Franchisors can establish longevity in the industry by forging relationships and leveraging community.
For new franchisors getting started in the world of franchising, finding the right way to grow an emerging franchise system can be tricky.
From seasoned mentors to industry organizations and online communities, a wide range of resources is available for new franchisors today. But with so many options, how do new franchisors know which communities to join and which resources to invest their time and money in? The answer, at least in part, comes from developing the right mindset and finding smart ways to leverage relationships with vendors and the franchise community after franchising a business.
“I think it's getting out of your own way. I think that's one of the major [barriers] to early franchise success is the CEO and founder often get in their own way. They're not bringing on the right people for their team and they're not executing a proper strategy in place,” says Liane Caruso, a franchise marketing expert and the senior vice president of Entrepreneur Media.
Get involved in the franchise community
To help new franchisors get out of their own way after franchising their business, industry experts like Caruso say finding ways to connect with others in the franchise community is critical.
“You've probably heard before, they call it a ‘franchise family.’ Everybody is just so, so helpful. Like a true community helping people, especially starting out, the first thing you could do is just go to LinkedIn and find all the franchise brands and all of the support that people give to each other, even just online,” Caruso says.
Beyond social media, Caruso says it can also be beneficial for emerging franchisors to engage with the franchise community offline. For opportunities to develop meaningful relationships with other like-minded franchising professionals, Caruso recommends joining professional associations like the International Franchise Association or other industry-specific organizations.
Because of their resources and broad member bases, those organizations can offer new franchisors access to educational materials and industry connections – an advantage franchisors can leverage to build their own networks over time.
“As you're connecting with these people or joining even the webinars online that IFA has available to you, or many other organizations have available, start connecting with those people on LinkedIn as well, and you'll find you build your community like that,” Caruso says.
Charles N. Internicola, a franchise attorney and the founder of The Internicola Law Firm, a national law firm that focuses exclusively on franchise and business law, echoes Caruso’s sentiments about getting involved with industry associations.
“I think joining the IFA is an incredible resource. In my experience, we have clients now that have 100, 200 units, but I remember years ago being at an IFA conference with them. They maybe had one or two franchisees. They're learning the franchise world; maybe brokers aren't interested in them yet. But they keep learning, they keep getting involved. And so it's really those franchise founders and leadership team members that really keep engaging and never give up on that – I think they win from that,” Interniola says.
Attend industry events
In addition to forging relationships with franchising professionals through membership networks, Internicola says new franchisors can benefit from attending industry events like conferences and expos.
“I think it's about perspective. So you could go to a show, not exhibit, but just walk around the show and see how other franchisors are marketed and the conversations they're having – the value proposition they're offering,” Internicola says.
Once franchisors have gained enough experience to exhibit at shows, Internicola advises keeping a realistic perspective about the value of industry events. Noting the challenges of sales at shows, Internicola says franchisors should instead focus on learning about the industry while identifying ways to improve their recruiting processes.
“If you do exhibit at a show, I think it's important to have the right perspective. It's very difficult to get a sale from the show, but it's more about learning, hearing what people are asking, and really building up that franchise IQ and that website,” Internicola says.
Because the reach and target market of franchise expos can vary, Caruso advises franchisors to make sure they’re selecting events that make sense for their brand’s goals, rather than simply attending shows for the sake of getting involved.
“In terms of expos, there's IFE (International Franchise Expo), which is one of the largest expos, and then there's all of these regional shows through national events, management and others. I would say, primarily, look at your budget and your goals. If you're looking to grow in small spaces, the regional shows might make the most sense for you. If you're in the Atlanta area and you're looking to grow bigger in Atlanta, do the Atlanta franchise show,” Caruso says.
Still, Caruso cautions that attending conferences or exhibiting at expos might not work for every brand. Instead, events should be integrated into a broader strategy that meets the individual franchisor’s needs.
“Definitely learn from other brands. These expos and these events and these different conferences, they're all part of a bigger pie, right? So it's not an end-all-be-all. There is no one silver bullet,” Caruso says.
Learn from colleagues’ success
Part of that bigger pie includes seeking out mentors in the franchise world that can help emerging franchisors learn and grow professionally outside of their comfort zone as small business owners.
“You built a successful business and now you're franchising a business, which is a whole new business model in itself. And so just understand that there are many, many people out there who have felt your pain or who know what you're going through and can be resourceful to you,” Caruso says.
Although mentors can be beneficial for new franchisors trying to gain footing in an unfamiliar industry, Caruso stresses the importance of remembering that every brand is different. Because of that, emerging franchisors should keep in mind that even the most experienced mentors might not have all the answers for every franchise system.
“What works for one brand does not work for another brand. So I think having those conversations with the other CEOs and founders of what has worked for them, and then kind of making it your own,” Caruso says.
In addition to social media, industry associations, and events, new franchisors can also seek out mentors by joining accelerators like FranX. Co-founded by Internicola and Nick Powills of 1851 Franchise, FranX offers new and aspiring franchisors resources, masterclasses and opportunities to connect with supportive franchise industry experts.
Leverage community to connect the dots
Although networking with other founders and CEOs in the franchise industry is important, Caruso says it’s also beneficial for emerging franchisors to leverage relationships with outside experts like vendors and marketing professionals – a strategy that can lead to more successful franchisees and encourage growth.
“Building a franchise and building a consumer franchise marketing program is a beast in itself. And if you don't have the right team in place to help you understand that strategy for your franchisees, and to help you understand what vendors are right for you in this space, that's a challenge in itself,” Caruso says.
As a seasoned franchise marketing expert, Caruso says marketing professionals can help new franchisors connect the dots between marketing, development and franchise sales – a connection that often gets overlooked by emerging brands.
“One of the things that I uncovered when I had my consultancy was there was such a gap that people had [in] micro-emerging brands or emerging brands, that they didn't have the marketing level and C-suite expertise they needed for their brand that also understood franchising and oh, by the way, also understood franchise development, and how the marketing and sales aligned,” Caruso says.
Internicola agrees, noting the importance of investing in the future by working with the right development professionals early on.
“I think the mistake everyone makes is they’re spending dollars for today, without any residual value in their brand and what they're doing and momentum – so for sure, that franchise development marketing person, I think it's a big gap. And if you can't hire directly, there's resources to tap into,” Internicola says.
For new and emerging franchisors, Internicola says the franchise community is a significant resource for establishing those professional relationships – and for identifying ways to improve a brand.
“That's really where community comes in, because that's where you start filling in the gaps. It's not even affirmative knowledge. It's like, ‘Okay well, I see this brand’s doing well, I see they have a franchise sales director, or this person is doing this.’ And you start to see what you're missing or the gaps that you don't see clearly, but you see it through others. I think that's really powerful,” Internicola says.
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