This spring, Rent-A-Center made waves in the franchising industry when it announced its ongoing initiative to move a significant number of its stores from corporate to local ownership. The refranchising initiative, which is geared toward multi-unit operators looking to diversify their portfolios through a major investment of 30 to 50 stores, is already off to a strong start. Impact RTO Holdings became Rent-A-Center’s largest franchisee back in March after adding 31 previously corporate-owned stores to its portfolio, bringing its total unit-count to 76.
That acquisition proved Rent-A-Center’s business model is backed by strong growth potential that sets franchisees up for success. And according to the brand, that ability to win as a multi-unit franchisee in Rent-A-Center’s system is far from an accident. Above and beyond employing a team of experienced franchise business consultants, they have additionally created what might be the first of its kind in the franchise industry; a franchise transformation team specifically for their refranchising program.
In order to support its franchisees throughout the transition of large groups of stores from corporate to local ownership, Rent-A-Center created a comprehensive franchise transformation process. And while the process is designed with franchisees in mind, there’s another group of individuals that is front and center at every step of the process: Rent-A-Center’s employees.
“Our number-one goal is to maintain all of our employees during store transitions. That’s why we make it our mission to open the lines of communication and answer questions before they are even asked. That helps lower the anxiety that can be associated with being “franchised”. Our stores being sold to franchisees shouldn’t be perceived as concerning news, in fact it should be the exact opposite! Instead, we want our employees to be excited that there’s a new, local owner coming into the picture that can lead to additional levels of empowerment and opportunity,” said Aaron Bylund, Senior Director of Franchise Operations for Rent-A-Center. “Every decision we make in the transformation process – every move, every trip and every conference call – is designed around making sure that the employee transition is as successful as possible. That success is measured by employee retention post-transition and so far we are running around 98%.”
Frederic Geisendorff, Rent-A-Center’s Director of Franchise Transformation, oversees the team that’s responsible for ensuring store transitions go as smooth as possible. He says that by placing people first throughout the entire process, a win-win-win situation is created for the franchisees, employees and corporate team.
“When it comes to transforming a store from corporate to franchisee ownership, a focus on people is by far the number-one thing we look at. That includes the franchisee – we place tremendous emphasis on our relationship with the new ownership group,” said Geisendorff. “While the majority of franchisees coming into our system are sophisticated owners who understand the franchising business, it’s our job to help them become successful franchisees in the Rent-A-Center system. And in order to do that, we go through every possible detail, from how franchisees pay employees and set up and deliver benefits to what regional leadership looks like, how to get marketing approved and staying on the right side of compliance within our franchise system. Our transition team, through their processes, go to great lengths to ensure that the relationship starts off on the right foot.”
Consistency is key when it comes to Rent-A-Center’s franchise transformations, especially when multi-unit owners are taking on a large number of locations at once. We coordinate with the existing corporate regional leadership in order to facilitate the transfer of employment to the new franchise group. Geisendorff explains, “we’ve found much success in being able to have a member of the franchise transformation team and a member of the new franchise ownership group be able to meet each co-worker in the first few days after a sale is announced.”
Prior to the new franchisees being introduced to the store managers and employees, they attend a comprehensive orientation that walks them through Rent-A-Center’s processes and procedures in great detail. The brand spends a lot of time working with franchisees to ensure that they understand Rent-A-Center’s core messaging and what goes into making the brand stand out. Once the franchisor and franchisees are confident that the infrastructure is all set up and in great condition, the franchisees officially take over ownership.
Despite the level of detail included throughout Rent-A-Center’s franchise transformations, it only takes two weeks to complete. According to Bylund, that’s because the brand has established strong lines of communication.
He said, “Communication is key in our franchise transformation process. We make sure that all of our departments know what they’re supposed to be doing and when so that tasks don’t get executed too soon, or too late. But what really separates Rent-A-Center’s transformation from corporate to franchisee ownership from other concepts is the fact that we put together a team for our new owners.” As Rent-A-Center goes to market with its refranchising program it is hearing feedback from multi branded franchisees and industry professionals that this level of transitional support is somewhat unprecedented. Bylund continues to explain, “When you are handing over 30 to 50 stores at a time we want to make sure that important things such as vendor partnerships are established and well executed. We will actually steward franchisees through this process and ensure that a relationship is established between them and the vendors that can easily transfer things like utilities, fleet and real estate leases, etc. Our goal is to minimize the disruption to the stores and their employees so they are able to continue to serve their customers throughout the entire transformation process. We believe this is just one of the many attractive reasons to partner with RAC in a franchising opportunity.”
As Rent-A-Center’s refranchising initiative moves forward and continues to gain momentum in communities across the country, the brand is committed to continuously enhancing and improving its franchise transformation process. That’s why each store transition is reviewed after the fact to find any lessons that need to be learned and new best practices.
“For every conversion we do, we go through an extensive post-action review. Our teams walk through the process to make sure things haven’t changed in the business environment that would require us to adjust our approach to transformations. We’re very nimble and in-tune with our process, so we’re able to make adjustments if we find a better or easier way to do something,” Bylund said. “Through this process we have identified some really great best practices that have helped us with our conversion process so far, and we’re confident that they’ll continue to help new franchisees as they enter our system.”