Whatever business you are in, there is something you can learn from the most successful franchises in the world. Even the most personalised and local business will benefit from some degree of streamlining, without having to sacrifice their authenticity.
What are the key areas that can be applied to any small business? If you succeed in streamlining your business, perhaps you could set it up as a franchise opportunity for other small business owners too? Or maybe you’ll decide that it would be easier to look into finding the right franchise to buy into yourself.
Here are some of the key factors that you can learn from successful franchises.
Build a brand
You can compare UK franchises and look at the likes of McDonalds, Starbucks, Molly Maids and Tumble Tots to see how they have honed their business models to perfection, to create robust and transferable companies that keep customers coming back and maximise profits. So, what can you learn from them?
The most important thing that you have to do when having a popular franchise is to build your brand and build it well. Brand starts with what you want people to say about you behind your back? Set up a survey with a prize draw and ask your best customers what they think of your business, in a phrase or a few words.
If you are setting up a new business then try to ask your target group of potential customers. You might be surprised at what they say. If you want more customers like them then their words and phrases can be built on to deliver a coherent image for your logo, premises and communications.
Brand is more than image, it is also how you interact with customers. You need to make sure that you deliver consistently on all of your brand values, otherwise the brand will become meaningless to customers and not trusted. So if you want them to say that you are a friendly business, for example, make sure that all of your team are consistently friendly when they interact with customers.
Franchises market their services consistently and widely. You see them on billboards, on buses, at the Cinema, on the Radio, on TV and across social media.
When they are already so successful and well known, why bother? Well, the public are a fickle lot and will forget your business quickly unless you remind them or give them a new, fresh reason to connect.
If you are part of a franchise chain, then part of the deal will be buying into their national and regional marketing campaigns. You can usually supplement that with local promotions.
As an independent small business, you’re unlikely to be able to match the marketing muscle of the big franchises. But they will never have your local knowledge and authenticity, which is much, much more powerful on social media and in the local press. So play to your strengths. Find out which social media channels your core customer group spend most time on and make sure that you connect regularly with them there.
Take yourself out of the business
Don’t panic. You don’t need to disappear completely, but you do need to structure the business in such a way that it can continue seamlessly if you find yourself unfortunately incapacitated. Ask yourself what will happen if you are hit by a bus tomorrow – gently that is, so you’re going to be in traction for a few weeks, but you will return!
Are you completely irreplaceable, or is there some way the company could continue with someone else in charge? How can you make the business transferable? Our next section explains what you need to do.
Create a manual
Put together an operations manual with step by step processes for everything that you do in the business. Make it as clear as possible, with diagrams and bullet points.
Depending on the nature of your businesses, the operations manual could include:
- Step-by-step processes
- Checklists for key tasks or roles
- Scripts for customer interactions
- Lists of suppliers
- Health and safety information and guidelines
- Policies, including complaints and data protection
- Brand values and materials
- Financial management information and contact
- Staff management and training details
Hire great staff and train them
Finally, good franchises recognise that staff recruitment and motivation is fundamental to their success. Any business is as good or as bad as its people.
Hire people in line with your brand values. If you are a creative, fun and professional company then you want people who fit that bill. Or if reliability and trust is key for your brand then your staffing profile is likely to be very different.
Note, we haven’t mentioned skills or abilities? That’s because they are less important for most roles in franchise-model businesses. If you have a solid operations manual, with good training anyone should be able to do any job. That is why attitude and values are much more important than experience, skills or abilities.
You could have the best product in the world, in a great location with growing demand; but if your employees treat people poorly and present with a bad attitude, people will choose to go elsewhere.
So make sure that you are fully involved in the hiring process and that you find people whose values line up with the brand. After that train them thoroughly and regularly to ensure that every task is completed properly.
Now that you have built your brand and your reputation, it is up to you to keep it. It takes years to gather the trust of the community around you, but only minutes for a reputation to be destroyed. Every customer has to be treated with respect and every transaction has to be done with the utmost care.
Whatever business you are in, there is something that you can learn from successful franchise chains. Every business will do better with a clearer and more coherent brand. Every business will benefit from a refreshed marketing plan. No business should be wholly dependent on key individuals and manualising your key tasks will undoubtedly make your business and your people both more efficient and more profitable.