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When Making Change, ‘Zee to ‘Zee Intel Is Best


Paul Pickett is chief development officer at Wild Birds Unlimited.

“With new prospects I say, change is inevitable but growth is optional,” says Paul Pickett, chief development officer of Wild Birds Unlimited, a retail franchise selling everything to enable bird feeding and watching. He spoke on a panel about leading system change at the Faegre Baker Daniels Franchise Summit Wednesday in Minneapolis.

In retail, he continues, “change is absolutely going to be a part of your day. I talk about change that’s reactive,” such as examining performance metrics and making adjustments, “and change that’s proactive.” For the latter, he likes to do a little sleuthing, such as talking with franchisees who are “doing very well, they’re breaking the trend. What are they doing different? What’s the marketing and what’s the product assortment?”

He also recommends getting out in the field, literally in Wild Birds' case. “We also spend a lot of time with the end consumer, and finding out what are we missing that they want. Just going and spending time, and going to a park or an environment where there’s a public bird feeding station, and listening to people enjoying the hobby and saying what do they want that we’re not giving them?”

Sarah Yatchak, now with Great Clips, the haircut franchise, was with Buffalo Wild Wings and before that in private practice. “I’ve counseled mature to emerging franchisors over many years and cut my teeth in franchising suing franchisors,” she says, so she’s experienced all sides of trying to make change.

Her recipe for success: “Bringing folks along early and often and making sure there’s a compelling business case,” she says. On a franchise advisory counsel, “you don’t want yes men. You don’t want to surround yourself with the franchisees who nod their heads and say this is great,” even though outspoken franchisees can be challenging, too.

“There are times when you want to pull your hair out and Craig’s hair out, too,” she said with a laugh, referring to the panelist to her right, Craig Leonard, a Rally's franchisee who runs his stores with his two sons. Leonard is one of those outspoken franchisees who often tests new ideas, especially equipment, for his franchisor.

Leonard believes in franchise advisory boards. “The way I look at it is, if you don’t have a seat at the table then you’re on the menu. Your franchisees are just like you, they have to make some money out of this. If they have to make an investment, what’s in it for them at the end of the day? Can you show real numbers?”

And there’s no substitute for hearing the straight scoop from fellow operators, which is another incentive for franchisors to involve them in discussions. “Franchisees trust franchisees. While they may have a great relationship with you as a franchisor, they believe that the P&L that another franchisee is sharing with them is legitimate.”

He urges franchisors to clearly spell out: Whats’ the goal? What’s the measurement going to be? What will be those measurements along the way?

The Faegre Baker Daniels Franchise Summit, featuring attorney Brian Schnell as master moderator and emcee, ran Wednesday and Thursday at the Radisson Blu in downtown Minneapolis.

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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