Tap Into Franchise Relations Dialogue Forum’s “Ask the Expert”
Thanks for sending questions to “Ask the Expert,” the Franchise Relations Dialogue Forum feature of the International Franchise Association’s member-only community, FranSocial. FASTSIGNS International CEO Catherine Monson, CFE, and Dwyer Group Executive Chairwoman Dina Dwyer-Owens, CFE, have responded with their expert advice about a variety of topics, including leadership, engaging and supporting franchisees, franchising under attack and much more.
Here are Monson’s responses:
- Leadership Through Major Systemic Change
Monson: At FASTSIGNS, it has included changing our model from a passive, reactive walk-in retail style to a proactive business development model; moving away from more commodity products to higher margin products and services; and expanding our product and services model to include non-signage products, as well as digital signs.
- Engaging Franchisees
Monson: Each year since I have been at FASTSIGNS, we have conducted a series of regional meetings/town halls (typically in 12 to 18 cities) with our executives being the presenter and asking for input. I also conducted “Connect with Catherine” conference calls with the network every six weeks, offering all of our franchisees the opportunity to give feedback and input, ask questions.
- Franchising Under Attack
Monson: The world is full of opposing forces and opinions. If we want to preserve the proven, successful franchise business model, we need to fight for it. I don’t have a crystal ball and am not able to state, with certainty, how these things will end up. I do know that “politics is a contact sport” and many of the groups with opposing views to ours are more active, better organized, and in “more contact” with lawmakers and policymakers.
- Positive-Negative Changes in Franchising
Positive: More sophisticated and knowledgeable franchise candidates due to the Internet and better resources to learn about franchising, the more informed the franchise candidate, the better, in my opinion.
Negative: An increased attack on franchising by the unions resulting in an activist National Labor Relations Board working to change the definition of “joint employer;” the City of Seattle passing a minimum wage increase that discriminates against franchisees; the City of San Francisco considering some labor rules that will discriminate against franchisees, and other such activities.
- Operational/Franchise Relations
Monson: I believe that the strength of the franchise model is utilizing the mind power and intelligence of both the franchisor team and the franchise network. Some of the very best innovations, product enhancements and marketing ideas have come from the field, from franchisees. Great examples include the Egg McMuffin and McDonald’s getting into the breakfast business, and Subway’s “$5 Foot Long.” These are ideas that came from franchisees and resulted in network-wide changes. One method we utilize at FASTSIGNS is to listen to our franchisees, encourage their innovation and when ideas come up, help flesh them out together with our franchisees.
Dwyer Owens shares her views:
- Transitioning from Founder Leadership to Professional Leadership
Dwyer-Owens: Never lose sight of where you came from. Having experienced that on a personal and professional level when my father and the founder of The Dwyer Group, Don Dwyer, died unexpectedly — it wasn’t easy. But there are lessons we learned that made us a stronger organization through that transition. We have never lost sight of Don’s mission, vision and values that he outlined when he created our company.
- Franchising Under Siege
Dwyer-Owens: Franchising appears to be under siege of late from various state and federal agencies. From franchise relations laws to the opinion that franchises are not small businesses to employee/employer issues, franchising continues to be forced to defend its position as a strong business model with a clearly defined relationship between franchisor and franchisee. It appears there are just too many “decision makers” who do not understand what franchising is all about.
- Balancing Franchisee and End User Needs
Dwyer-Owens: We actually have three types of customers in my mind. We have the employee, which I consider the internal customer of The Dwyer Group. I believe that we should provide our employees with the proper tools, resources, training, constructive feedback when needed and sincere praise when earned so they will take great care of our franchisees. I believe we are responsible for providing our franchisees with the proper support, training, and guidance, and more so they can properly serve the end user.
- Measuring the Effectiveness of Operational and Marketing Support Programs
Dwyer-Owens: There are many different ways in which we measure results. One tool that we use to measure franchisee satisfaction is an annual survey that we alternate from an internal survey to an external survey conducted by a third party.
- Getting the Most Out of IFA
Dwyer-Owens: Participate, participate, participate! The greatest way to benefit from the IFA is to get involved and attend the meetings. I highly recommend the Certified Franchise Executives™ program. And yes, I am personally grateful to the IFA for providing support during one of the toughest times in The Dwyer Group’s history, when we lost our founder Don Dwyer Sr. I am also grateful for the role the association has played in the government relations side of franchising. Because of the IFA’s expertise, the voice of franchising remains strong as we battle one of the toughest legislative times in our history.
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