Franchise development executives elaborate on what goes into growing properly and what to look out for during the process.
Franchise growth is arguably the single most important aspect of running a successful concept. Without growth, a franchise is seen as stagnant and unsuccessful. But, with too much growth, franchisors are at risk of bringing in the wrong people and getting in over their heads.
To get a better grasp on growth and how to approach it the right way, 1851 Franchise sat down with Lightbridge Academy Senior Vice President of Franchise Sales Mark Mele and Retail Food Group USA Director of Franchise Development Laina Sullivan.
1. Choosing the Right Market
When a brand begins franchising, growth is top of mind. But, if the development plan is not laid out strategically and with purpose, it can become a hodgepodge system that is difficult to support.
“Grow out an area a little bit at a time,” said Mele. “Contiguous markets are important – you don’t want to franchise across the country from the start. Your franchisees need to be close to you for you, as the franchisor, to be able to operationally support the franchisees as they get up and running.”
Mele elaborates on how Lightbridge Academy has seen expansion success by choosing a county and growing in concentric circles around the county. By building this solid market foundation, new franchisees have a strong brand presence to work off of.
2. Recruiting the Right People
In order for growth to happen properly, the right people need to be behind each location. Franchisee recruitment is one of the most important aspects of growing in the right way.
“It’s possible to select the wrong franchisees if you don’t screen and recruit properly,” said Sullivan. “The wrong franchisees are not invested properly and won’t put everything towards making sure the location is run successfully.”
In order to avoid these hiccups, Sullivan recommends meeting the franchisee candidates once or twice, and then have the entire team meet them. It’s important that everyone feels that they are a good addition to the brand, because once they sign, they become a member of the family.
“Figure out why they want to be a part of the brand,” said Sullivan. “Are they going to manage the location well? Do they believe in good customer service? Ask them about previous experience and what types of benefits they want to offer to get a better idea of how they value the people that work for them.”
3. Set the Right Precedent
A large factor of growth is establishing the model for franchisees to follow. While the franchise model provides the guidelines, corporate-owned locations allow franchisors to lead by example.
“With company-owned units, you learn to test out new things and learn what is compatible with the existing systems,” said Mele. “We learn a lot from the parents and students that come into our corporate locations, and are able to share these new insights with our franchisees.”
It’s important for franchisors to keep the pulse of business and make sure that they are not losing sight on anything. There is no better way to do this than to run corporate-owned locations and witness these advancements first hand, before building them into the model.
4. Providing the Right Support
Once the franchisee is selected and the market is chosen, the franchisor still has work to do in order to ensure success in a new market. This is where operational support comes into play.
“It is important to build a solid foundation of operational support for franchisees as they get up and running,” said Mele. “This is when the location comes into play, as it’s easier to support franchisees when they have locations close to the corporate headquarters.”
Because the first year is not always smooth sailing for the franchisee, support during this time is extremely important to make sure growth is happening properly.
Growing in the right way, with the best methods in play, can ensure a strong foundation and happy franchisees. While it might take a bit longer and have include more attention on the front end, it will also allow franchisors to keep franchisees in their system longer instead of weeding out those that might not be a fit.
Choosing the proper market, putting a strong recruitment process in place, leading by example and finally maintaining a strong support system will allow for long-lasting growth.