Franchise Leaders Deliver “Franchising Equals Jobs” Message to Congress

photo (8)TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® franchisees Alex and Wendy Petrusha were honored recently by the International Franchise Association with its annual Franchisee of the Year Award. The Petrusha’s have been a part TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®’s system since 2002 and currently own two TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® franchise locations, Kane/Dupage, IL and MeHenry, IL. They are consistently system leaders in customer service, which is one of our most important benchmarks and are among the very best in terms of referral rating and overall customer satisfaction. In addition, they have an enviable record in terms of employee retention due to good hiring practices and creating a positive work culture.

Alex is recognized as a leader in the TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® system and has served on our independent franchisee advisory council known as the TEAM. He serves on the board of the Illinois Movers and Warehouseman’s Association and is recognized by his fellow Illinois franchisees as a knowledgeable source of information regarding state regulations.

“The franchising community is an important part the U.S. economy due to the hard work of franchisees,” said IFA Chairman Steve Romaniello, managing director, Roark Capital Group. “The IFA is proud to recognize the outstanding efforts of Alex and Wendy with the Franchisee of the Year Award and thank them not only for their work to promote franchising, but for the contributions they make every day to showcase how local business owners propel the economy in communities across the country.”

IFA_0220 (2)The Franchisee of the Year Award is a major component of the IFA’s Public Affairs Conference, which brings more than 400 franchise business leaders together in Washington, D.C. to carry the key messages of franchising to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. During the two-day event, which began today and continues through Sept. 17, franchise industry leaders will meet with over 200 congressional offices about issues important to the future of franchising such as tax certainty, healthcare reform immigration and access to credit. The Public Affairs Conference is a powerful way to help forward IFA’s advocacy efforts and further increase awareness about how franchising can contribute to economic recovery and job growth. The event is supported by founding sponsor ADP Small Business Services.

During their visits to Washington, IFA members are highlighting the economic impact of franchising.  According to a study conducted for the IFA Educational Foundation by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the economic impact of franchising, there are more than 825,000 franchised businesses in operation across the country, which is indirectly responsible for providing 18 million jobs and generating $2.1 trillion in economic output.

“As Washington works to strengthen and renew our economy, lawmakers should remember that franchising counts in local communities all across the country, Romaniello said.  “With sound regulatory policies, franchise businesses can create the jobs necessary for sustained economic recovery and growth.”

You get what you pay for: A new way of thinking about the cost of a franchise

scalesHave you ever wanted to buy something you were excited about, so much so you justified the cost, even if it didn’t make sense from a cost/benefit perspective? And, have you ever bought something on which you spent all of your discretionary cash, but then you had no funds to maximize the enjoyment of that item (e.g. you end up eating McDonald’s in Italy)? It happens to all of us at some point in both personal and professional settings. If you are pursuing a franchise opportunity, however, this behavior can turn a great thing into something you would like to shove in a closet and never mention again.

To avoid turning your franchise dream into a cast-off, it helps to first understand the true costs and benefits of being awarded a location(s). If you are only considering whether you can afford the franchise fee and initial projected investments, you are missing some major components of a diligent review of the opportunity. Here are a few tips to improve that diligence and to increase your understanding of the cost/benefit structure:

  1. Have the franchise developer explain the franchisor view of the franchise fee.  Is it just the cost to use the brand in a certain market? What do you get in the startup process once you pay that fee to set you up for longer-term success? Certainly you are pursuing the franchise because the brand and opportunity appeal to you, but try to dig deeper to see if the fee is only a pay to play to participate with the brand or is only viewed as the entry-level investment of a partnership.
  2. You should certainly review and understand investment ranges presented in FDDs, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask other franchisees in the system regarding their initial investment or question the franchise developer as to how those ranges are collected and calculated.  You should also perform an independent review with vendors to ascertain estimates of costs yourself.  And go Sherlock in your attempt to uncover hidden costs! This is not meant to imply that franchisors are willfully hiding costs, but every business has costs (e.g. state regulations) which might not be apparent on the surface.
  3. Finally, invest the time to understand any royalties, recurring fees, or cyclically driven costs of operations which are part and parcel with the opportunity. You should at least be able to sustain those as your revenue generation ramps up. And please, please ask questions about break-even and timeframes. This tip takes us to a bigger discussion, one of costs versus investment.

I have seen many people focus on whether they can afford the franchise fee and initial costs.  Sometimes, they even convince themselves they can make the lowest number in the investment range work. They then plan to stretch their finances to either cover that lowest buy-in point or they don’t acquire additional capital in support of anything beyond that low buy-in point. This is not a path that you want to go down, nor should you pursue a franchise opportunity with a franchisor who doesn’t match your financial bandwidth nor cares whether they do. Sweat equity is great, but it won’t completely make up for a capital deficiency. And capital is not just about covering your costs; it is about investing beyond the costs to maximize your experience and achieve success more quickly and/or with less professional AND PERSONAL strain. Just like you don’t want to eat McDonald’s on your dream trip to Italy, you don’t want to buy something you then don’t have the capital to invest in a growth-oriented proposition. And the stakes are much higher on the downside than eating hamburgers in Italy. Therefore, let’s shift your viewpoint a little to set you up for success.

You need to shift your diligence process from buying a franchise to one where you see yourself as an investor in a system. How happy are other investors in that system? What was their cost/benefit and risk/reward mindset when they invested initially, and how do they view things now? Does your franchise developer speak in terms of investment and partnership? This is the language an investor should use or recognize when trying to find an opportunity that will build them not break them. May you find that franchise opportunity which matches your dream!

Leave an Imprint: 5 brand loyalty imperatives

Brand LoyaltyDid you know each day 1.7 billion servings of Coca-Cola products are enjoyed by people around the world? One of the biggest challenges business owners face is not only gaining new customers but also maintaining their brand loyalty. Just like Coca-Cola, every business aspires to be the go-to brand for customers’ wants and needs, but it takes time and effort to build raving fans. Once a customer engages with a brand, they no longer require the traditional sales pitch. Instead they need to be reminded of the benefits of using the brand and feel rewarded every time they make the choice to re-engage.

Be human: It’s extremely easy for companies to get into the habit of only looking at the data, not their individual customers. Marketing successfully and building brand loyalty goes hand-in-hand with gaining trust. Take time to focus on your customers and allow them to get to know your brand’s personality. In today’s digital world, especially on social media, customers expect companies to appear more human. If Oscar Wilde were among the living, his quote would ring true today: “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”

Stay consistent: Every touch point is considered a brand experience; therefore, using clear language consistently to communicate about products and services helps the customer navigate choices. This is especially important for franchises.  For example, when someone dines at a chain restaurant, they expect the same service and ambiance at each location throughout the nation. Creating brand consistent messages through all marketing outlets will reaffirm the customer’s trust in the brand and will set you apart from your competition.

Connect with your customers: People love interacting with brands, especially when considering specialty products. They want to feel their needs are being validated and that the company genuinely values them. Being present and available to customers, on social media for example, provides an outlet for customers to make an emotional connection with your brand. By listening to what your customers are saying, you can better anticipate their needs. Developing this relationship requires devotion and time, not just during the holidays or a promotion, but throughout the entire year.

Deliver on promises: Marketing thought leader Seth Godin said it well, “Authenticity, for me, is doing what you promise, not ‘being who you are.’” Once a customer uses your product or service, they establish an expectation level for future purchases. It’s up to the company to deliver and exceed their expectations time and again. For example, at TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® our mission is “to continually strive and exceed our customers’ expectations in value and high standard of satisfaction.” This isn’t just a saying hanging on our walls; we take it to heart with each decision we make.  

Remain top-of-mind: Once the customer makes a purchase, it’s important to continue nurturing the relationship. Email marketing is a opportune way to stay in contact with customers. In addition to sending an email directly after the purchase, think about reaching out to them periodically with relevant offers or information which might be valuable to them within the context of your business. Inquire through simple surveys about their satisfaction of recent purchases. Email is also an inexpensive sales channel for sparking interest in new products and services you provide.

Consumers are inundated with choices today. To foster loyalty, we must think beyond the point of sale and use our strategic imaginations and business smarts to deliver unique and engaging experiences which no other competitor can replicate. So shape your business offerings from the viewpoint of your best customers, and you’ll be closer to creating brand advocates.