Big Blue Swim School Chief Development Officer Scott Thompson encourages brands to focus on their mission, values and people amid COVID-19.
For most people, COVID-19 has had a major impact on how we interact with our families, how we work and how we think about the future. Franchise brands are not only scrambling to adjust their business models to align with the “new normal,” but are also trying to figure out how to keep franchise prospects engaged during this unsettling time. While no one can predict the future, in franchising or life, there are a few best practices for franchise brands to weather this storm and come out stronger on the other side.
Stay Focused on the Mission & Values
Whether it’s the franchisor, franchise partner, prospect or customer, COVID-19 has instilled in nearly everyone a natural fear of the unknown. While COVID-19 will eventually pass, like other monumental events in our history have passed, no one has a crystal ball to know how or when that will happen. For franchise brands, it’s more important now than ever to focus on what makes your brand special. We are a mission-based brand, which fuels how we approach everything from giving swim lessons in our pools to connecting with our students and their families to how we find the right franchise candidates. Even with our pools closed during this time, we have not wavered from our commitment to our mission — we have found creative ways to engage with our communities through personalized videos from our swim associates, e-learning activities, and more.
Plan for the Future
While short-term planning is a current necessity, it’s also important to look ahead at what the future may hold. We are spending our time planning our future marketing strategies to continue attracting the right candidates and get families ready to get back into the water. We are also thinking about what changes we need to make in our pools once we are able to reopen, like
how we're looking at adjusting our class sizes and social distancing within our pools and waiting rooms to make sure that our families feel both comfortable and safe, along with changes that our swim associates will be adhering to, like potentially wearing new protective gear. At the core of our planning is how we can best protect the people in our system while delivering a much-needed service for families.
Take Care of Your People
Every franchise brand is different; even those in the same industry have differentiators that set them apart from other brands, but no franchise would be successful without its people. Brands need to do everything they can to retain their employees and keep them feeling confident in the future of the brand. Even though our pools are closed, we made the choice to pay our employees and full-time swim associates for as long as we can. Our hope is that our team will feel more bought into our mission and values now, and will be even more grateful and passionate when we get through this.
Do the Right Thing
At the end of the day, buying a franchise is a major investment and life change. During this time, we are still having conversations with franchise candidates, but we are making it clear that we understand that this is a difficult time to make a major decision. Being creative about the process of bringing on new franchise partners is imperative, whether that’s deferring franchise fees or or waiting to sign paperwork. Brands that are forcing candidates through the process will end up losing them because they aren’t taking a more flexible approach.
None of us know what the world will look like in two weeks, six months or a year from now. It’s certainly important to focus on short-term business strategies and long-term planning, but now is the time to focus on the people within your brand. To be a long-term partner for consumers and franchise owners, brands need to get creative, be understanding and adapt to meet the needs of customers and prospects.
Scott Thompson is the Chief Development Officer for Big Blue Swim School. For more information on Big Blue Swim School, click here.