1851 Franchise connected with the executive director of franchise development at Slim Chickens to learn about her journey into franchise development.
Jackie Lobdell’s journey into the franchise industry was far from the norm. Lobdell spent years in the digital marketing sector selling products to franchisors and large-scale franchisees. She attended any number of trade shows filled with executives in the franchise industry, but making the jump from marketing to franchising never crossed her mind. That was until she was exposed to the world of franchise development.
“From introduction to close, you’re intimately working with individuals to help them determine the right business opportunity. In doing so, a strong relationship is built with your prospects,” said Lobdell. “It’s competitive and requires a great deal of effort however it is extremely rewarding. This was very intriguing to me.”
With no experience and little firsthand knowledge about development, Lobdell approached the Senior Vice President and Vice President of Development at Moe’s Southwest Grill. She knew she didn’t have experience required, and she admitted this to the executive team, but she begged that they at least give her a chance. When an opening became available at a sister brand, Schlotzsky’s, Lobdell was called in for an interview and ultimately landed the gig.
“Since I started in the franchise development field, it’s been such a pleasure working with entrepreneurs and helping them grow their portfolio,” said Lobdell. “I’ve worked with people who are buying their first location and with people that are adding their 100th unit. In either scenario, the entrepreneurial spirit is hard to beat, and I love to surround myself with those types of individuals. They put their blood, sweat and tears into the business day after day.”
While Lobdell has never looked back since making the jump into development, like every industry, there are things she would like to see change, starting with the franchisor. Lobdell says she would like franchisors to take more responsibility for the franchisees in their system.
“In my career, I’ve been privileged to work for organizations like McAllister’s and Slim Chickens, who take great care of their franchisees,” said Lobdell. “But I know that there are many franchisors out there that don’t provide a true blueprint for success. It’s important that the franchisor provides a model that is easy to duplicate and they truly hold the hand of the franchisee from A to Z, helping them each step of the way.”
In providing more support to the franchisee and a blueprint to success, franchisors are likely to build a team of strong franchisees that buy into the system both financially and with their motivation to succeed. Lobdell detailed this in her explanation of what makes a great franchisee.
“It’s so important that the franchisees you bring into the system have a passion for the brand,” she said. “They are more likely to be successful if they care about the industry and being a strong contributor to it. Beyond that, they must have experience in the segment, meet the financial criteria and be a good fit with our culture, We look for franchisees that are leaders who bring their own positive values to our brand and are very involved with the business on a day-to-day level.”
Once you have the strong model in place and a good franchise base, franchise development executives are constantly asking themselves how they can sell more. There’s no cookie cutter answer to this, but Lobdell was able to narrow it down to a few key elements.
“Profitability comes first. There’s no way of getting around that,” she said. “That’s why people buy a business, and they are going to look for brands that have good unit economics. From there, territory availability comes into play along with an exceptional product, consumer following and a great culture. Ease of operations is also important, but a passion for the brand has to be there.