At this week’s Franchise Forward event held in the Twin Cities, a great panel of franchise experts delved into a variety of topics impacting the industry, while host John W. Francis used his keynote address to compare multi-unit franchising to the life cycle of people. It was an interesting approach.
Moderated by Franchise Times’ own Kevin Pietsch, the panelists touched on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) getting involved in franchise labor practices, to which Doug Imholte of Marsh & McLennan urged the audience to look at employment practices liability insurance. He added that such insurance often includes a legal hotline where franchisees can call for on-the-spot advice to protect themselves as well as their franchisor.
Tamra Kennedy, a multi-unit franchisee out of the Twin Cities, urged attendees to go out of their way to modify training and other materials provided by the franchisor and “make them your own” in order to avoid potential joint-employer issues down the road.
“It’s tough as an owner not to tweak things, because we’re all boundary testers,” she said, suggesting making such moves was already in her nature. “Trust me, I don’t play well with others all of the time.”
Francis’ keynote was short, sweet and conceptual, suggesting that up-and-coming franchisees realize their own limitations when starting out, and avoiding common temptations to deviate from the plan as they begin scaling up their businesses.
During the first initial phase, “infant-toddler,” his advice was simple: “Don’t experiment.” While he said failure at this stage often involves spending more previous time and money, sticking with guidelines established by the franchisor is a smart approach to avoid overbuilding a store or making changes that don’t take into account all the possible consequences.
In adolescence—year two or three in franchising, oftentimes—Francis suggested that this is the time to work smart, work hard and play to win. This is the time to watch yourself to avoid becoming lazy or frustrated, and to turn very hard work into the foundation of a lifelong portfolio of stores and/or multiple brands.
Franchising adulthood, anywhere from 3-10 years in the biz, is the period where many owner-operators become stagnant. At this stage, with multiple stores and a growing headcount, he urged audience members to hire experts in accounting, HR and other disciplines to allow owners to focus on working on the business, rather than managing the minutiae that they are capable of, but in which they're likely not experts.
He called the senior stage “rock star status,” and defined it as the time to make plans in advance of circumstances changing—whether that’s unexpected health problems, changing business conditions or the addition or subtraction of business partners.
“Have a plan before you wish you did,” he added as he provided his final advice: re-invest in people, structure and technology; develop a culture of accountability; and lead, rather than do—also known as delegation.
“If you’re going to try to do it all yourself,” Francis said, “you’re really limiting your potential by an X factor.”