Wild Birds Unlimited features a robust and multi-tiered coaching program for its franchisees. 1851 Franchise sat down with a Wild Birds Unlimited Business Development Coach Allison Fraser to learn more about what it means to excel.
1851: What is Business Development Coaching?
Allison: I coach franchisees who have the desire to be in the Enterprise Coaching group but need to put more systems in place and build best practices. To assess where they are and their personal desired outcomes we utilize a comprehensive assessment. This tool enables our coaching team to understand and help them achieve the goals in which they’ve identified to build their enterprise and qualify for the next level of coaching.
I have approximately 30 stores and provide them guidance and support when needed. Generally, I am the first line of contact when a franchisee needs assistance. We have a diverse lineup of store owners, so their needs and skillsets can differ dramatically. Some of them have been in the business for years, and some of them are brand new, so I have to tailor my approach and message to each owner or manager. I ask lots of questions and try to listen intently, letting them guide me to what they need and want before we get to work. Once we have a baseline for what they want, we’ll start to talk about best practices.
1851: How does a franchisee join the Business Development Coaching program?
Allison: They just need to express an interest having a coaching relationship and then it’s my job to figure out how I can best help them. We’ll work on training and development of staff, financials, leadership, marketing, visual branding; any area where the store could benefit from improvements. This program is included in their royalty fee.
1851: How do coaches across the development group coordinate with each other?
Allison: As a coaching group we collaborate weekly. We also host monthly webinars for our stores, and get together for a 90-minute session at our annual conference. The conference is the best way to get people working together face-to-face, but the webinars have proven to be a great method for franchisees to discuss specific topics and learn from each other.
1851: What are some common issues you help stores work through?
Allison: Staffing, communication and inventory management are probably the most common topics we discuss. More often than not when a store reaches a roadblock, it’s a staffing issue. It’s very easy to get absorbed in the day-to-day operations, and staff management tends to become a lower priority. We try to encourage and challenge our owners to set very clear expectations, as well as short-term and long-term goals for their teams. An engaged, empower staff is a critical piece in the success of their enterprise.
1851: What other advice can you give to a new franchisee who might be managing staff for the first time?
Allison: The first thing I would suggest is to be present, engaged and available. Setting clear expectations will be just as important in developing a solid foundation. To build trust and gain respect I would challenge a new franchisee to always lead by example…model the behavior you desire in your store. You also need to connect the day-to-day operational tasks with the overall goals of the store. That gives the staff a sense of ownership and involvement that is essential.
We recommend franchisees participate in a mystery-shopper program and a customer opinion survey. These tools help gauge how customers view the experience in store. You should be getting 100% positive feedback, otherwise, you’ll want to want to dig into the feedback and work with your staff on anything that isn’t meeting expectations.
1851: What does success look like for a WBU franchisee?
Allison: We want our franchisees to grow their business and achieve their personal goals. I aspire to help them get to the Enterprise Coaching model because that’s the most apparent marker for success.
1851: How has your approach to coaching changed over the years?
Allison: As you mature and have more experience under your belt I feel like you learn to adapt. The hardest challenge for me in my coaching was meeting my owners where they were. I had to learn that I couldn’t want something more than they did. Once I was able to accept and appreciate their place I’ve been much more successful in cultivating and building trust.
1851: What do you enjoy about coaching?
Allison: I love, love, love getting to know franchisees, specifically being out in the field. My favorite moments are watching an unlock or an “ah ha” moment by giving them a different perspective or challenging them to think differently.
1851: How long have you been at WBU?
Allison: It will be two years this month! I love it. I love the relationships I’ve made with franchisees and challenges I’m faced with daily to help them achieve their goals.
1851: How did you get involved with WBU?
Allison: My good friend Kristin (whom I met while working for Target) reached out to see if I would have any interest in a business coach position. I honestly didn’t know much about Wild Birds Unlimited, but quickly did some research and got up to speed. I knew that I could really enjoy this position and company because I love helping people and retailing is in my blood. I knew that coming out of stores and into this retail setting would give me more perspective, depth and challenge me in ways I hadn’t been before. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m so glad to be here.