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News and stories about managing, leading and operating a franchise

Stop Talking and Sell!

The Sales Process“There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?” -- Woody Allen

I have designed, facilitated and delivered sales training in Fortune 500 companies and many small business enterprises for many years. In the old days and in the worst places, a salesperson would use whatever tool in his bag of tricks to get the customer to buy – cajoling, pressuring, and exaggerating. Remember those endless sales pitches that went on for hours and hours, without you even saying a single peep to acknowledge any interest? You know -- the insurance or used car salesman approach that most of us dreaded. Woody Allen was quite right. There are fewer things worse than a sales person gone amuck.

Getting Your Business Known With Minimal Advertising

“The fish has to see the meal before it bites.” – Chinese proverb

Before selling, franchise units that are involved in business to business selling need to market and mine their business contacts to get noticed. For small businesses, this does NOT mean spending thousands upon thousands of dollars in bad advertising – dollars spent that do not reach and do not bring in new customers. Don't get me wrong. Advertising is important but I've seen new business owners, who seem to think that building a business is just a matter of how much one puts into advertising. They dump unnecessary amounts of money into ads, a very costly mistake that can lead to bankruptcy.

Employee Recognition Gone Awry

A pizza manager cooked up a scheme that went awry, motivated by wanting her name in the company newsletter. Yes, I said that right -- by a mention of her name, Kimberly Hericks, in the Donato's Pizza newsletter for increasing pizza sales. She received no compensation for the sale of the pizzas.

Ms. Hericks sold roughly 400 pizzas to fake company accounts, schools and hospitals, then covered it up by delivering the pizzas herself to "maintain a rapport with the customers". That might've raised a few eyebrows but the manager managed to assuage any suspicions by sending herself a bouquet of flowers in thanks for her services. She signed a fake thank-you note from her bogus Lakewood Hospital customer. One would hope that at least the thank you notice gushed with how wonderful this manager's sales skills were and suggest that she receive a raise or a promotion immediately.

Unfortunately for her, the store manager was discovered when her boss helped her move. He discovered 400 rotting pizzas in her garage. Yuck!

And the damage done to the company? Besides the $3000 owed in pizzas, which she tried to compensate her boss through a bounced check, a company audit shows that there is now $38,000 not accounted for. Uh-oh. The company's computer system was also damaged when Ms. Hericks tried to manipulate the accounts to cover up her deceit. She was indicted on charges of theft, forgery, vandalism and passing bad check, and faces a maximum of five years in prison if convicted.

Fortunately for Donato's Pizza, she was caught. Smart talent is hard to find and mistakes, big ones, were made in perpetrating such a crime. It seems that the most innocent of employee incentives and recognition can be abused or motivate in the wrong way.

Sources: Wiggins & Dana's Franchise Law Blog and Court TV's Stupid Crimes and Misdemeanors

Church and Franchise at Christmas

It seems the battle between church and franchise rages in the South. A Raleigh, McDonald's restaurant has written a religious message for the season on its sign.

The sign reads, "Merry Christmas. Jesus is the reason for the season."

One local woman thinks it is offensive to her Jewish views and has asked the company to take the sign down. However, the majority of the community does not seem to mind. The store manager said that church groups were frequenting the restaurant and others were being drawn in by the sign.

Lessons on how franchisees adapt to quick change

Quick printing has changed in the last 30 years. Here is a good summary from an Austin shop owner on the changes and the increasing difficulty of being a small quick-print shop. First, adapting to rapid technology change is critical - being leading edge but not bleeding edge. In one story, an Alphagraphics owner speaks about how upgrading equipment helped turn around profits. Do it the wrong way or too much and you bleed profits.

Second, the Austin shop followed equipment upgrades by pro-actively training its customers on technology changes that make their life simpler.

"There has been a complete turnover of equipment and processes in the last 10 years," says Meyers, who started the 25-employee company with a $10,000 bank loan while he was a student at the University of Texas. "We had to completely revamp our equipment and personnel for the digital era."

Yellow Pages: What You Don't Know Can Cost Big Bucks

SamB is not my real name. I'm writing under a pseudonym because it gives me the freedom to tell you like it is.

I'm an account executive for the leading yellow page directory in a large city. Although I'm not a franchisee, I meet quite a few of them in the course of my work. Many of my good friends and relatives are businessmen and women, a couple of them with franchises. Writing is my hobby and this blog is my opportunity to contribute while doing something that I enjoy.

Sun-tsu and The Art of a Franchise Business

"Generals who succeed in war will strategize in their sanctuary way more than the other guy." -- Sun-tsu

Over two millennium ago a Chinese general and philosopher wrote a book called The Art of War. Sun-tsu’s text has become a classic used by leaders since. It's been used by Western military leaders as early as Napolean and as recent as Operation Desert Storm. During those ancient days long ago in my MBA program and my tenure with multinationals, Sun-tsu's writings, which I studied for language purposes in my undergrad years was chic. People knew and could quote from the Art of War. It had a band wagon, albeit a small one.

How to satisfy your hiring needs, then reduce turnover

It's that time of year in which franchisees have already hired staff to handle the busy holiday season peak. Hiring workers and keeping them in franchises is almost always a challenge. But there are some things that can be done to push up the number of applicants. For example, few franchisees use their own signage to advertise for talent, particularly if some customers have the background to be potential employees. Franchises tend to think that such signage is only for fast food restaurants. Anyhow, here's three good resources on how and where to find good employees.


Advice to a Quick-Print Franchisee

Struggle seems to come hand in hand with human existance. There's no escaping, particularly for those in quick-print franchising. I should know. I cut my franchise teeth here, in an industry with a fairly mature market, surprisingly nice margins, and yet a technology and marketplace changing so quickly that it is hard for a store to keep up.

As franchisor executives and franchise owners recently wrestled with how to turn around drooping profits, they sought my advice. There was discussion of complex long-term trends and strategy but that is for another post. First, let's cover the fundamentals for the immediacy of now. Here are recommendations to quick print owners in eight short points to consider in creating your upcoming business plan...

Be Obsessive About Details

One constant argument among franchise corporate types is whether a successful franchise owner needs a persuasive sales personality or an operations personality. A sales personality is stereotyped as someone who does broad brush strokes. An operations guy is supposedly someone who is detailed. Many franchise executives may have opinions but differ on which one works best in their system. There are even some types of assessments that are designed to take away some of the guesswork.

Well, here's another piece to the puzzle. Whatever your personality, Author Michael Levine says small things don't get the attention they deserve, so consequently, "businesses insult customers" every day. He continues with this interesting observation about getting the basics right first, advice that translates very well with networks in which adherence to franchise system standards is critical.