One of the biggest benefits that comes with joining a franchise as opposed to going it alone as an entrepreneur is the support that’s made available. Franchise brands already come with a proven brand name and model, ultimately providing franchisees with a playbook and guide that local owners can follow in order to realize success. However, a franchisee’s success — and ultimately a franchisor’s — is only as strong as their ability to communicate with the brand. That’s why Rent-A-Center makes collaboration and the sharing of best practices a main focal point across its system.
Rent-A-Center, the leading brand in the growing rent-to-own business, has multiple channels built into its system that are dedicated to opening the lines of communication between its franchisees and the brand’s corporate team. The most prominent of these channels is its Franchise Advisory Council, or FAC. Aaron Bylund, Rent-A-Center’s senior director of franchise operations, says that ultimately, the FAC is in place in order to give franchisees a strong and powerful voice.
“One of the many ways that we communicate with our franchisees is through our involvement with the FAC. The FAC is made up of five to seven franchisees who are voted in by their fellow owners, and they represent the entire body of Rent-A-Center’s franchise system,” explained Bylund. “Every FAC member has a number of constituents that they collaborate with, and we encourage our franchisees who have any questions, concerns or feedback to notify their FAC member so they can bring it up at one of our meetings.”
Rent-A-Center’s FAC typically meets twice every year in order to regroup and share information between the corporate team and franchisees. One franchisee who currently sits on the FAC is Louis Garcia, who runs some of the largest stores in Rent-A-Center’s entire system said, “I first got involved with the FAC four years ago. A lot of the responsibility that comes with being on the FAC comes down to sharing ideas and voicing any issues or areas of concerns for our constituents. Ultimately, we have an ability to voice those thoughts in order to come to solutions with the franchisor and continue to be on the cutting edge of our industry,” said Garcia.
One recent example of a best practice that was shared systemwide following a FAC meeting is Rent-A-Center’s recent “6 Months Same As Cash” program. Originally, the program was one that only a few corporate stores had successfully completed — it had never been carried out systemwide. However, after a few franchisees were successful with it and were then able to provide the data, pricing points and other best practices behind their success, that feedback was combined with corporate’s knowledge and insight in order to create a much larger program.
“That’s a perfect example of an exciting program that the company’s corporate-owned stores may not have tried unless a franchisee spoke out and said, ‘Hey, here’s what is working well for me, and more importantly, why,” said Bylund. “The corporate stores had tried ‘180 days same as cash’, but it didn’t seem to resonate with our customers. After franchise feedback, it was changed to be ‘6 months,’ and was much more successful. Such a small change that was brought about from franchise feedback, made a difference. At the end of the day, we were able to roll something out to ALL Rent-A-Center stores, corporate or franchised, that we were confident would be beneficial.”
Another way in which Rent-A-Center shares best practices with its franchisees outside of FAC meetings is its annual conference. By bringing its entire system together on an annual basis, the brand has an opportunity to regroup and ensure that everyone is set up for success. And that opportunity is one that Rent-A-Center refuses to pass up.
Bylund said, “Our annual conference is another way in which we’re able to share best practices with our franchisees. It’s a great opportunity to get everyone in one room and update our franchisees on what goes on ‘behind the scenes” to support them. We also bring in presenters that cover different aspects of training, marketing and purchasing, which is also another channel that we use to ensure we’re all on the same page and operating by the same best practices. Our franchisees’ feedback from these meetings is instrumental in the decision-making process.”
Rent-A-Center’s support staff out of its corporate office also makes themselves available to its franchisees whenever help or guidance is needed. Best practices aren’t only shared when formal meetings are being held — communication is constant across the brand’s 2,400+ store system.
That ability to communicate across such a large system that’s made up of both corporately owned stores and franchised ones is not often found in the franchising industry. But as Rent-A-Center continues to expand through the franchising business model, the brand is committed to maintaining its high standards of sharing information.
“The way that we communicate between corporate leadership and franchise owners — and vice-versa — is a great marriage between a highly analytical and a boots on the ground approach to sharing best practices. When you put the two together, you end up with the best-in-class practices and programs,” Bylund said.
It’s clear that Rent-A-Center’s growing population of franchisees agrees with Bylund’s approach — the brand’s local owners know that they have a voice when speaking with the corporate team.
Garcia said, “In the last few years, Rent-A-Center’s corporate team has looked to the franchisees a lot more for input. As a whole, it really helps move the organization forward. Of course, Rent-A-Center doesn’t take every single idea that we have and run with it, but they’re open to listening to us and they really hear what we’re asking for. Overall, it produces better relations and better results for everybody.”