What franchisees are doing to wrap up 2018 on a high note.
For most small business owners, there aren’t any slow months. Even seasonal businesses, like pool-cleaning services and summer camps, need to dedicate their non-service months to sales and business development. Still, the end of the year can be a particularly busy time for franchise owners. Between the holiday season and the promise of a clean slate for new habits and routines that come with a new year, consumers are primed to consume. And on top of the opportunity for increased sales, many business owners spend much of November and December taking stock of the previous year and considering improvements for the next.
Susan Maranhao, a Wild Birds Unlimited owner in Sudbury, Massachusetts, made a major change to her store in 2018, introducing in-store events to attract new customers and fortify relationships with existing ones.
“We try to keep things fresh here, and this year we successfully integrated in-store events into our operating plan for the business,” she said. “We focused exclusively on local artists and educational events that we think matter to our customers.”
Maranhao said those efforts proved an unqualified success, giving her customers “additional reasons to shop with us beyond filling their bird-feeding needs.”
As 2018 comes to a close, Maranhao said she is squeezing in as many in-store events as possible to build momentum for the new year. In 2019, she said she’ll continue to ramp up events while also focusing on bringing new retail products to her store.
“We plan to hold even more events throughout the end of the year so we can end on an upswing,” she said. Going forward, we’re going to increase the number of events we host, and we’re making preparations to attend trade shows that feature products that will appeal to our customer base.”
Brandon Allen’s Mosquito Hunter franchise in Tampa, Florida, is just finishing its second year, and even though lawn treatments typically slow in December, he said he’ll be out in the field, servicing as many customers as possible.
“December is the closest thing we have to a slow season, but mosquitos are still out there, so I am too,” he said. “I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this business. It’s the only way I know how to do things.”
That attitude has paid off for Allen, whose revenue doubled between his first and second year with the franchise. Currently, the majority of his business comes from residential services, but Allen is preparing now to take on more commercial business in 2019.
“We’re finally getting ready to focus on commercial accounts,” he said. “We didn’t want to focus on commercial in the early going because it can really hurt this business if you lose an account. It’s like building a house with straw. Focusing on residential accounts was like building with bricks. Now we’ve got a sturdy structure, and it won’t hurt as much to lose an account.”
To set up more commercial work in 2019, Allen said he’s already working on a marketing plan.
“I’m going to events, investing in shared mailers, putting a lot of videos on Facebook and doing some pay-per-click,” he said. “I’m also going to add some every-door-direct-mail in certain communities where I think we’ll do well.”
Franchisors, too, are wise to take some time at the end of the year to evaluate their progress. Steve Begelman, founder of SMB Franchise Advisors, said the final months of the year are a crucial time for franchise brands to take get a firm grasp of their unit economics so that they can make any adjustments to better support franchisees.
“It’s all about unit economics,” Beagelman said. “How are the stores doing? Are sales up or down compared to last year? Are the operations producing the margins you want? These are the questions franchisors need to be asking as they enter the new year.”
Of course, effectively managing a business requires a year-round effort, and there’s no reason any optimization strategies should wait for the new year, but even if the calendar change is somewhat superficial as far as business is concerned, it offers a chance for reflection and renewal that everyone in the franchise industry would do well to take advantage of