As winter departs spring cleaning naturally comes to mind and for any home we all know that means discarding unwanted clothes, cleaning out your cupboards and removing the film of accumulated grime from the windows. And every five years it’s replacing faded curtains and tired furniture and giving the place a coat of paint.
This is not just to make the place look spick and span – we do it to keep our homes and ourselves up with the times – so we don’t look like we are lost in yesterday.
And so with your business – to maintain the essential energy and freshness, it’s an annual refresh when you look at your strategic planning for the year and a five-yearly ‘Repositioning’ when the time is right. It’s no accident that shopping centres make retailers re-jig their shop fit-out as each lease is renewed. Centre managers are well aware that retailers must stay current to perform and the same applies to any business, whether trading through a shopfront, online or elsewhere.
Every successful long running franchise group regularly makes sure they examine their business against changes within the business and against the market. And there are many examples where franchise groups let it slip to their regret.
Michael Sherlock got this right in his reign at Brumby’s where every year they’d do fine tuning and every five years carry out obvious repositioning from new menus and brand refresh to counter sales methods. We also witnessed the case around 10 years ago with Hungry Jacks as Macca’s and Subway took the healthier route but HJs dragged their heels and took some time to refresh their offering and suffered accordingly.
Sadder is the example of high profile mobile catering group who grew their numbers rapidly but failed to expand their vision accordingly and, to make matters worse, they failed to maintain adequate communication with their franchisees. The sad outcome was a disheartened and discouraged group of franchisees. The franchisor played the blame-game and as you’d guess, ultimately they folded. To make it simple – here are things to look at for your business spring lift or five yearly makeover.
The Annual Spring Clean
Let’s face it, most of us do this in January or July/August; at the beginning of the financial year so we’re ready for the next year’s trading. These can be quiet months for many of us and a good opportunity to look at how last year went and to check to see if there are any changes we need to think about for the next 12 months.
Hopefully there is good strategic planning in place and good records of the Key Performance Indicators we know show how we are doing. I keep an eye on these monthly or weekly but a check of the annual averages or flows is really very useful.
At the very least, I look at the leads I attracted to my business over the year, where they came from, how qualified they were and how many of these I converted to sales of my different products. I look at turnover and expenses and profit and how cash flow was managed over the year. And I get another pair of eyes to do it with me as I realise I’m blind to some things, and so are you!
Are there warning signs, are we being asked to do things differently? Is there a drop in any particular area? Are certain things growing unexpectedly showing new trends in the market? Why?
I also look at my staff and how they coped, especially through our busy times. Did we have any disasters and how did we deal with those? Were there any high points and how can we build on those?
And in response to all the issues we raise, we re-jig the budgets and performance criteria for the next year. Set the direction and standards we want to achieve over the next 12 months. What sales do we want to achieve, and is there a need to re-jig our marketing direction for the year?
And finally we have a quick check to remove the clutter and tired marketing material and make sure any new direction will be clear and fresh.
Old videos not performing well are removed; copy that does not meet our desired market is re-written or binned. Files are archived so they do not get in the way. The New Year’s system is put in place, clean and bright, full of energy.
The Three To Five-Year Re-Positioning
This is literally a re-launch chance and in this day and age when trends move faster than the speed of light, it is an essential check for any business. It is also essential to see how your business has changed internally as it matures because it is inevitable that needs will shift at various growth stages.
When you’re repositioning, you need to ask big questions about your relevance as a business which means a thorough review of all areas. The issues we look at are not very different to those we check each year against our strategic planning – it is just that we look much more closely over a longer time frame and ask much more searching questions. Especially about how our brand is stacking up in the market against any significant market changes and to see if there are any emerging opportunities. And we plan our major marketing campaigns for the next few years.
It is essential to focus on the main areas.
Are all the roles pertinent today? And do people filling the roles still have relevant skills? With time and growth and maturity the needs slowly change – initially responsive and nurturing but in a mature business it’s more guidance and innovative.
Review everything, from your USP, definition of your customer, completion and the relevance of your product and marketing message today.
Are all expense and revenue items relevant and accurate?
Is territory planning for future franchisees still relevant? And where are the next primary expansion areas – inter-state or another country?
Operations and Procedures Manuals
Are these up to date and still relevant? Do they need an overhaul?
Do these address issues relevant to your current crop of franchisees? Are your support staff up to the task?
Are the schedule and the terms still relevant?
Have you kept the disclosure document up to date?
Recruitment Marketing and Processes
Is your franchisee avatar still relevant?
Your Leadership Skills
Do you need a brush up?
When reviewing many of the major brands that have slipped into obscurity over the years, it’s clear that they have ignored this basic need of every business and by doing so, miserably failed in their duty to their franchise partners, corporate team and shareholders.
Where are Bumper-To-Bumper, Berklee Mufflers, Pets Paradise and the likes today? In some cases these groups are saved from oblivion by corporate rescues, mergers and so on but that’s not always so.
Most positive is John O’Brien from Poolwerx. I know that everything Poolwerx has changed over the years has been in response to careful strategic examination. That is why it is today the most successful pool maintenance company in the world and John is now living in the U.S. expanding his group over there.
Probably their most significant change was the re-structure of the support office. When this was first set up, support staff were largely technical, training new franchise partners in how to maintain swimming pools. However, as time went on and franchise territories filled, Poolwerx found most franchise partners had been with the group for a long time and no longer needed such training. To keep morale high, what they really needed was training in business growth and how to leverage themselves out of the day to day running of their franchise outlet. John had to go through the difficult process of replacing 60 per cent of his support staff so they could meet these needs.
How Do You Know It’s Right?
On all my clients projects I always use Jack Trout’s ‘5 Tests of Obvious’:
1. The problem we solve will be obvious – when you see it, it’s simple.
2. Does it make sense to people? It must align with peoples’ perception.
3. Put it on paper – you must have a short and snappy story.
4. Does it explode in peoples’ minds? Does it resonate easily?
5. Is the timing right? Timing is everything: too soon and it doesn’t work, too late and it doesn’t work.
So roll up your sleeves and let the sunshine in!
To Wrap Up
Use re-positioning to make tough decisions and take advantage of your competition. And always remember that a crisis is something not to be wasted!
About Brian Keen
From a quantity surveyor to a business entrepreneur, Brian’s business prowess has shone over 40 years. He arrived in Perth from London in 1975 and by the early 80’s had became a franchisee with the newly launched BedShed group, opening and operating seven stores in five years.It didn’t take Brian long to realise that creating franchises was the true direction in his life. Leaving BedShed behind, Brian established a national franchise consultancy and sales group, The Franchise Alliance. Throughout his time with The Franchise Alliance, the company developed sales strategies and business systems for over 40 businesses including Jim’s Mowing, UltraTune, Brumby’s and Donut King; and internationally, groups such as Expense Reduction Analysts.
Establishing “How to Franchise Simply’, which delivers a simple step-by-step franchising system through the internet and workshops, Brian has shown countless business owners how to transform a familysized firm into a multi-million dollar asset, while saving them tens of thousands of dollars in consultancy fees in the process.