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Why great franchising is akin to forward-thinking grandparenting


I never realized how closely aligned franchising is with grandparenting until I volunteered to watch my daughter’s two boys, Perry, 5, and Fisher, 7, so she and her husband could go to work. The boys’ other grandmother watched them full time prior to this school year, so she gets the benefits of a new study finding that baby-sitting your grandchildren may reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Sadly, one day a year doesn’t give you much of a long-term health benefit.

Fisher and Perry

Fisher, right, and Perry prepare to get the jump on their visiting grandmother.

By the time franchisors are ready for grandkids (franchisees), they’ve already raised their own units and are bullish on the future. If they’re lucky, they have ample resources to invest and some wisdom to share. The downside is that they tire much more easily and put their money where their mouth should be saying “no.” And they rely way too much on technology to get their charges from point A to point B. (When I bought the boys iPads for Christmas last year, I had no idea that they would one day be a substitute for me.)

In order to be more entertaining than an iPad, here was our schedule (you’ll note how similar it is to a Discovery Day): 9:14 a.m. breakfast at home; 10 a.m. head to the Cambria Hotels & Suites for a private swim; 10:05 a.m. return home to pick up forgotten disabled iPhone for games; 10:15 a.m. “swim”; 11:17 a.m. return home to pick up underwear for 7 year old, who refused to go commando for even two hours; 11:36 a.m. lunch at Panera; 12:15 movie; 12:17 p.m. fetch a handful of napkins to wipe off Icee cup, which was not squeezed, just miraculously overflowed; 2:30 p.m. drive to Sky Zone for a really long time of jumping (this was one time when you felt like you got too much for your money); 3:30 p.m. hit Menchie’s for all you can wear frozen yogurt; 4 p.m. head home and say a silent prayer their mother is doing the same.  

Much like me, franchisors sometimes want to do too much for their wards. Yes, we all know of the opposite cases, but those are usually the ones Editor-in-Chief Beth Ewen covers in her Continental Franchise Review column, and we won’t be discussing here.

The good franchisor will let its franchisees do things for themselves, so as to not smother them and to allow them to be in business for themselves, but not by themselves. For me, such was the case at Panera, where I handed Perry his tray with a crock of macaroni and cheese to carry back to the table. Perry immediately dropped it, breaking the crock and spilling the mac in the middle of the floor. To his credit, Perry did not take the blame for his actions. “You shouldn’t have handed me that,” he said, and he was right. A good caretaker of the brand knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold up your tent and move on.

Be cognizant, franchisors, that there is a balance to the franchise relationship, and that perhaps adding in a frozen yogurt stop after a movie may be too much of a sweet deal. And be prepared for the times your charges will be unreasonable. You can offer to buy them underwear at the nearby Target so that you don’t have to drive all the way home, but you can’t make them wear it. Compromise, even if it seems like they’re always winning.

Nancy Weingartner

Nancy Weingartner
Reach Nancy at 612-767-3207 or nancyw@franchisetimes.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nanweingartner

Remember, too, there is no letting down your guard when you are the person in charge. Leaders constantly have to be on the lookout for—among other things—negative influences in the guise of packaged candy someone in the hotel stocked in public view or video game machines where quarters disappear into a prizeless abyss. Competition also needs to be watched, but not at the same time. Fortunately, Fisher and Perry’s cousins live in Denver, not Cleveland.

There may be times when your charges do things that appear at first blush to taint the brand, as innocent as it may seem to them. For instance, when 5-year-old Perry sits in his booster seat in the back of the van and sings, “I have the whole world in my pants,” it’s giggle-producing, and more than a little charming. But if, say, Roger Ailes, disgraced former Fox News chairman, belted it out during a staff meeting, the very same refrain would be fodder for litigation and not the least bit cute.

The other commonality these two seemingly unrelated groups have is they often employ a board of directors that routinely interferes in the decision-making process. Mine, of course, is my daughter and son-in-law who think they know how to parent better than I do. They forget I was the one who came up with the original concept. And, it was totally a labor of love. Right, franchisors?

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