Give Your Franchise a Personal Touch – But How Far Can You Go?
When entrepreneurs make the decision to become a franchisee, they need to curb some of their free-thinking spirit in the knowledge that they are now part of a larger enterprise. The real strength of entrepreneurs lies in their perseverance against the countless challenges involved in building a business. Aspiring business owners that make the decision to become a franchisee also need to understand that they can’t take complete control and know that they are guided by set out rules and how things should be operated. However, there is some leeway in giving a franchise a personal touch, but how far can they go?
Restraining that entrepreneurial spirit does not mean abandoning it. What it means, then, is that the franchisee cannot do just anything on the spur of the moment or willy-nilly – it often means getting approval of the franchise owner before taking action. A franchise system typically has avenues for franchisees to introduce new ideas and express their own personality, but that won’t include any wild new ideas such as changing the colour motif of the franchise brand.
The franchisor, after all, is accountable for protecting the integrity of the core brand on behalf of all franchisees and the customers. But franchisors also want to incorporate the best practices of franchisees. The franchising relationship is a partnership and both sides must view it as such.
Given that all franchise systems have their own rules, here are some basic tips of what can often be done to successfully personalise a franchise and have a little freedom:
Generally, franchising allows for a percentage of localisation. When it comes to food franchises, popular flavours tend to vary from location to location, and even whether the location is a shopping mall or residential. Franchisors will often encourage franchisees to figure out what is going to sell in their area based on factors like the location, the weather, or the clientele. Franchisees are also often encouraged to think of innovative ideas for the franchise menu/offering. Bear in mind that any suggestions and ideas need to be run by the franchisor first and tested within a pilot operation before it can be implemented/rolled out
- In 1967, Jim Delligatti, a McDonald’s franchisee, created arguably the most iconic burger in the restaurant business when he put two burger patties on a double-decker bun with a sauce, lettuce, cheese, gherkins and onions. One year later the Big Mac was on the franchise’s national menu.
- In 1972, Herb Peterson, who ran 6 franchise stores in California, put an egg, cheese and Canadian bacon between an English Muffin. The Egg McMuffin became a hit as part of McDonald’s new breakfast rollout.
Level of Service
One of the most straightforward aspects any franchisee can personalise about his or her business is the service. Knocking customers’ socks off with superior or friendlier service and an obvious sense of camaraderie among staff is probably the best way to personalise a franchise.
The franchisee can also make the business as welcoming as possible by focusing on shop tidiness and cleanliness, décor and landscaping. – as long as what is done adheres to the franchise brand guidelines.
Run a Local Campaign
Most franchisors encourage their franchisees to come up with creative ways to market their product or service within their community, and some of these can even go national. Handing out gifts to potential clients that corresponded with a specific theme is a common idea – it doesn’t have to be fancy, simply workable. The franchisor provides franchisees with a local marketing toolkit to assist them in developing local campaigns and will assist and support the campaign upon approval.
Hold an Event
Some franchisors inspire their franchisees to hold regular events into which they put their personal touch. This could vary from choosing their own local charity partner to targeting their promotions to their community, so as to better connect with local customers. They can hold competitions within their store and give away vouches to winners or participants.
Connect With the Local Community
Active community involvement is one of the cornerstones of the franchising philosophy and another way to ‘personalise’ a franchised business. The franchisee or members of his/her family can look for ways to volunteer, sponsor or participate in various community-based events to give back to the community that supports the business. This can often generate very positive PR. An example can be to sponsor a sports event at schools or colleges. You can talk to your franchisor about branded merchandise e.g. caps, gazebos, signage, etc.
Express the Business Online
Social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have given franchisees a wide range of new options to connect with customers on a personal level. This is an easy way to personalise the business. It can be used to create a mom-and-pop feel to the business by blogging about projects, posting photos of meals and tweeting in order to keep clients and prospects engaged with the day-to-day workings of the business and feeling like they have a more personal relationship with the business owner. This needs to be checked with the franchisor, some allow franchisees to have their own social media platforms for their area and some don’t, to keep their eye on posts.
The entrepreneur or aspiring business owner has many options to personalise the business – they just have to remember to follow the rules.
By Eamonn Ryan