There’s no guarantee your business is going to succeed. Businesses fail almost daily and the statistics of companies that go out of business are staggering. Notwithstanding, while it’s not completely guaranteed, when franchisees open a franchise location there’s normally a good possibility yours can be successful. Why? Because a franchise already has a known brand and extra support from the franchisor.
The harder part lies with you since you must choose a franchise that’s going to put you on the road to success. How do you determine which one to choose? First, you select a product or service you’re passionate about. Next, research the franchises in that industry to select a respectable and profitable one. Then, examine the franchisors to find someone trustworthy, someone you get along with and someone who will put in the right amount of time and effort with your location.
Franchisees typically have a number of restrictions laid out in the franchise agreement, i.e. hours of operation, goods and services allowed to sell, product prices, supplier relationships, signage and more. (These restrictions are often laid out in what is called the “franchise disclosure document” and vary from franchise to franchise.) Franchisors maintain firm control on things franchisees can and can’t do because they want all their franchise locations to have the same look and feel so their customers know what to expect no matter where they visit.
But being a franchisee doesn’t mean there’s a complete lack of autonomy or room for innovation. Most franchisees are given the freedom to choose who they hire and fire, what values are set within their location and how they handle some of their marketing. Numerous franchisees have thought of new ideas which proved beneficial and successful for their specific location or ones that were even picked up by corporate headquarters and subsequently rolled out to franchises everywhere. Some of McDonald’s most famous sandwiches — one in particular being the Big Mac — were invented by franchisees. This is just one example of franchisee autonomy while still executing the franchisor’s business model and adhering to the restrictions.
So how exactly can you as a franchisee be successfully innovative with your franchise location while still staying within the franchise’s restrictions? Read the five ways to be successful, despite the restrictions, below.
1. Take Advantage of Social Media Marketing – This is possibly the area where you can have the biggest impact. Social media is a way to connect with customers, but it’s also free advertising for your franchise. Customers can like your franchise page on Facebook, tweet about how much they love all the cool deals your franchise offers, pin a pin of one of your products to their “Things I Need” Pinterest board, and so on and so forth. Through various social media platforms, people help build your brand at a greater level than was ever possible before social media.
All this is great for your franchise location but isn’t possible unless you set up social media accounts, consistently develop creative and engaging content, carefully monitor each account and keep up the interaction with your followers. You also have to be a franchise providing useful, interesting goods or services to customers and potential customers that they’ll want to share and talk about it with their friends and followers over their social media accounts.
Franchisees should still verify that any social activity on their part is allowed and not forbidden as some franchises also place restrictions on social media activity since it reflects, for better or worse, on the brand as a whole. Some older agreements omit social media altogether due to the newness of the mediums. Thus, whenever in doubt ensure that you’re within franchise restrictions before starting to leverage the power of social media!
2. Implement Community-Based Marketing Initiatives – This strategy works no matter where you’re located, but it’s a really smart move for those in a smaller city where community involvement is imperative to a business’ success. All businesses know you must be involved with the local community in order to get the resident’s full support, but not every business executes well when implementing their community-based marketing tactics. Don’t be one who fails to carry out the plans to get involved locally. Being innovative with this type of marketing helps ensure your franchise’s success because it brings customers in the door and results in positive word of mouth marketing within the community.
A great community marketing tactic is teaming up with a local school by hosting or helping out with a fundraiser or event. One specific example is to partner with local schools for “food days”. For instance, if once a month it’s pizza day and you’re the owner of the local pizza franchise then find a way to be the supplier for the school’s pizza day. View the relationship with a long term perspective and offer good pricing. You’ll make more money in the long run even if your margin is lower in the short term. This will also ensure guaranteed revenue on a monthly basis. Even more savvy franchise owners will take it one step further and work out a relationship which allows them to include fliers or promotions that the children can take home. This will generate even more business.
Additional local tactics can include similar agreements with annual events and promotions, like fun coupons, discount days or free samples, tailored specifically to your community and its events or institutions.
These local tactics are extremely important as perhaps one of the most common restrictions for franchisees is geographical based. In cities that have more than one franchise location it is critical to maximize your local area because it is all you have! For ones that don’t restrict franchisees to geographical areas developing relationships can be a great way to generate business from all over the city. Just make sure your efforts aren’t producing revenue for competitors that are closer to home for potential customers!
3. Study Your Competitors In The Area – This isn’t cheating. It’s just a smart business tactic. Knowing what your competitors are doing helps you counter their strategy with a better one of your own. Don’t do anything illegal of course, but it’s not a crime to check out their location or social media pages to see what kind of marketing they’re doing.
Often times many franchisees will assume that competitors are likewise restricted in what they can do and won’t do any competitive research incorrectly thinking that they aren’t doing anything innovative. Likewise, they’ll assume that corporate research and advice is sufficient for their location and area. But often, despite the restrictions, each geographical area will have a unique recipe for success. Thus, study your competitors and see what they are doing well and areas that they can improve on. Take their innovative ideas and weak areas and develop strategies to beat them. In this way you are leveraging corporate knowledge with your own experience of your area to better market your franchise to those within your area. While these tips in this article are in no particular order this should be one of the first things franchisees do when opening a location. Likewise, it should be something done on a regular basis to ensure success.
4. Win The Human Capital Game – Who you hire and whom you let go is completely up to you. You have total autonomy in this area. The decision lying solely with you can be a little overwhelming at first, particularly for new franchisees who are in unfamiliar territory, because you don’t want to make a wrong decision either way. When going through the process of hiring new employees, keep the 7 C’s in mind: competent, capable, compatible, commitment, character, culture and compensation. These “c’s” will be an excellent guide in finding a good employee.
Perhaps no other element of a business big or small makes a greater impact than human capital. A perfect example of this is Google who attracts some of the brightest minds the world has to offer because of all the amazing perks and benefits that come with working there. It could be argued in a franchise setting that this has even more importance as there is only so much one can differentiate. Having undoubtedly the best customer service in the market can make a tremendous impact on the profitability and success of any franchise.
Nonetheless we all know mistakes happen and sometimes you hire an employee who turns into a lazy or poor performing one and you just have to deal with it. Firing is one way to handle this type of employee, but it’s not always the best route to take. Firing is hard on you who’s doing the firing, it’s hard on the person being fired and normally it’s bad for the morale of your other employees. If this employee didn’t do something illegal or hasn’t repeatedly broken company policies, spend some time talking to and coaching them to be the kind of employee you expect them to be. Nonetheless, hard decisions must be made when it comes to human capital if you want to be successful in the long run. Lastly, remember to be the kind of boss you’d want to work for. If you treat your employees well, then they treat your customers well. Everybody wins when that happens.
5. Maintain a Good Working Relationship With The Franchisor – Getting along with the franchisor is extremely important. You spend a lot of time talking and working with them about details big and small. Plus your wagon is hitched to theirs once you sign that franchise agreement so you better make sure it’s a working relationship you want to be in. Your working environment — and your life in general — will be happier and easier if you and the franchisor get along. This doesn’t mean you’ll agree on everything, but you must be willing to listen to what they have to say, do what they ask you to do and not be afraid to share your own thoughts and ideas with them. A nice thing about maintaining a good working relationship with them is when you do have an innovative idea you can run it past them. Your franchisor may have already thought of, tried and failed with the idea, which isn’t what you want to hear but will save you the time and money you would’ve wasted on it.
Developing a strong relationship and two way communication with the franchisor will foster the trust that is inherently needed for franchisees to ask and subsequently execute innovative ideas that can result in big wins for the franchise. Thus, make a conscious effort to build this relationship over time so that your ideas can become reality.
Innovation comes out of necessity and sometimes what might even seem like an unrealistic or strange idea . But without innovation from franchisees, many franchises wouldn’t have the awesome products or services they do today, like the Big Mac. Innovation is possible and needed so don’t be afraid of trying something outside the norm, as long as you don’t break any part of your agreement, to help ensure long term success for your franchise.