For some who begin franchising, it started off as a lifelong dream or goal. For others, such as Dee Robinson of RobinsonHillUSA, it began almost by accident.
Staring off in the franchising industry for Dee Robinson began with just a simple phone call after experiencing great customer service at an airport terminal. Dee not only became a franchisee of many various food and beverage brands but currently owns her own management company operating those brands all around the city of Chicago and travelers’ hubs. Over 20 years of experience later, Dee Robinson, Founder and President of RobinsonHillUSA, speaks with 1851 about her franchising experience with the different brands she owns and operates and how she continues to thrive and grow.
How did you first get involved with the franchising industry?
When I first got started with the idea of franchising, it actually happened in an airport in 1999. I had visited a Ben & Jerry’s in a terminal when I thought to myself that owning and managing a franchise could be a great business opportunity to pursue. So, I cold called Ben & Jerry’s to speak about new business and to learn more about the franchising process and by August of 2001, I had opened my first franchise with them.
What do you love about the industry?
The thing that I really love about franchising is that it is full of great people. It’s an industry full of hardworking individuals who are looking for great opportunities to achieve their goals, and people who actively try and get involved with franchising, want to build gra eat business and take advantage of new business opportunities. I really like people who are go-getters, ones who are aggressive and really go after what they want. Franchising brings out qualities like that in people.
What do you wish you could change in franchising?
There definitely could be more transparency in the industry. I wish people who are interested in becoming a franchisee would do their research more in the franchising world before they get started because some do not have the skills yet to pursue this field. A lot of people just jump right into a franchising opportunity without conducting thorough research on what they’re really getting themselves into. It’s important to really see both the good and the down sides of making a big decision like getting into franchising. Another ‘con’ about this industry is that some franchises need to update the communication lines they have between corporate and the franchisees. Some brands could use more updated resources or create materials to provide us more information on executing a successful business. Having better business models to mentor us, as franchisees, would be beneficial for both the franchise as a whole and the franchisees who run them.
What's the biggest change you've seen in the industry since you started out in franchise development?
The biggest change is how many people I see on the corporate side of franchises now. Around 20 years ago, there weren’t as many people working in corporate and obviously not as many forms of communication as there are now. When there were less people in corporate, there wasn’t as much help and support to guide franchisees, on achieving a successful and more stronger franchise. When there’s more people, there’s more help to go around and it benefits us all.
What makes a great franchisee?
To be a great franchisee, you need to be willing to do all the work that your employees do. You need to put yourself in their shoes, be ready to roll up the sleeves, and get to work on what they experience so you know what it takes to run a great franchise. Back in my early days, I used to actually work in the franchise locations I owned, by helping out with the day-to-day work or implementing successful operation systems to make sure things are running the way they need to be. I highly recommend new franchisees to get dirty in the beginning and work alongside the employees. You need to command, not demand, respect and when you’re the one who is taking charge, that is one of the building blocks for a great leader especially when you’re first starting out.
What's the number one thing that sells franchises?
The number one thing that absolutely sells successful franchises is the training of your people! As a business, we put a lot of money into the brand to make sure that it is operated smoothly. The training is one of the most important aspects of running a successful franchise and if there is not a proper training system in place, then things will fall.