What Makes a Winning Franchisee?

By Debb Lowe, Director of Operations - The Franchise Relationships Institute

This article appeared in Issue 3#2 (January/February 2009) of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand

I recently had the pleasure and privilege of travelling around the country completing the judging for the Franchise Council of Australia’s (FCA) franchisee of the year awards. The franchisee of the year award is one of the most prestigious awards a franchisee can win.  

Not only is it prestigious for the franchisees, but in fact, it’s recognition of the whole franchise system. When a franchisee wins the state or national franchisee of the year, the sense of pride the whole system feels is immeasurable. One of the things that makes this so prestigious for the franchisees and their system, is the recognition from the industry.  

The interdependent franchise relationship 

The uniqueness of franchising is such that it is an interdependent relationship in its highest form. In essence, this means the success of one fully depends on the other. Franchisees and the franchisor need to work in a mature and respectful partnership. One of the most common misconceptions people have about entering into a franchise is the critical nature of the “interdependent” relationship. Too often people see themselves as “running their own business” in isolation from the franchisor, which is more an independent relationship. Or they might expect the franchisor to do everything for them, which is more a dependent relationship. In franchising, you’re in it together but you also need to stand on your own feet.

The fact is, the franchisor has invested years of time, money and soul into developing the brand and systems to support it. The franchisees are then entrusted to live and breathe the brand by using the systems. We find the most successful franchisees tend to be the ones who fully maximise the brand and the systems the franchisor has provided.     

The judging journey 

The franchisees that partake in the awards go through a gruelling judging process that is objective, scientific and rigorous. Franchisees are usually put forward to the FCA awards by their franchisor as part of their internal franchisee of the year process. 

Why would judging these awards be a privilege you ask?  Can you imagine travelling the country and sitting and talking to some of the most motivated, focused and successful people you have met? That is exactly what I experienced. As I interviewed franchisees, a distinct theme emerged through each of the finalists all over the country. 

They have: 

  • An absolute passionate about everything;  
  • A clear vision and plan for their life and their business;
  • A total commitment to their customers;  
  • Commitment and belief in developing a motivated and competent team;
  • Solid family support.

Let me share some stories with you. 

Absolutely passionate about everything  

One of the things that immediately strikes you when meeting “winning franchisees” is their passion. They are excited and positive about everything they do. They are particularly excited about their business and its future. They are also passionate about their personal growth. Most have business coaches and are part of networking groups where they learn and share ideas. 

So what does passion look like? It’s an energy that seems to radiate within them; their eyes shine, they bounce when they walk and of course, they are always smiling. This passion and energy is absolutely contagious. When observing their team during my visits, they were doing the same. They were reflecting their leaders, for the leader sets the scene.  

Winning franchisees are also totally passionate about their brand. They are unbelievable brand ambassadors and do everything and anything to build and protect the brand.    

A clear vision for their life and their business 

The old saying “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” couldn’t be more true when it comes to franchising. Whilst you are part of the franchise system, you are still the master of your destiny. In our research, we find that forty percent (40%) of a business’ success relies on the work and commitment of the franchisee. Sixty percent (60%) is due to the franchise system, which can be simply defined as the brand, location and business systems. 

Winning franchisees have spent time being clear about what they want from their lives, what is important to them and what success means. Having a business plan is a success factor that cannot be understated. Winning franchisees not only have a business plan but they share it with their teams and make them part of it.

Steve Finn, franchisee of Mr Rental in Western Australia involves his team in developing the business plan and has them responsible for parts of the plan. He then structures their inventive program around its success. 

In addition, and as part of his true commitment to his people, Steve also has them write a life plan that they review on a monthly basis. This gives them tremendous focus and fulfilment in their work as they see it is helping them move towards achieving their life plans. His people were so engaged in the business and its success; he almost doesn’t need to be there anymore. In fact, its one of his goals!   

The other critical factor here is the daily, weekly and monthly measurement of results against the plan. Winning franchisees are relentless about measuring the business. Interestingly but not surprising, the finalists are performing at the top of their franchise system in relation to sales and profitability.  

Total commitment to their customers 

Often the most important person in a business gets overlooked - the customer. Not with winning franchisees. They have their finger on the pulse and are closely connected to their customers. They understand that their whole business depends on the customer.

Tony Zoobi, franchisee of Hairhouse Warehouse in New South Wales, completes extensive research into the local area he is operating in. He understands the socio-economic makeup of the local community like language spoken at home, country of origin, religion, age and income.

This allows Tony to get a better understanding of what drives these consumers in their purchase decision. He then designs the product range to suit; he also hires people resembling that culture so his customers feel comfortable. And of course, he can gain an even deeper level of understanding of the community he operates in.  

Irene Keegan, franchisee of Fernwood in Western Australia is totally committed to keeping her finger on the pulse. She consistently surveys her customers; she uses their feedback to improve areas such as the club’s facilities, the type of classes and timing, just to name a few. Recently she added a belly dancing class due to her customers’ requests. She will then continue to survey to gain further feedback on the initiative’s success. Irene also uses the survey results to give feedback to her team.   

Developing a motivated and competent team 

People are without doubt the biggest ingredient in the recipe to success. Managing people is probably one of the most challenging yet rewarding things you do as a business owner. In my experience, those leaders that have a true desire to develop and motivate people are the ones that fully realise their dreams, for it’s the people that make you successful. And, that is exactly what I discovered about the finalists for franchisee of the year. 

In today’s environment, just training people is not enough. I heard some of the most innovative and creative ways to manage and motivate teams. Mark Maumill, franchisee from Banjo’s Bakehouse and the FCA’s joint Franchisee of the Year offers equity to his best performing people. They are called strategic partnerships. Mark has created a clear pathway for his people to follow when they join the team. Mark has spent years developing intensive training and development programs for his people, which consist of training from the franchisor and external providers. His latest strategic partner is just 24-years-old and started as a young casual!  

Bronwyn Butcher, franchisee from Frontline Recruitment in Western Australia has unbelievable passion for her people. Her philosophy is that success is based on people not profitability. Not surprising though, she is in fact profitable. For people = profit. 

As part of her team’s yearly planning day, each member creates a personal vision board, which they keep by their desks as constant motivation for things they want to achieve. As a team, they also create the sales budget and the incentives they would be happy to work hard for. One again, not surprisingly, they exceed budget and indulge in their team reward. People in Bronwyn’s business are encouraged and rewarded for innovative thinking and, they thrive on it. 

Solid family support 

Every franchisee I interviewed had amazing family support. This came in all shapes and sizes, however the bottom line was the same; they had the unwavering support of their partner. Some franchisees have their partner as an active part of the day to day operation. In this case, they have defined clear roles, responsibilities and accountabilities. This allows them to operate and thus behave like business partners first and foremost.  

Those that do not have their partner as an active day to day participant, have taken time to engage their partner in the decision to buy the franchise, the life and business planning process and of course, the successes. They attend functions held for the team and also of those held by the franchisor. Some partners also attend franchisee meetings and conferences so as to gain a greater understanding of the system and to add value. 

Running a business will bring you the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, however having a rock solid life partner will certainly ease the load and make it all worthwhile. 

Debb Lowe is the Director of Operations at the Franchise Relationships Institute. Debb works with franchise groups helping franchisees and franchisors create profitable partnerships. 

If you would like to talk to Debb about speaking at your conference or working with your network, contact her on (07) 3510 9000 or drop her a line at dlowe@franchiserelationships.com

To find out more about the work of the Franchise Relationships Institute, visit www.franchiserelationships.com