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Effective Decision-Making: Managing Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

Teach franchisees to shift their blame from the economy and 

focus on strategic ways to build business.

By P. Allan Young Jr.

Fear, uncertainty and doubt, known as the FUD concept, was coined in the 1970s by computer architect Gene Amdahl when he left IBM to start his own company. Amdahl later accused the prominent technology corporation of using FUD tactics to scare consumers into sticking with “safe” IBM products instead of purchasing competitors’ products. In today’s stagnant economy, FUD has infiltrated the franchise world, looming over the heads of franchisees. That fear and self-doubt have been multiplied by the media, which often reinforces negative messages, eventually leading to a lack of confidence among business owners and franchisees. While business owners try to think positively, constant news reports of struggling small businesses, negative news about economic recovery and discouraging information about the government’s inability to give business owners the incentives they need to start hiring again are hard to ignore.
A franchisor is never immune to a franchisee’s losses.

It’s important to remember that FUD or the fear of failing, uncertainty of the future of a business, and doubting one’s own abilities is a normal human response and is natural in business environments. Franchisees experience an exponential effect of FUD because in many cases, some or all of their invested net worth is riding on the success of their business operation. As anxiety over thoughts of failure continues to build, FUD takes on full force and a domino-effect of “what ifs” results, further diminishing franchisees’ confidence.
Overcoming the FUD factor is vital to the success of every business owner. Franchisors help alleviate the FUD felt by their franchisees during stressful times by utilizing a set of leadership tools designed to help motivate and encourage franchisees to adopt a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to their business. Here are a few tips and suggestions for franchisors to consider when addressing FUD with their franchisees.

We’re in This Together
Destroy the misconception that the franchisor sits like a king on top of an ivory tower looking down at his franchisees while they absorb the brunt of the dirty work. Whether you’re a franchisor with five franchisees or 2,000 franchisees, a franchisee’s loss is your loss. A franchisor is never immune to a franchisee’s losses, so when they take a hit, you will feel the blow every time—regardless of the size of the franchise system. Build a solid relationship with your franchisees early on so that they see you as a partner and not an adversary there to judge their every move. A communication rift exists in many franchisor/franchisee relationships, and that gap can be detrimental if not addressed. As leaders, it’s the responsibility of the franchisor to mend that gap. Rather than solely looking at your franchisees as a money-making machine, make it clear to them that you’re there to look out for their best interests and will be cheering them on to success every step of the way.

Turn FUD Into a Positive
People control 98 percent of the situations they face in life based on their attitudes, with the remaining 2 percent based on factors they can’t control. It’s common practice for franchisees that have recently experienced a slow month in sales to blame it on external factors—such as the economy—that they cannot control.
When applying the FUD rule, any negative results lead to more negative results, and it becomes a downward spiral toward inaction, depression and ultimately failure if left unaddressed. When allowed to prevail, FUD continues to breed only one thing—more FUD.
As franchisors and leaders, we can help franchisees turn FUD into a positive force by helping them learn to engage their fears and see them as a motivational tool. By engaging the analytical part of the brain rather than the emotional part, franchisees will begin to look at the situation from a purely factual perspective instead of letting fears take over. Help franchisees pinpoint and face down their fears, and then transfer those negative feelings into positive energy to help turn the situation around.
In other words, looking at a situation that was once perceived as negative from a purely unemotional standpoint will help franchisees identify the source of their fear, and then take steps in the opposite direction to remedy the problem—the emotional side is re-engaged later. It’s that “keep on truckin’” state of mind that we’re trying to achieve: if one thing doesn’t work, move on and try another until you get it right. Getting out in the marketplace to network, brainstorming new creative ideas to help drive sales, and learning ways to improve business from fellow franchisees are all positive steps. When in a rut, a franchisee can choose fight or flight, and a franchisor should help drive them to the fight. For ice hockey champion and coach Wayne Gretzky is quoted as saying, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Chances are your struggling franchisees haven’t come close to taking all of their shots. They just need the motivation to try.
Treat the Cause, not the Symptoms
It’s easy to use the economy as a scapegoat for every business-related problem that occurs. One can always count on the media to continuously remind us of the sob stories and struggles facing small-business owners because those are the compelling stories that garner the most attention. Use your leadership abilities as a franchisor to help steer franchisees away from the notion that the economy is the impediment to their success. Point out the thousands and thousands of franchisees in the United States, including the ones in your system that are thriving despite the economic downturn. The successful business owners aren’t the ones who blame their inability to overcome hurdles on external factors. People can’t singlehandedly change the economy, but they can change their outlook toward the factors that they do control. Remind franchisees that one month of poor sales doesn’t have to equate to a year of poor sales, because there are positive ways for franchisees to change their actions the second time around to achieve a better outcome. Teach franchisees to shift their blame away from the economy and instead focus on strategic ways to build business.

Develop a Strategic Action Plan
Develop a strategic action plan with franchisees. When developing a plan, make sure the goals outlined are “SMARTY goals.” SMARTY stands for the following questions that must be asked before creating a goal: Is the goal specific? Is it meaningful? Is it attainable? Is it reasonable? Is it time bound? Is it yours? Each goal should be developed by the franchisee with the franchisor’s guidance. Assist in the goal-making process by discussing best practices and sharing results from throughout the system. Key performance indicators, such as revenue, cost per lead, conversion rates, ROI on advertising, customer satisfaction and other metrics that are important to the system are great guidelines for setting goals. KPI results should be shared among the system monthly so that franchisees know who to look to among their peers to improve and meet their goals. When franchisees who are struggling know that others in the system are achieving results in the KPIs, it not only gives them a place to look for help, but it makes positive results seem much more attainable when they see their peers meeting and exceeding those marks.

 

Adopting the “Can-Do” Attitude
There’s no question that franchise systems are feeling a stronger sense of fear, uncertainty and doubt than in the past. Having a plan to deal with FUD among franchisees is vital to a franchise system’s success. A good franchisor will take the time to develop a deep understanding of his franchisees’ emotions so that they can better empathize with each person’s situation. The key is to change their thought process so that a negative question such as, “What if I go out and don’t end up signing with any strategic partners?” is turned into, “What if I go out and talk to five potential strategic partners and one agrees to sign with me, and then my sales increase?” Success is just a matter of clearing out the FUD and replacing it with positive thinking and proactive decision-making. 

P. Allan Young Jr., is CEO and co-founder of ShelfGenie Franchise Systems, a concept that designs, builds and installs Glide-Out shelving systems that are custom-built to fit into existing cabinets. ShelfGenie has more than 46 franchisees with more than 120 locations. Allan can be reached at 804-931-1698 or allan@shelfgenie.com.

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