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Walter Bond’s Lessons for the Franchising Industry

The former NBA star and Hall of Fame motivational speaker offers his advice for the franchise industry as COVID continues to disrupt business.

Though the country is slowly adapting to a new COVID-19-disrupted landscape, the crisis is stretching out far longer than most of us anticipated in the spring, and the long lasting effects of the economic fallout remain to be seen. Moving forward, franchisors across segments can no longer expect to bounce back to normal. Instead, they must continue to strategize and find new ways to support their franchisees, keep customers satisfied and help local communities through a trying historical chapter.

Walter Bond is a former NBA player, former franchisee, motivational speaker and business coach. Recently, Bond spoke with 1851 Franchise about ways franchisors and franchisees can take advantage of this unprecedented time to make improvements in business and in life.

Time to Take Stock

First, whether it’s due to slower foot traffic or temporary closures, Bond notes that business owners need to take advantage of the prolonged off-season. “This is an opportunity for business leaders to work on their businesses and get bigger, stronger and faster,” he said. “Companies can take the opportunity of this pause to pull back and work differently. They can hold retreats and workshops and do things they didn’t have the time to do before the pandemic. This might be the only chance they get.”

Beyond this, Bond explains that this time may be the kind of reset that many business owners needed, both from a career standpoint as well as personally. “This pandemic has provided us with a chance to reset, and for most people that reset happens at home,” he said. “Spend quality time with family and children. Improve your diet. Get some rest. Don’t just look at what’s wrong with this situation, look at what’s right.”

In order to do this, franchisors and leaders need to avoid the pity party. As Bond points out, there are two types of businesspeople: those who have a pity party when things get rough and those who know when and how to adapt to the challenge. This is a great time for brands to reposition themselves to be more in line with the latter. 

“The beauty of being an athlete is that it taught me how to come to terms with my strengths and weaknesses right away,” said Bond. “Business owners need to be honest about their shortcomings. Take this chance to improve any weak areas you have, so when life returns to normal, you will be better. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing.”

Putting People First 

From both an internal and external standpoint, businesses need to create a people-oriented process if they want to succeed. “If your business wasn’t already oriented around people, it needs to be,” said Bond. “Businesses that put profit over people will lose employees. This pandemic will ensure that employees and franchisees know whether you care about them or not, and those who realize you didn’t care about them will leave. The same is true for vendors — the strong, meaningful relationships are what create long-lasting business partnerships.” 

Bond notes that there are many innovators in the franchising industry who may launch their brilliant concept half-baked — without the proper support infrastructure. “That can lead to a lot of angry franchisees,” he said. “A franchisor’s job is to sell a successful system. It’s important to spend the time and energy to get better, and ensure that your people are looked after.”

When it comes to the consumer, the companies that are winning right now are in the people business, and they were in the people business before this crisis. “It’s not only about making money, it’s about being a good person,” said Bond. “If you take care of your people, including your customers, they’ll take care of you.”

Looking Ahead

Although the future is relatively uncertain, business leaders should take this time to anticipate where their industry will be once this crisis has passed. “Don’t meet it there, beat it there,” said Bond. “Businesses need to work hard to pivot towards the future. Some companies are going to thrive, others are going to fail, but the franchising industry will bounce back.”

Another benefit of this situation is the great deal of talent currently on the sidelines. Pre-pandemic, many  companies were struggling to find good help. Now, Bond points out, there's a surplus of talent in the market and therefore a chance for franchisors to create a stronger network.

“Overall, my message is simple,” said Bond. “I challenge everybody — whether you’re a franchisor, franchisee or employee — to get better. If we put our people first and constantly hold ourselves accountable in order to get better, we will win. Let’s all win together.”