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A Conversation With: Scott Thompson, Chris Gray and Chelsea Dukovich of Big Blue Swim School

Nick Powills and Charles Internicola are joined by Big Blue Swim School CDO Scott Thompson and franchisees Chris Gray and Chelsea Dukovich to discuss how the franchise brand is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

The coronavirus continues to have dire effects on businesses across the country, and the franchise industry is no exception. Franchisors across segments are strategizing new ways to support their franchisees, keep customers satisfied, help local communities and come out stronger on the other side of this crisis.

To that end, 1851 Franchise publisher Nick Powills and Charles Internicola, founder and partner of the Internicola Law* Firm, are covering the coronavirus and its impact on businesses through our A Conversation With webinar series.

In today’s afternoon webinar, Powills and Internicola spoke with Scott Thompson, CDO of Big Blue Swim School, as well as Big Blue franchise owners Chris Gray and Chelsea Dukovich, about how franchisors and franchisees can learn from the COVID-19 crisis. 

Here are some of the key insights from their discussion.

New Initiatives

Many franchisors are implementing new initiatives to keep staff employed. For example, Big Blue has been focused on maintaining swim associates at corporate pools in Chicago, including the approval for PPP loans to maintain salary.

It is also crucial to keep customers engaged. Big Blue has rolled out several interactive initiatives through social media so families can stay involved and satisfied with the brand. The leadership team also sent hundreds of hand-written cards to each family and cut payments in half during April to ensure that they understand they are valued. 

Now is the time to focus on what the consumer wants, which is increasingly becoming virtual and tech-focused.

Real Estate and Pent-Up Demand

On the other side of this crisis, it may be easier for franchisors to find great real estate. During the last six months, it has been difficult for Big Blue to reach landlords. Now, many landlords are relaxing strict requirements from tenants, making it easier to find great sites.

This crisis doesn’t necessarily mean that franchise development has to come to a halt. Many franchisees are continuing to move forward under these circumstances. For example, Gray and Dukovich are newly signed Big Blue franchisees and have been participating in socially distanced real estate tours, in which the realtor is in a separate car while they drive around and look at properties. 

Moving forward, parents will likely be looking for ways to keep children safe and entertained. There is a chance that this summer may see an influx of localized services as people are eager to get out of the house but aren’t looking to travel. 

Sometimes, if franchise owners are able to invest during an economic downturn, they can take advantage of the upswing later on. The pent up demand and reduced real estate costs may provide an advantage for those candidates who continue through the process. In addition, many lenders are offering reduced interest rates or extending their terms.

Franchisee Investment

Communication is more important than ever in order to provide a refreshing and inspiring connection for franchisees. Franchisors need to step up and prove the benefits they claimed in the sales process.

Franchisees are increasingly becoming valued as stakeholders in brands, with franchisors striving to position them for unit-level success. In order to do this, franchisors should be looking for ways to reduce needed capital by communicating with vendors in order to cut costs, implementing real estate strategies and working with lenders. For example, Big Blue has a team of real estate experts to help find optimized pool sites.

More than ever, accurate and data-rich information is essential in order to guide franchisees with best practices. In addition to heavy communication, franchisors should be doing everything they can to ensure that franchisees are able to follow the brand’s core values and mission-driven goal.

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.