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You can't just wing it

Don't be chicken: Operating in this environment requires jumping in and making changes today, not tomorrow


Published:

The other day, 15-year-old son Sam found a solution to his money situation - the situation being that he had none. Sam is an industrious kid, so he told me, "Make a job list. I'll do anything you want."

I must say, to earn $20 from me, I'm going to make you clean, and clean well, honey. This includes, but is not limited to, vacuuming stairs, cleaning toilets (that's plural, not singular) and the dreaded picking up after the dog in the yard. You get my drift. But Sam was desperate: It seems Saturday his friends will head out to the local chicken wings franchise to watch the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC, for those of you in the know). Apparently, he must attend, or his social life is finito, finished, over.

So, I made the job list and promptly left home for a couple of days for a work trip. When I arrived back home, the job list was still there, on the kitchen counter, untouched. When I asked about the work, the reply was "mañana." I found out later that husband Doug will be going to the restaurant with both sons to watch the event. Bingo! That's why the job list was not started. Sam's assumption was that Dad would pay. Hmmm.

Despite that, I still made him complete the jobs. He asked for them, he got them, and now he has to do them, no matter who is paying the chicken wings bill. Dad may be buying, but if he does, Sam will have a little chicken feed in his own pocket the next time he and his friends want to do the latest cool thing.

Sam's tale reminds me a bit of our current operating environment. In years past, with a consumer willing to spend and cheap capital available to any business wanting to grow, many businesses didn't have to operate on all cylinders. One could choose when to go the extra mile; when those "jobs" would get done. Fine-tuning the business could be for "mañana" - why worry about tomorrow when today was oh so fine?

 

Mary Jo Larson,Publisher

Mary Jo can be reached at 612-767-3200 or mlarson@franchisetimes.com

Fast forward to today, and I don't have to tell you, we are all operating differently. Franchisors and franchisees alike are figuring out how to do business a different way, and they are figuring it out quickly. In this issue, we've covered how franchisors are reinventing themselves by adding complementary concepts for their franchisees in order to leverage their space and meet the demands of a changing consumer. Some are looking five years into the future, readying their concept for when the rally comes.

And many are burrowing in, getting back to the basics, or "blocking and tackling" at the unit level. Both franchisees and franchisors have to deliver to a more value-conscious consumer who will vote with his feet if you don't get it right the first time. Customer service has never been more in vogue - heck, good customer service is survival.

And there is the ever-present issue of financing. Capital is hard to come by right now, and within our pages this month, we're covering this issue. While I've heard franchisors say, "We don't want to be a bank," attitudes must change if they want their franchisees to grow. There are ways to get creative financing done, say the experts, but franchisors must be involved and take part of the risk. Gone are the days when they could be hands-off their franchisees' financing plans. When it comes to capitalizing franchisees, some franchisors aren't waiting for "mañana." They are making changes now.

At Franchise Times, we've always presented successful franchisors and franchisees because we can learn from their stories and go back to our day-to-day business and apply that knowledge. But now, more than ever before, we need to read and learn from others and put ideas into action right away. Like Sam, doing the hard work now, while sometimes unpleasant readies us for a better tomorrow. Clichéd words? Maybe, but hopefully Sam will appreciate them when his wallet is a little heavier.

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