New Franchisors: 5 Key Lessons for 2012

It's that time of year when all of us, business owners and otherwise, resolve to not only do better in the New Year, but be better.For you business owners who listened to your mantra, 'Franchise my business,' you can almost bet on a whole new experience. Think about it: you aren't just in the business of selling your product or service anymore – on top of your original business model, you also have a franchising business as well. Here are 5 key things that I learned when I was an emerging franchisor that are important to bear in mind now that you, too, are a franchisor (and for those of you considering franchising your business as well):
  1. Be visible. In the early launch of a franchise, and probably up until you've got 25, 50 franchisees, what the franchisees are buying is the founder. They're buying the leadership team, they're buying the CEO, more so than, I would argue, they're buying the brand. Because there isn't yet a national brand that they are buying into. Setting the expectation that you're going to be around and focused on helping the model continue to evolve and improve for their success is imperative.
  2. Look ahead. Strategic planning is critical for every business. Every business has to have dedicated time to thinking about where can the business go and what's needed to get from where we are to where we know we can be. A simple SWOT analysis can help to inform this process.
  3. Live the culture. Culture in a franchise system is best and most efficiently woven throughout the organization when the example is set at the top. For me, it's living and breathing the mantra, 'We enable franchisee success' and, in everything we do, reinforcing that we are helping our franchisees to continually be more profitable and have a higher degree of satisfaction with the franchise family that they've joined. Making sure that every employee knows how what they do has an opportunity to make a difference in the life of a franchisee every day, it becomes a mission not a job.
  4. Chart the course. I think it's important that your franchisees know that you're laying the course about where you're going and making the right investments today to get you there. Employees seem to be more passionate about working long and hard hours to make a difference when they know the course that has been set and what they know what you're doing and investing to get there. If you don't know where you're going, it's impossible to get to the destination. You have got to chart the course.
  5. Hire for the future. Charting the course is also important from a hiring perspective. Refer to your roadmap to determine where you are heading, how big you anticipate being and what skills will be necessary to support not only the size but also strategic initiatives at that point and hire accordingly. Don't just hire people that were great today; hire people who possess the skill sets needed to grow with the organization. You may spend more upfront, but in the long run, you will lay the foundation to grow without adding as many people.
Always remember that there's a business that you came from and there's a business of franchising, and part of determining how to franchise your business is appreciating that they're different. If you can account for this early on, you'll be off to a great start. And what better time to get off on the right foot than the New Year!