1851: What was it that drew you into franchising?
Jonathan Christensen, Vice President of Franchise Development for GUS Franchising: You could say I grew up in the world of franchising. My father was a franchisee for East Side Mario’s for a number of years, owning three different locations as well as an Irish pub. He taught me about cost control, exceeding customer expectations, and the importance of a strong economic model. When I left the family business, I joined the corporate side of the franchise world, working as a corporate trainer, area manager, and eventually managing design and construction for great brands like Cora’s, Extreme Pita, and Boston Pizza International. I left the restaurant industry to take on the franchising role for GUS, Canada’s fastest growing disaster restoration firm.
1851: What do you do to help your brand stand out from the competition?
Christensen: GUS is a well-established, privately-owned company, and has an extremely flat management structure. A small number of accessible decision makers provide our franchisees with the feeling of being a part of a start-up while working with a well-established firm with a large presence in the industry.
When I joined GUS, one of the first things we did was create the profile of the ideal franchisee. Once we had that profile, we were able to design a franchising program that specifically catered to that person. The result is one of the most aggressive franchise expansion plans I’ve seen. We are attracting the best independent restoration companies in the country and in the last two years we’ve seen over 200% growth in the number of locations outside our home base of Quebec.
1851: What advice would you give to other young up-and-comers?
Christensen: Two pieces of advice:
Get frontline experience. Many people believe that after post-secondary schooling they should be able to walk into a mid-level position, with several direct reports and a great mentor to guide them along the way. That just isn’t the reality for many people. Mid-level management positions are being eliminated, and good mentors are hard to find. Exceeding the expectations of your boss and your boss’ boss, while grinding it out on the front line of your industry, will give you the credibility and recognition you need to propel your career forward.
Have high expectations. Have high expectations of yourself, and of the organization that you’re working for. Hold yourself and the company to account for these expectations. Make a one year, three year, and/or five-year plans. Re-evaluate your plans on an annual basis and hold yourself to account. Are you doing everything you could be to achieve your goals? If not, what do you need to change? Share these expectations with your family and supervisors and ask them for advice.
1851: What advice would you give to someone deciding to own a franchise?
Christensen: Understand how you fit into the corporate culture of the business that you’re buying into. Do you get along well with the people who own and run it? Speak with as many people from the company as possible, including existing and former franchisees. Understand what the company’s goals are for the future and ask yourself if you share those same goals. If everyone is pushing in the same direction, it will make running your franchise mush easier.
1851: Who is one of your role models or influencers, and why?
Christensen: I’ve had a lot of help and endless amounts of coaching but it would be too hard to narrow it down to just one:
- My Mum and Dad for showing me what work ethic means, the sacrifice, and benefits that make it worth it
- David Polny for taking a chance on someone with very little experience
- Alex Rechichi & Sean Black for pushing me beyond what I thought I was capable of achieving
- Paul Pascal, for showing me when to push and when to be patient (or at least try and be patient)
- Jim Treliving & family (Cheryl, Sam & Candace) for showing me what it means to give back
- René-Charles Landry for “not saying no” to many out-of-the-box ideas, and implementing them