone not involved in the business). Don’t hide from your feelings. The sooner you face them, the sooner you’ll move beyond them.
2. Clear Your Head
After you sit with your feelings a bit, you need to free yourself of them. That doesn’t mean cheer up; it means clear up. The goal isn’t to get to a point of positivity, but to a point of clarity. That where you’re objective, where you’re driven not by emotion but by data. The optimist says the glass is half full. The pessimist says the glass is half empty. The resilient franchisee says the glass has four ounces of water. That’s objective, and it’s the best state to be in to solve problems.
This process is also important for maximum brain power. When we’re emotionally triggered by any perceived danger, our amygdala puts us on high alert. But when our amygdala is active, it prevents us from using our prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain helps with logic and problem-solving. It’s your noggin’s best tool for running a franchise. Clearing your head disengages the amygdala and re-engages the prefrontal cortex. That’s why it’s important to cope before making decisions, so you can ensure you’re using the optimal part of the brain.
There are many ways to get back to you point of clarity. Meditation, breathing, exercise — figure out what works for you.
Find a sense of why in your business. It’ll thicken your skin and probably your wallet.
3. Focus on a Higher Purpose
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” I’m not sure if philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche ever met a franchisee, but offering this wisdom sure would’ve been helpful. We all want to make money. I’ve observed, however, that franchisees who also seek something bigger and nobler are stronger. Most of the franchisees I profile in my book have clear missions, whether it’s to help improve quality of life, to make a difference in their community, or to give opportunities to young people with their first job, it’s amazing how much these big money makers (whom I call “wealthy franchisees”) actually focus on something more than making money. Find a sense of why in your business. It’ll thicken your skin and probably your wallet.
4. Lean Into Your Franchise System
“You’ll be in business for yourself, but not by yourself.” It’s a common promise, but still very true. A franchise system is a community. You have fellow franchisees, field support, and corporate partners who want you to succeed. They understand the rollercoaster you’re riding. They can sympathize and offer insightful perspectives and data that may be helpful. It’s easy to feel alone with your challenges. There are a lot of people in your system who can be there for you. With many of them, you’re already paying for support. Don’t be shy about asking for it.
If running a franchise was easy, more people would do it. It takes more than money. It also takes guts and grit. But like money, resilience is something you can work to increase. With a little more internal work, you’ll be more prepared to manage external challenges.