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Multi-Unit Franchise Owners Instill Brand Culture Using Continuity

Franchising’s high-achieving, multi-unit franchisees share views on key topics.



Question:  How do multi-unit franchisees maintain the brand culture across stores?

Steve Adams owns 22 Pet Supplies Plus locations in Texas, Alabama, Michigan and Wisconsin. The 22nd store begins construction in January of 2015 with a May opening in Dallas, Texas.

Adams:  “Managing a diverse lineup of stores that cross geographic boundaries is one of the biggest challenges a multi-unit operator faces.  Defining what constitutes a brand is the first step in understanding how to drive a consistent culture. The brand includes the aesthetic design of the unit, the layout of the store, merchandising methods, the experience one comes to expect, and the positioning in the marketplace through marketing. In a franchise, such as Pet Supplies Plus, the franchisor develops brand specifications for the unit’s design, layout and color scheme.  However, it’s the franchisee’s obligation to maintain those brand standards which benefits both the chain and their group stores.

“Depending on the system, franchisees have varying degrees of control with marketing methods and media outreach.  At Pet Supplies Plus, we have specific brand appearance standards, but are given leeway in executing individual marketing plans. Regardless of what type of marketing you utilize, it should integrate a key theme that represents your unique selling proposition.

“The most difficult aspect of maintaining brand culture across stores is the experience customers come to expect.  This involves people — and people are the wild cards of every business.  Pet Supplies Plus has clearly defined what our brand stands for through our mission statement, weekly communications, and regular market visits by executives.  We have invested extensive time into training our team members on what the ideal client experience should look like. To properly execute, we use secret shoppers and survey validation tools to ensure compliance.

“At the end of the day, the personal aspect is the biggest challenge because the customers are the bread and butter of a business — without them, the business fails. By selecting appropriate new hires, investing in training, and communicating the vision clearly, the franchisee will build a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

David Fesperman owns four Elements Massage locations in Texas, including Colleyville, Flower Mound, Round Rock and Southlake.

Fesperman:  “To create a consistent brand culture across multiple units, you have to consider your business as a family — a team that consists of players who you personally care about. In turn, those employees will invest more into your business and the culture you stand behind as an owner. At each of my Elements Massage studios, we participate in monthly team-building activities that take place inside and outside of our studios, further establishing comradely amongst associates. If possible, it is best to invite all locations to these sessions — avoid limiting the meetings to individual studios.

“Alike training is another crucial aspect in maintaining a congruent brand experience for your clients. Any onboarding processes or training techniques should be delivered to that associate by one singular manager throughout each of your studios to ensure that the brand message is clearly communicated. It is essential that training methods follow the same presentation across all units.

“Being a multi-unit franchisee, keeping all of your staff energized enough to represent the brand name is not an easy feat. As you expand, your new location becomes your baby — that territory has the nicest set-up, and like an infant, they get the most attention. For all units to embrace the expansion and what the brand is doing, each location needs to ‘feel the love.’ Do this by not only buying a cake or congratulatory card for the individual opening, but also deliver it to each of your studios — thus, reinforcing a togetherness or brand culture.

Maintaining a consistent culture between studios stems down to the experience a client has at the front desk since it is the first contact that person has with your brand. That moment alone crafts what that individual believes to be true of the brand; therefore, preserving a systematic welcome approach is vital in shaping a successful brand image as a whole.”

Chuck and Kathy Sawyer own six Cartridge World locations in Tucson, Arizona. Two of the locations are brick and mortar and the other four are kiosks.

Sawyer:  “The relationship between a brand and its consumer is front and center for multi-unit franchisees. You have to consider that affiliation as a critical part of the value proposition, and it’s a component of the business that franchisees must buy into from the start.

“Being part of a franchise system means the franchisor provides the framework of the brand proposition for individual units, but implementation happens at the store which in turn, creates culture. For example at Cartridge World, we believe in serving each customer as a friend, someone who is known and valued.  That ‘cheers’ factor is a very important part of our daily culture. It extends our franchise value proposition into a tangible culture at the store level.

“As you expand into multi-units, the challenge is that you are not at every location which makes it harder to install like-practices and maintain the culture. To avoid that, at Cartridge World we work on maintaining best practice models throughout all of our stores. If we find a best practice that works at one location, we utilize that same practice throughout all of them. Focusing on maintaining best practices is a great tool to instill and reinforce brand culture.

“In practice, our work to maintain this common vision starts with hiring like-minded people. Our store supervisors are our frontline team members that carry out the primary company vision at each location. We conduct monthly managerial meetings to discuss best practices, business opportunities, areas for improvement and challenges employees face, which in turn helps reinforce a culture that’s consistent with the brand’s standards.

“Finally, communication is essential in ensuring consistent customer brand experiences. At Cartridge World, when moving product and information between the stores, an owner makes sure to speak with associates at each location. Additionally, we use a system that requires the placement of merchandise to be in similar locations across all stores so that the look is streamlined. Above all, how we interact and coach our staff to work with customers best defines our franchise brand and culture.”


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