Managing in the big leagues
As Spring Training transitions to Opening Day, I am reminded that many of the best franchise systems function like great baseball managers. They evaluate their prospects, recruit the best, mentor younger players, and manage the personalities of All-Stars to make the team even better.
And while the back office can certainly promote a fun day at the ballpark, ultimately people want to see and be a part of a winning team. So it is with franchising. Franchisors can spend a fortune on marketing, but the best promotion for your franchise opportunity will invariably be a team of franchisees who provide strong validation on behalf of the system.
So how do they do it in the Big Leagues?
Draft five-tool players
When looking to build your system’s roster, it’s imperative to draft the right players. Often, emerging franchise brands feel the need to sign up franchisees as soon as possible. But the end result of choosing the wrong franchisees can be devastating, and force you into “rebuilding” mode. (Trust me. I am a Cubs fan. I know.)
Franchisees that are not a good fit cost significantly more to support and provide far less in the way of royalties. Their poor validation (and worse, internet postings and lawsuits) will slow or even halt the overall development of your franchise system. Focus your sales and marketing efforts only on your best prospects in the draft, not the 80 percent of franchise leads that you know are going to be busts.
Your first-rounders need to be five-tool players, the kinds of folks that would succeed in any system. What to look for when scoring your franchisee prospects:
1. Intelligence. They should have the natural abilities and/or the education to run your franchise business the right way.
2. Access to capital. They need to meet or exceed your minimum net worth requirements, have good credit and access to liquid capital to properly invest in their franchise business.
3. Determination. Not only should your prospects have the right resume, they need to also be hard workers. They should have the same drive and passion to run your business as you do.
4. Shared values. Beyond wanting to be their own boss and run a business, your franchisees should truly believe in your concept and share your core values and goals.
5. Skills. Franchisee prospects should have concept-specific skills. Does the business call for sales ability? Managerial skills? Financial acumen? Marketing expertise? Industry-specific experience?
The problem, of course, is that franchise prospects will generally not volunteer that they are stupid, undercapitalized and lazy—even if they are. So, evaluating talent will play a key role in your success. If you lob them an underhand throw, anyone can hit it out of the park.
During the Babe Ruth-era, it was not uncommon for players to work part-time jobs during the off-season. They were paid a small stipend to pitch and hit during the season and then found other work during the off-season. Many would return to spring training overweight and unpolished, having not practiced in months.
But, the superstars of today train year-round. And even average players understand that training is an essential part of the job.
The same should be said for your franchise. Training cannot stop the day your franchisees open for business. Franchise systems need to be committed to meaningful, ongoing support.
To ensure franchisees can train at all times, consider housing your training and operations tools in the cloud behind a password-protected system. To heighten training, more and more franchises are leveraging multi-media tools to create an interactive experience. Whether it’s a digital quiz, a standing videoconference, newsletters, conferences or even third-party providers, franchisors need to continue to evaluate and refine their franchise training tools and adjust them to suit the changing needs of the game.
Hire great coaches
Great coaches bring out the best in their players. That’s what great franchisors offer their franchisees.
Your franchise field support team needs to be more than an umpire policing your brand standards. They need to focus on helping franchisees grow. They should work with them to develop annual business plans that address adding the resources needed to continue building their franchise business. Helping a franchisee develop his or her management team and build a balance sheet for access to credit can go a long way in planting the seeds for further expansion.
The best franchises coach their franchisees on how to grow. If, after three or four years, your first few franchisees are looking to open additional locations, you will know that the coaching your system provides is working. Franchisees that see multi-unit ownership as the way to take the next step in their own growth are a sure-fire way of expanding.
One critical issue to keep in mind: When training franchisees, always do so in a way that completely separates you as the franchisor from their employees. In an environment where the winds of recent NLRB actions swirl, franchisors must always keep a clear distinction during the training process. Instead of interacting with a franchisee’s employees directly, develop the tools your franchisees need to train them without your direct involvement.
Ultimately, of course, the game isn’t played from the dugout—it is played between the lines. But if you select the right people, provide them with the proper tools and training, and surround them with great coaches, the odds are your team will come out on top.
And, in the end, everyone wants to play for a winner.
Mark Siebert is CEO of consulting firm iFranchise Group. Reach him at 708.957.2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book is “Franchise Your Business: The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever.” Go Cubs!