The beauty of a franchise system is that no one needs to create processes and systems on their own. Instead, a new Franchise Owner can tap into a group of experienced people who have been through it all before. To facilitate this collaboration, three experienced Franchisees at Signal 88 Security – Jeff Carlyle, Jeff Chovan and Mike Daly – teamed up to launch a mentoring program in January 2017.
“Jeff, Mike, and myself have been around for a while and we have obviously learned a lot of stuff the hard way,” said Carlyle. “All three of us are passionate about helping new people as they come in and are looking at opening up a franchise. The intent is for new men and women to learn best practices, not suffer in silence, learn from us, and not do the things that we did the hard way.”
Chovan added, “We had kicked around ideas to help other folks out to share our successful practices and how we do things in individual franchises that have worked. We wanted to get those ideas out there in a wider venue instead of one-off franchisees calling each other.”
Carlyle, Chovan and Daly each lead a monthly call for Signal 88’s Owner Mentor Group in a dedicated section of the country (East, Central/South, and West). They landed on the regional setup, as opposed to grouping franchises by size, because big Franchisees have something to learn from small ones, and vice versa.
The structure began with a concentration on the “SOAPbox” -- an organizational acronym that helps Signal 88 owners measure Sales, Operations, Administration, and Promise. But even with a strict agenda, the facilitators have found success in starting the call with an open discussion period where owners can share strategies, raise questions, and build relationships.
“Some people like to talk a lot, some not much, so what we do is we have topics to discuss to get the group conversing for 15 minutes and then for the last 45 minutes, we ask, ‘What’s on your mind? What do you need help with? Who is suffering?’” said Carlyle.
The leaders also take time to participate in other areas’ calls, to share findings or hot topics so that solutions to regional issues can benefit the whole franchise system.
“Time is a huge concern, so breaking it down by each region has made it easier to coordinate for as many owners to get on the call as possible,” noted Chovan. “Hours are precious, so to take an hour out and learn best practices, something new, get folks outside of their comfort zone, it needed to be convenient.”
Carlyle added, “Everyone’s time is valuable, so we have to keep the conversation moving and interesting. We have had guest speakers including an HR representative from the corporate office who has come on to talk about the admin process. We’re talking about how to make the calls even better, like inviting a client to the call so that we can get their perspective.”
The calls have proven productive as the Owner Mentor Group embarks on its second year. Improving operations, sales tactics, and ways to run a business more efficiently are frequent topics, but the call has benefits besides “shop talk.”
“Some of our clients have a national footprint, so sharing accounts on the call is really good to help our fellow franchisees get new leads,” said Carlyle. This sort of “intelligence-sharing” is a boon for new and experienced franchisees alike.
“Another thing that comes from the call is the power of networking,” Carlyle observed. “For example, this past fall, with all the California fires, just having people to call in case my location in California was overrun by a fire. During the last fire, my office was taking on embers and the city was advising us to leave, so I made contact with someone through the mentor group and I asked if I could keep my trucks up there if my office needed to be evacuated.”
Chovan mentioned that he has seen conversations and connections start on the mentor calls that later move offline. That real-life follow-up, he explains, is a valuable tool in forging business and personal bonds across the Signal 88 network. The result is an authentic camaraderie that improves each franchise and strengthens the national brand.