Most people associate franchise businesses with the things they sell. They picture cheeseburgers, frozen yogurt, hair salons, and other offerings franchise chains are known for. What they don’t always consider are the psychological and social aspects that are also part of the franchise model.
I’ve spent years as a speaker, coach, and consultant in the franchise world. I’ve met and interviewed thousands of franchisees across countless brands. For ten years, I was a multi-unit franchisee myself with Edible Arrangements. I’ve seen and experienced firsthand the human elements of franchising that directly impact business performance. Most brands don’t typically discuss these issues when selling franchises, but these human factors are as real as royalties.
With so much personally invested in the franchise, it’s easy to confuse business performance with self-worth. Many franchisees see their business as a mirror of their being. That raises the stakes. It’s not just money at risk; it’s also their confidence. I’ve coached a number of franchise owners whose business problems were a direct result of how they felt about themselves. Their self-doubt reduced their ability to make bold choices, inspire employees, or remain resilient during tough times.
And I’ve seen the opposite problem. Some franchisee is cursed with a big ego. Rather than concentrate on the practices that will grow their business, they seek affirmation. They talk down to their team. They argue with angry customers. They spend time at franchise conventions talking and bragging rather than listening and learning. And by putting themselves at the center of their operation, they take the focus away from the employees they need to engage and the customers they need to serve.
Adding to this problem is the industry practice of comparison. Franchisors rank franchisee in order to measure performance. There’s a good reason for this. It gives owners context for their gross sales figures. It lets them know who’s doing well. That’s useful. If you know who’s thriving, hopefully, you can find out why and replicate their tactics.
The problem with the comparison is that we sometimes draw the wrong conclusions. There are many reasons why one location is doing well. It could be geography (the most common assumption franchisee make). It could be marketing or customer service. Or maybe it’s because of the franchise owner’s experience or education. Rankings alone tell us who’s doing well, but not why. It’s easy to guess wrong. And while the top-ranked franchise in your system may be number one in gross sales, that doesn’t mean it ranks number one in profitability. It may not be profitable at all. There’s a lot rankings alone don’t tell you. Without all the information, comparing your business to another’s can easily mislead you.
It can also make you feel bad. Much has been written about the harmful effect of Facebook. Comparing our real lives to the wonderful, heavily curated lives of others can cause symptoms of depression. It’s also true in franchising. Seeing others thrive when you’re not can bum you out.
Top performers, whom I call “wealthy franchisees,” aren’t immune to these psychological dynamics. But they’re good at managing them. They’re able to maintain a healthy level of confidence and use comparison constructively. That’s part of their formula for success. If you want to replicate that success, it’s not enough to copy their operation. You also need to replicate these psychological disciplines. Here are a few ways to do that:
Lose the ego.
Ego is the enemy of service. It closes you to constructive criticism, gives you a false sense of security, and deprives you of empathy. Mostly, it makes you a jerk no one wants to be with. All of that is bad for business. The purpose of your franchise isn’t to impress people. It’s to make money. The more the business is about you, the less it’ll be about the people you need to grow it. Be humble, keep learning, and don’t worry about what others think. They’re probably too busy with their own endeavors to be thinking much about you anyway.
Keep everything about the customer.
Customers should be the stars of the show. Let your business celebrate them. It doesn’t matter if the customer is really “always right.” The customer is always the customer, the one with money to spend. Show them kindness. Give them value. Build their egos. Even if they’re angry or unreasonable, what’s best for business is to lift customers up without taking offense. The UPS Store president Tim David once told me, “You can do everything right, but you can’t control the mood of the customer who walks in. You don’t know what’s going on in their life and why they might be acting a certain way. You need a thick skin – to control your emotions – to ensure they don’t get to you and make sure you give them the service they expect from the brand.” That’s why humility and empathy are so important. They protect you from taking things personally and allow you to best be of service to those you’re trying to sell to.
Think of everyone as customers.
That includes your employees, your vendors, and even your franchisor. No, they’re not paying you. But if you make it your mission to be of service to them, to give them value, to lift them up, to help them achieve their goals, it’ll all come back to you. I tell franchisee, if you wake up in the morning to be served to everyone, you’ll naturally make all the moves that are best for your business.
Find the truth in comparison.
Comparison is useful when it sheds light on what’s really going. When it causes you to draw incorrect conclusions, it’s counterproductive. Avoid making assumptions. Collect as much data as possible. Ask questions. Stick to the facts.
Choose reference points carefully.
Is your home big or small? It depends on the homes you compare it to. Mansions? Bungalows? Your choice will impact your perspective. You also choose the businesses to which you compare your own. Which ones reveal the most truth about your operation? Those with a similar territory? Those in business for the same time? Top performers? If you’re doing $500K in sales and compare your business to one doing $1 million, that’s going to make you feel differently than comparing your business to one doing $250K. You can learn a lot from both, what to do and what not to do But be careful about the conclusions you draw about your own operation. Your best comparison target might be your own business from an earlier time period. That’s the most objective reference for gauging performance.
It’s important to regularly evaluate your business, not to know how to feel but to know what to do. Catch yourself taking things personally. Instead of trying to prove yourself, focus on improving your operation. If you do, then it’s only a matter of time before others start comparing themselves to you.
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