Franchises Should Play Offense Not Just Defense, Buzz Brands CEO Says
British Swim School is one of three concepts under the Buzz Franchise Brands umbrella.
"If it looks like you're overreacting, you're probably doing the right thing." That's a quote from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's point medical man on the pandemic, that Kevin Wilson, CEO of Buzz Franchise Brands, takes to heart.
He and others urged franchises to act quickly, such as offering royalty deferment and communicating with operators constantly. "It's not too late to do something positive and proactive about it," said Keith Gerson, president of FranConnect, who moderated a webinar about the "10 most critical ways to support franchisees during COVID-19 disruption."
But Wilson also advised franchisors to look beyond the initial panic. "Keep selling. Use this as an opportunity to play offense, not just defense," he said. "There is no success for your employees, franchisees or customers if the franchisor is not successful. Have a plan."
Wilson noted different effects for the three brands under the Buzz umbrella: British Swim School is 100 percent shut down; Pool Scouts is unaffected; and Home Clean Heroes is at about 50 percent revenue.
Don't push the panic button on sales. "This time of uncertainty is not the time to push pause; it's time to double down. Those of you who have been through this, recessions are a positive time for franchise development," he said.
Buzz Brands switched to virtual meetings for discovery days, for example, and a week ago had three groups participate. "Be creative," he said. "If you look at the fixed cost in general and every new franchisee keeps you busy, I think it helps you make decisions: low or no franchise fees; deferred payment, anything that demonstrates you're open for business."
M&A should be on some franchisors' minds, too. "As a well-capitalized franchisor, there will be opportunities that smaller franchisors won't make it. Spend some time and look for good concepts that find themselves in a liquidity trap."
Wilson believes franchisees need frequent and caring communication. "Your franchisees are more scared now than when they opened," he said. "Stay in front of this early and show them you care. Make sure all your employees that work with franchisees understand their state of mind.
"Many of them, it's their first year," and they had visions of business success. "Their plans and dreams have all been crushed."