Working with, marketing for and keynote speaking to 21 retail franchises for the last seven years, I’ve had access to executives, franchisees, agencies and others in the industry. I’ve interviewed them, brainstormed with them and helped solve their problems. We’ve worked on marketing, sales, management and leadership, generational issues and more.
These franchises include McDonald’s, Hand and Stone Massage, The Floor Trader, Atlantic Bedding & Furniture, PrideStaff, Retrofitness and more. Based on that experience, I’ve created a list of some of the most important keys to success I’ve heard and seen work in the franchise space.
I’ve divided them by audience- if you’re on the corporate side (franchisor) or if you’re a franchisee.
5 Keys to Franchise Success for CORPORATE
#1 Get your franchisees to follow your franchise model (your business plan and best practices). This is often one of the biggest obstacles to franchise success: when franchisees want to go rogue to one degree or another, or don’t invest adequate time or money. It’s important to screen franchisees well, set the right expectations, and have clear requirements and policies. The arts of motivation, leadership and influence are also indispensable, and it’s critical for corporate leaders who interact with franchisees to have these skills and continue to develop them.
Social media can be an area where franchisees want to do their own thing, and you need to have very clear parameters on how that can happen. We’ve helped franchisees, for example, deal with 100’s of Facebook pages and getting those under the brand, and then with issues that come up if a franchisee violates policies and has their page taken down.
#2 Base your franchise model on clear values. Make sure when you interview new franchisees that they hold these values. And then in the training and all communications, make sure to repeat those values often. For example, McDonald’s tells leaders three major things: be obsessed with customers, we’re better together and commit to leadership.
#3 Hold conferences, meetings and get-togethers for training and motivation. Meet at least annually. Some groups have quarterly meetings. Franchise owners need to get together to share what works and doesn’t, and for camaraderie. Managers need training and motivation. If salespeople are a big part of your model, annual sales kickoffs and quarterly sales meetings are best practices to ensure you’re hitting targets and raising the bar.
Almost all the franchises I’ve keynoted for are in either the Franchise 500 or the Fastest Growing Franchises categories. And you can tell from the ones that hire speakers and trainers that they really care about their franchisees and their success.
#4 Have a clear marketing (including social media) and sales plan, differentiating what HQ does and what franchisees should and can and can’t do. Some franchises are very corporate-driven, and some rely almost entirely on the franchisees to do their own marketing and sales. A balance of shared responsibility for marketing is best, and consistency is critical. You want customers to have a consistent experience, and you want your customer acquisition and loyalty to be predictable. Corporate-controlled or mediated marketing (including social media) is better for the brand.
#5 Stay up-to-date on the latest techniques, technologies and best-practices for leadership, sales, marketing and analytics. Things change. Stay on top of the trends in areas like intergenerational communication, teamwork, analytics, digital marketing, CRM’s and social media. It’s a good idea to have a continuous training mindset. You can’t keep up without some kind of training, whether it’s online or at live events.
5 Keys to Franchise Success for FRANCHISEES
#1 Have or GET enough funding. It’s so important to be able to invest in your franchise, and there are so many costs. We’ve seen some franchisees skimp on hiring or marketing, for example, and both can be real bottlenecks for growth. For financing, don’t neglect looking at an SBA loan with a Rollover for Business Startups (ROBS), where you can invest your 401(k) without penalties or paying taxes on a distribution. Even if you have adequate funding, make sure you have a backup funding plan in case anything goes wrong!
#2 Follow the franchise model. The corporate branch of your franchise usually has a very good idea of what works and what doesn’t. There may be some regional/localization for you to customize, but what corporate suggests is often the best practice gathered from seeing the biggest successes, and the biggest failures. Keep in mind that some franchisees fail, and corporate usually knows what they did or didn’t do. If you want to succeed, both corporate and the most successful franchisees can tell you what to do! And make sure you follow every part of the system: if you just pick and choose parts, you may only experience partial success- at best. At worst, it won’t be enough.
#3 Talk to Corporate. If you’re just starting, make sure you’ve asked about their support for your Grand Opening. Tell them what you need and where you’re struggling. If you’re doing well, tell them your growth plans. It’s important not just to learn from them, but also to show them where they need to go. If 50% of all their franchisees are struggling with the same issue, but only 10% of them say it, Corporate can’t see how important it is to help you solve it.
#4 Be aggressive. Regardless of how much support your franchisor does or doesn’t give you, at the end of the day, you are responsible for your success or failure. Have a plan. Have goals. Know your metrics. Get data. Watch everything closely. Drive sales and new customers. Make sure all this is happening. You are the #1 person who should care about it, worry about it and make it happen. Your franchise’s destiny is in your hands. Never stop planning, executing and growing. Continually succeeding at business is like trying to walk up an escalator that’s going down. If you stop moving forward, you go backward.
#5 Stay humble and teachable. Success in life and business requires adaptation and learning. A few people tune everyone out, think they know best, and actually succeed. But most successful people are constantly adapting to the environment, even when pursuing an aggressive vision. Keep learning, take training, and keep and open mind.
Get it Done
When the franchisee and franchisor are on the same page, and both execute, success happens!
Take a look at the keys above and see where you need the most work. You can’t do everything at once, but if you prioritize the most important AND urgent things, if you follow a plan and you delegate to others, together, your franchise will succeed.