A strong franchise model is built to last. As is the case with all businesses, storms will come along, but they can be weathered when the organizational structure is rock-solid and everybody in the company is unified in purpose.
The importance of those vital qualities is magnified in essential businesses and how well they serve the public in challenging times, such as during this economic downturn for the nation. The value of such businesses grows when people know they can count on those services and products at a time they most need them.
For franchisors, as for all business owners, the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on running a business is uncharted territory. But that unprecedented event, along with national and worldwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality, remind us that we’re all in this together. And working together, helping each other and our customers, no matter the circumstances, is what it’s all about – what it should always be about.
As franchise leaders, there is a heightened sense of awareness to expand leadership roles during this unique time in our nation’s history. And a big part of that leadership is providing support and guidance for franchisees, through whom the highly-valued customers receive these essential services and a lasting image of what your brand is all about.
It is now when franchisors can help franchisees be at their best – adding value, growing customer confidence and loyalty, and helping your business model shine.
Customers may have temporarily or permanently lost income, which may prevent them from being able to pay for your products and services. At the same time, it’s an opportunity to go beyond for them, for franchisors to teach franchisees how to do so, and in the process go beyond for your franchisees as well.
Without being opportunistic with customers, there are ways your essential business franchise can continue to blossom, and it starts with how franchisors lead their franchisees. Here are 5 tips:
- Keep marketing to new franchisees. Now is an opportunity for many people out of work to consider new careers, franchising being an appealing one. It can provide a measure of professional control some never had, in addition to a sizable new income. And being part of an essential business, gaining the deep sense you are truly helping people, is a special feeling that increases job satisfaction for the franchisee.
Marketing that message is key, even more so, during crisis times. At the same time, you are sending a positive message to your current franchisees – that the company is promoting and believing in future growth. At a time when consumer spending is more conservative and there is so much uncertainty, franchisors must communicate to their franchisees this is a time of great opportunity for them as well – a time to build a brand that both they and their customers can trust.
- Offset expenses to customers and franchisees. Not raising prices at this time is a very important matter. You need to be sensitive to financial struggles customers may be going through, and you cannot capitalize on people’s needs and fears. At the same time, it’s a good opportunity to build good faith and enduring trust by having your franchisees give leeway to customers with payment schedules. Franchisees who provide economic relief to customers in tough times, for a service they enjoy, demonstrate their empathy for them, create bonds, and build customer loyalty for the long term.
Franchisors can establish a crisis care program involving both customers and franchisees. For example, if an established, active customer decides to cancel their service due to reduced personal income, you can go further with your franchisees and have them offer customers complimentary services for a limited time. Also, there should be a shared “stake in the game,” and the franchisor can offer assistance to relieve some of the financial burden on the franchisee.
- Increase communication. A troubling aspect of the crisis is the future uncertainty it brings. A franchisor can instill calm in franchisees by communicating with them more regularly. Make sure that franchisees are aware of company statements, and that the support staff is more engaged with the franchisees. Good communications through turbulent times allows everyone to be informed while sharing a common message.
- Help them control their costs. For most small businesses, significant fixed costs include rent, loan repayments, and wages. Every dollar you can help your franchisees save will increase their financial viability – especially assisting them to negotiate with suppliers, landlords, and lenders. Fixed costs can quickly sink a business when there is a decline in sales. It’s more important than ever for your team to be consulting with your franchisees on ways to reduce their cost and adjust their budgets. Focus them on short-term cash flow and ways to build long-term sustainability.
- Sharpen your focus on key priorities and goals. To lead with calm and confidence, franchisors must stay sharp and maintain a constructive mindset. That leads to focusing on priorities, creating new ones, and in the process developing customer growth. Stay focused on overall growth plans, but be mindful that strategies to achieve it are likely different. A big part of supporting franchisees is leading them through uncertainty and next steps. Franchisees are looking for guidance and strong partnership in these difficult times, thus, your team must be more focused than ever by continuing to move key initiatives forward.
Joey Osborne is founder and president of Mosquito®Authority®, a nationwide leader in mosquito control with franchises serving communities across the U.S. and Canada. A life-long entrepreneur, he serves as CEO of Authority Franchise Systems LLC, a company he founded in 2009. Authority Franchise Systems operates in 38 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and Canada with more than 500 employees supporting 85,000 clients. For franchise opportunities with International Franchise Association (IFA) franchisor member Mosquito Authority, click here.