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Lessons to Grow Smart and Risk Less

Lessons to Grow Smart and Risk Less

Inspire the team to focus on the big picture of where the business can go and how it will get there.

By Shelly Sun, CFE

Do you have the team in place to run the day-to-day operations and be accountable for delivering on the goals for your business? This is critical because your team must function with less than five hours per month of your leadership, and you must be confident that your team can meet your expectations. Having a self-sufficient team managing the current business so that you can really focus your efforts on the successful launch and growth of your franchise system is the best place to start in your journey to franchising.
As you begin planning on growth from 10 franchisees to 50 franchisees and beyond, more time needs to be spent on the business. Through the execution of key management tactics, your franchise can mobilize and inspire the team to begin focusing on the big picture of where the business can go and how it will get it there.
Setting the vision for the organization and doing so as a group allows everyone to be driving to the same goals.

In Grow Smart, Risk Less: A Low-Capital Path to Multiplying Your Business Through Franchising, I provide a first-hand account of my journey through franchising that provides a roadmap for other franchisors along with insights and pitfalls to avoid. Here are five key lessons from my book about managing for growth that every franchisor should embody.

1. Live Your Vision
As a franchisor, you must develop a new set of skills to influence your team, both franchisees and employees. Your franchisees and your employees need to have confidence in you as the leader of your business; they need to know that you know where the business is capable of going and how to get there. One of the important lessons I’ve learned is that setting the vision for the organization and doing so as a group allows everyone to be driving to the same goals; no one is waiting around for the boss to tell her what to do next. The path has been set and the team has been empowered to deliver the needed results.
But what does it mean to live your vision? Having a vision in and of itself is not effective; this driving force must permeate everything that you do. From the perspective of your franchisees, they are not employees, they are investing rather than being guaranteed a salary, so they must have confidence in your leadership, and they must believe that following the model is the fastest, best path to success. Franchisees will not follow blindly, they need vision.
The larger your business gets, the more time you must spend away from the daily details and on the big picture. Your time must be allocated intentionally to strategic thinking and looking outside the organization for the threats to and opportunities for your business and your industry. From an employee perspective, living your vision means establishing clear goals; and, once I had this, the organization knew collectively where we were, where we were going, and what needed to be done to get there, and I was able to get out of the middle.

2. Hire for the Future
I learned the hard way over the past five years that hiring good people to fill an immediate need rather than hiring for what I needed to meet my goals in the following two years was cheaper, but was also an inhibitor to growth.
Once I began building job descriptions for the job that I needed two years out, and hired for that, the pieces the organization needed to grow began to fall into place. But we weren’t looking for just anybody to fill those key positions. It is so important to not only recruit talent that truly fits the culture and personifies of your vision, but also be deliberate about how to retain exceptional talent. And as the leader, you always have to be recruiting.
Once you know what positions you will need in the future, it is important to place yourself in situations to meet the people you may want to hire. Consider what events these candidates attend and the online groups they are members of. Find a way to spend time among the pool of potential candidates in their circles and empower members of your team to become recruiters of the talent that you need for future growth.

3. Push Accountability to the Smartest Level
I believe it is critical for employees at every level to know explicitly what their role is today and what their role could become over time. The future state must be defined with clear objective goals so that employees know what their titles and compensation will be, once they reach those goals. It puts the accountability for the outcomes and the development plan of the skills needed to get there with the employee.
Select people who are passionate and committed to our vision—providing care to families and enabling individuals to own businesses and create jobs—and then align their compensation and recognition around accomplishing a set of individual and shared goals. This not only establishes clear accountability, but also a high level of empowerment. This allows everyone in the organization to be fully engaged. The team knows where we are going and what their contribution will be individually and as part of their department to get us there.
There is also a development aspect to our approach to accountability. Arming my team with the knowledge and resources they need to be accountable is synonymous with setting them up for success. I ensure that our top-performing employees receive an opportunity to attend health care or franchise industry and or role-specific events, as well as to attend job-specific training to help them be ready for the next role. Brand-new managers attend “new manager” training, for example. As employees take on more project management responsibility, we train them in that new skill so they can be successful. We make a conscious commitment to an investment in developing our high-potential talent.

4. Train Franchisees to Lead
Our franchisees often come to us with extensive experience in executive roles in a wide variety of industries. They come hungry for an opportunity to make a difference and be their own boss. We arm them with the tools and training they need to be successful–from operations and crash courses on our business systems to sales and marketing, our training program is world-class.
But something that we have learned in the past few years is that an important part of our job in training our franchisees is not only guiding them to execute the model, but also preparing them for business ownership. We’ve learned that having experiences in Corporate America doesn’t always guarantee the development of certain skills that are best for owning a business.
To address this, we’ve added an entirely new track in our training program. This is geared toward helping our franchisees to identify their strengths and passions to pinpoint any skill gaps. This enables them to put a plan in place to either develop these skills or acquire talent to fulfill the need to set them up for success right out of the gate.

5. You are the Chief Cultural Officer
Last but not least, one of the most important roles a leader has is in establishing the culture of the organization. Often the leader may not know the impact he has on the culture. I like to be intentional about the culture that I want in our organization–both for the employees and for the franchisees–and there is one pervasive element that must exist: shared success.
Cultivating a culture of shared success is about taking the lead and being the conductor that makes all of these other elements sing. This means taking the clear vision that has been set, the franchisee leaders, the corporate team that you’ve built and the goals and accountability that have been established and then leveraging the synergies that exist between the various roles to work toward a common objective. This approach to culture has been rewarding for my team because it fosters independence, but also a sense of being part of something bigger.
We all share core values of positive attitude, passion and commitment: We work hard, we play hard, we have fun and we move forward together. 

Shelly Sun, CFE, is CEO and co-founder of BrightStar Franchising, LLC, an IFA board member and author of “Grow Smart, Risk Less: A Low-Capital Path to Multiplying Your Business Through Franchising.” She can be reached at 847-693-2002 or

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