Franchise on the brink? Top tips to fight back

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David Wilson

Fighting failure requires an honest look at where you're going wrong.

Fighting failure requires an honest look at where you're going wrong.

Congratulations: you bought a franchise. Now, in theory at least, you have the resources to compete with big business.

But suppose that your commercial marriage does not run to plan. Suppose you flounder and begin regretting investing in the $130 billion industry. Suppose you start fretting that you just might go bust.

The chief barrier to success is often the actions conducted by you: the franchisee. 

Don't get stressed: here are 10 top fighting tips from two industry insiders.

1. Seek top-tier support

If you are worried that your franchise is failing, enlist in-house oversight, says business coach and franchising expert, Tracey Leak. Franchisors and head office teams honestly want to help their franchisees succeed but may well fail to see that you are struggling, she says.

So, talk to the top players first because they will have seen and heard it all before. And they will be armed with the know-how you need to start succeeding.

2. Cool it

You cannot make a logical decision when your emotions are running high, says Leak, adding that when your franchise is failing, the strain will spark a range of emotions. To turn your franchise around, you need to step back and weigh it up coolly. That's hard to do, so again you might want to consult your franchisor, or hire a business coach who can provide a dispassionate assessment.

3. Soul searching

Ask yourself some tough questions about why your franchise is failing, says Leak. A key challenge, she reckons, is the tendency to believe the franchise you bought offers “a ticket to success”.

It's true, she says, that a franchise will “fast-track” your ability to run your business because of its supportive structure.

But the chief barrier to success is often the actions conducted by you: the franchisee. “Are you following the system or have you started your own version of the system?” Leak asks.

Also consider if you are deeply motivated or just acting busy.

4. Pinpoint particular weak points

Sometimes it seems that everything about your business is wrong, Leak says. Stop and analyse. You might in fact only need to tackle one or two problems.

Perhaps you have plenty of leads but are not sinking sales. Perhaps you have the wrong employees and it is time to train them up or hire new staff. Or maybe it is you who needs training, she says.

Zero in on specific areas with room for improvement.

5. Reread the manual

Go back to basics, recommends franchising strategist Brian Keen.

Run through your franchising training, he suggests. Refresh your memory of how you should act by leafing through your operations-and-procedures handbook. Also, check that your team is sticking to its script - doing what it should.

6. Smarten up your act

Ensure everyone is in uniform, Keen says. Everyone should look smart, be courteous and follow up leads: common-sense business practice, he says.

But when franchisees get desperate, he warns, they do the hard sell, merely making customers suspicious. “Particularly these days, people don't want to be sold to,” Keen warns.

7. Look local

Many franchisees neglect local marketing, says Keen. So make an effort to bump up neighbourhood trade.

For instance, he says, aim for promotion in newspapers and on radio. Also, hand out flyers and free samples of any product you market outside your shop.

8. Get webby

According to Keen, 80 per cent of businesses are still not internet-savvy, which means they are missing lots of enquiries. So, without busting the budget, get a website rigged up as soon as possible. Your franchisor should support all your marketing efforts.

9. Fix every blemish

Take a thorough, multi-step approach to fixing your franchise. "It's not one thing: you've got to do lots and lots and lots of little things," Keen suggests.

“It may be flags outside the shop. It may be a couple of splashes on the windows. It may be A-frames - it can be all manner of things.”

If you're smart, fixing the flaws need not be costly, he says.

10. Stay hungry

Too many franchise owners fall into the trap of “cruising”. Because the economy has been buoyant for the last two years, you are especially likely to make that mistake, according to Keen.

At all costs, avoid becoming complacent.

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