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Coronavirus is Making Franchise Owners More Engaged in Their Businesses

Thanks to strong communication tools provided by franchisors, both hands-on and remote franchisees are becoming more involved with their franchise investments than ever before.

No one can fault a franchisee for wanting to be more of a hands-off owner. After all, they might be multi-unit franchisees with a brand and possibly even own other businesses, hence their decision to hire managers who can handle more of the day-to-day operations. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has changed the game plans of many franchisees. Even those who were hands-on prior to COVID-19 are becoming even more in tune with their franchises and customer bases. 

Much of this is thanks to franchise brand leadership teams, who are currently providing their franchise systems with the tools they need to become more engaged with the brand. 

Workout Anytime COO Mark de Gorter, for example, sends franchisees daily updates with resources to help them navigate the pandemic, including tips on how to apply for government relief funding programs. 

“When it became clear that COVID-19 was going to impact our clubs for an extended period of time, we did everything in our power to set our franchisees up for success,” de Gorter said. “In addition to ensuring that our owners are able to engage members through our virtual workouts and technology enhancements, we made it our top priority to be an available resource for our Franchise Partners, regardless of what they need help with. At the end of the day, we’re only as successful as our ownership group, and we’re now preparing to help them reopen their clubs when it’s safe for everyone to return.”

Workout Anytime area developer and franchise owner Jimmy Mak has set up regular conversations with the franchise owners he oversees. This puts everyone at ease and provides a safe space to discuss major issues during an uncertain time. 

“I call my owners daily to see how they’re doing and if they need anything,” Mak said. “We also have a conference call every other day so that we can get together as a group and discuss what’s going on. And by the time we hang up the phone, I know that because I feel better, all of my owners feel better, too. In times like this, it’s more about the support and communication — it’s so important that you don’t leave anybody in the dark. We’re all still a team, and we need to be on the same page.”

Acai bowl franchise SoBol has also been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. While SoBol has had to close a few of its stores and delay opening new locations, the brand has also increased communication with both new and established franchisees to ensure they have all of the support and information they need at this time. From frequent phone calls to text messages, emails, webinars and newsletters, the SoBol leadership team is making sure that all franchisees feel supported during this difficult time. 

“We’ve always been available for our franchisees, but now we are even more available,” Director of Marketing Nick Pesko said. “The leadership team is doing everything we can to stay in touch, and we’ve added communication on a more structured basis.”

And while the brand is not opening new stores at this time, the leadership team is still working closely with new franchisees to show support and appreciation. 

“We want to be able to fulfill the promises that we made to them and open more stores as soon as possible,” Pesko said. 

Critically, SoBol has provided franchisees with the tools to maintain excellent communication with their customers. Thanks to a new POS platform that was installed before COVID-19 hit, franchisees can offer promotions for online ordering and third-party delivery, garner customer feedback and more. The brand is also utilizing social media to help franchisees reach their customers and let them know about deals. 

“Our website has been a piece of our messaging and how we’ve been able to connect with customers,” Pesko said. “We’ve changed it to be a little more relevant to what’s going on now. Our email marketing efforts have been stronger, and it’s been nice to see franchisees engaging with customers over social media and using the resources we’ve provided them.” 

Such tools even allow for plenty of direct franchisee-to-customer interaction. 

“Hundreds of customers have provided some very honest feedback, which is helpful for our brand,” Pesko said. “Franchisees really like the survey because it tends to hinder the customer from posting any negative reviews on Yelp or Google. They have the ability to answer the customer directly and the power to refund them or send a coupon for the next visit.” 

By increasing communication and providing the best tools possible, franchise brands ensure their franchisees remain engaged even as operations slow down during COVID-19.