For Wild Birds Unlimited there’s a lot that goes into finding successful franchise candidates. From financial requirements and basic business ownership abilities to entrepreneurial drive and a passion for a specific industry, there’s a seemingly endless list of factors that determine whether or not a prospect will become a successful local owner. But the path to becoming a franchisee doesn’t end once a development deal is officially in place. After a candidate signs on the dotted line with Wild Birds Unlimited to open a franchise, they immediately begin working with the New Owner Coaching Team who guides them through the process of getting their location off the ground. This cross-departmental team is dedicated to the ramp-up process and helping owners learn, understand and execute system best practices.
It’s not uncommon for there to be disconnect between franchise development and operations within major franchise brands across the country. However, that’s not the case at Wild Birds Unlimited, the nation’s leading franchise that connects people with nature. Because they all operate out of the same office, the brand’s franchise development and operational teams have a strong history of working together toward the same goals. Recently, WBU added an additional strategy to strengthen the collaboration between franchise development and operations – an offsite retreat designed to keep everyone on the same page and foster already strong relations between the two departments.
“There’s an old saying that franchise development dates prospective candidates and retail operations marries them. From a development perspective, our main goal is to make sure that the franchisees we bring to the table are the right match for our brand,” said Paul Pickett, Chief Development Officer for Wild Birds Unlimited. “We’ve always valued having strong collaboration efforts between our franchise development and new owner teams. This retreat gave us the perfect opportunity to determine what’s going well, and where we need to improve.”
Wild Birds Unlimited recently changed its new owner coaching model. Now, when a franchisee inks an agreement, they graduate from franchise development and work with a five-member new owner coaching team throughout their first year of operation. With about a year under their belt executing this new model, the brand’s retreat gave both teams the ability to walk in the other’s shoes.
“Everyone on the Wild Birds Unlimited team—from our Franchise Support Center team to our local owners—is committed to creating a respectful and positive culture. That’s why it’s so important for us to participate in these retreats to see what our franchise development team does on a daily basis,” said Patti Causemaker, one of Wild Birds Unlimited’s new owner development coaches. “By taking the time to get on the same page and figure out the best practices that will benefit the brand on both sides, we’re setting the tone for our future franchisees.”
Beyond giving the brand’s leaders the opportunity to align their goals and missions, the retreat ultimately sets Wild Bird’s Unlimited’s new and potential local owners up for success. The brand wants to ensure that its franchisees go through a seamless transition as they develop their store. When the franchise development and new operations teams are working together, that goal is easily achieved.
“At the end of the day, we want to support one another. And as obvious as it seems, this is really unique in the franchising industry. I can’t tell you how many franchise development executives from other brands have asked to learn more about how Wild Birds Unlimited works as one cohesive team,” said Lisa Hammer, manager of franchise development for Wild Birds Unlimited. “We’re really paving the way and setting a new industry standard. Franchise development shouldn’t operate on one side of a business with new owner operations on the other. It’s vital for us to collaborate and work together to ensure that our brand is heading in the right direction, giving our owners the highest quality support during that critical first year of business and beyond."