Growing Your Franchise Business in Uncertain Times
Updated: May 19, 2021
Control what you can control, and get creative!
Franchise Owners make up a unique set of individuals, taking the leap into business ownership for various reasons. Though there's the good percentage of folks who are emotionally attached to the concept, the brand, and have passion for the space or service, there’s certainly another percentage looking at this as a route to diversify their investment portfolio, and be more hands off (i.e. semi absentee). Both can present its own set of unique challenges when it comes to remaining versatile, dedicated, and laser focused at growing your operation during uncertain times.
The last year has presented us with quite the handful of unforeseen tasks and challenges. It’s tested our ability to lead, coach, maintain, and grow our business(s). And it's really tested our knowledge, practice, and dedication as owners. For those anticipated “absentee owners”, it’s meant rolling up the sleeves and getting into the thick of things, likely more than you had originally planned. And for those active owners, it’s forced us to execute on what we signed up for, and do it well.
Though each ownership style has it's own varying hurdles to overcome, the following can really apply to both, and be a refresher on the "must have's" to weather the storm.
There's a reason franchisors can be massively successful. They build a rock solid process, and create a blueprint for success. One that's been tried and proven. We've all heard it before. "Follow the blueprint, and you will succeed" (sort of..). Process is second to none. You can only get lucky so many times, and without a sound process in place, you're setting yourself up for even more unforeseen challenges, and/or surprises that you likely want to avoid, and more often than not, failure. I'm not saying to re-invent the blueprint given to you by the franchisor, but instead study the blueprint, make sure you're following it, make sure you're adapting to changes being passed down from corporate, etc., and then, just as importantly, build YOUR process as well. Do you have plans in place for when X happens? Are you in lock step with your GM/front line managers and the expectations set forth? Are you coaching to critically think, and do you have a plan in place for when the "unknown" happens? Are you running weekly 1:1's with your management and going through a set list of (actionable) KPI's? Are you focusing on automation and efficiencies, and have you invested the time and energy in implementing those? Are you avoiding having to navigate the same "fire drills" with no immediate change? There's certainly a "science" behind running a successful business. Just as much as the franchisor has invested the time and resources in creating the blueprint for success, have you also spent the time creating your process and SOP's that your staff is in agreement with and working toward?
Know. Your. Numbers! For whatever reason, I've seen people get into franchise businesses rather quickly, without really doing enough due diligence. Maybe because it's a space they "know" and feel comfortable with, or just something they're really passionate about, and they feel they can just "figure it out". Numbers don't lie. And if you've taken the time to stress your models and financial plans prior to acquiring a franchise, then you probably understand some key benchmarks and thresholds to help support a profitable business.
In my experience, and a thought process likely hard to argue with, process and numbers typically go hand-in-hand. And coupling these two and thinking of them as a package also provides some quantifiable and actionable data. "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it." If you've created a specific process, and understand the unit economics of your business, it allows you a much easier look into what's working, and why. "Gut feelings" only get you so far. I can't tell you how many time's I've re-forecasted my budget and played around with my P&L since this pandemic. What's the worst case, what's the best case, where can we adjust on costs, where can we improve on efficiencies and what impact will it have? What % do we convert on new leads, and how many new leads do we need each month to convert at our average % to get us to where we need to be each month? What's our customer acquisition cost (CAC) and how can we improve on that? These are just a few simple examples, but this is the lifeblood of your business. Know your numbers inside and out. And if you have doubts, or feel like you're guessing at times, there's no better time than now to give yourself that refresher.
Innovation & Creativity
We as business owners have no time to complain, sulk, sit back and feel sorry for ourselves. There's been plenty of challenges and disadvantages presented to us during these awful times, however, we have no time to spare, and are forced to get creative and innovate to make it out alive. My wife and I invested in a Yoga franchise (YogaSix) in December of 2019 and signed our lease the same week the world shut down. (Impeccable Timing!!) On top of that, trying to manage build-outs, pre-sale, etc. we were obviously hit with some pretty hefty shutdowns and restrictions being a part of the "fitness" industry during this pandemic. Did we give up and call it a day? No, we told ourselves if we can act swiftly, be versatile, and get creative, we can make it through this. And if we can make it through this, I'm pretty sure we can make it through anything. Sure, there was also plenty of stress and I'm certain some complaining mixed in there as well. :) But long story short is that we were dealt our cards, and we had to play the hand we were given.
We got creative with sales, trying to lock in annual memberships, knowing we had no idea what to expect in 3, 6, 9 months. We focused on our community building and social presence more than ever, as we knew we already had a strong support system, and had to leverage it to it's fullest. We built virtual events, held invite only "virtual retail fashion shows" to try and push inventory. We made due with our capacity restrictions and started marketing as "semi private" classes in an effort to still operate under our governor's mandates. Yes, our class size was drastically reduced, but we still were able to get people through the door in an effort to maintain and keep the community alive. We understood that part of our build out included a "sterile air" filtration system to help push clean air through and fight against viruses as part of our commercial air unit. You better believe we put that front and center on our social posts, follow up messaging to leads/prospects, and marketed that like it was nobodies' business. Where there's a will, there's a way. To be honest, going through these times likely helped set up some business owners for success in the future. Being "backs against the wall" and having to pivot, get creative, and think outside of the box helped develop skills that we may not have otherwise had (or at least thought about as intensely). If there's one positive way to think about things, that could be one of them. It's forced us to think differently, act quickly, and be tenacious as owners/operators.
A lot of these ideas were learned, of course. Some didn't come natural. Some we had to go look for and ask for support, and pick the bright mind's of others to uncover new ideas, systems, and processes that are working. Developing a community of other franchise owners and networking was paramount to the development of our skills and new ideas.
If you're looking for something similar, check out Franchise Common where you can join a community of other like-minded Franchise Owners and Franchise Professionals sharing ideas, insights, best practices, and helping one another propel forward.