As franchise brands grow and mature, franchisees moving on is a natural occurrence. Ensuring a harmonious changing of hands during the transfer process requires ample communication and strategic planning on both sides of the business. With more than 325 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada, Wild Birds Unlimited is no stranger to the transfer process. The backyard bird feeding and nature specialty store franchise has developed a thorough exit strategy that Chief Development Officer Paul Pickett hopes will exceed every franchisee’s expectations.
Wild Birds Unlimited is a brand founded on a commitment to community involvement and customer service that begins from the top down. “Our expectation is that franchisees deliver an exceptional experience to retail customers, whether they are in our store once a year or once a month. Active participant in the hobby or not, we offer bird and nature expertise to each and every customer,” Pickett said.
This same high-level customer experience that franchisees provide at the store level, Wild Birds Unlimited also aims to provide its local owners through the duration of every franchisee’s ownership tenure, according to Pickett. “Our commitment is the same through their entire time spent with the brand, from the first initial interest call, to signing on, training, coaching and development. Our assistance extends all the way through the process of exiting the business as well,” he said. “Whether franchisees are moving on due to retirement, a readiness to do something else or because their personal lives take precedence, we want the exit to be as positive of an experience as it was when they signed on.”
Wild Birds Unlimited is successful in the transferring of stores because of the defined process it has in place. The Franchise Support Center works very collaboratively with franchisees at every turn, Pickett said. “We start with a call to help the franchisee think about how to position the business in the best light for a potential buyer, working with them on best practices across the board,” he said. This process is far-reaching, from basic things like assessing the location’s physical appearance on the interior and exterior and reviewing in-store technology to make sure it is up-to-date to reviewing financial statements and offering advice on how to better manage and create more value.
“We have a comprehensive ‘selling your store’ guide that walks franchisees through the entire process, specifically laying out what they need to pull together and prepare,” Pickett said. The guide even includes a template for a packet franchisees can customize and give to candidates that provides the necessary information on their personal history, employee backgrounds and why they are selling as well as information on the industry, territories and demographics. Wild Birds Unlimited also provides outgoing franchisees with marketing pieces they can implement when searching for a successor.
Pickett points out that while the Franchise Support Center doesn’t tell franchisees how to price their business, it instead provides them with a variety of information to assist in the decision, including comps from other Wild Birds Unlimited franchises that have sold within five years. When they do find a seller, Pickett said, “We issue purchase guidelines from the Franchise Support Center that covers topics that need to be addressed and the approval process we will put candidates through on our end.”
With such thorough procedures in place, it’s clear that Wild Birds Unlimited’s commitment to forming a community built on respect and education extends throughout every facet of its business.