Last summer, just prior to completing the acquisition of Franchise Foundry and accepting the position of CEO at FranchisEsource Brands International, I was interviewed by Lizette Pirtle, CEO of Expansion Experts. Lizette had the vision of creating a series that, in essence would document franchise success AND provide information to newcomers to franchising that would help them succeed. I am humbled to have been asked to share my perspective. More importantly, I am honored to call Lizette a friend!
Franchise Success: It is All in the Culture
Paul Segreto, CFE, is the CEO and President of Franchise Foundry and serves as the CEO of several of their clients’ companies. I met Paul in 2009 upon my first engagement in Social Media. From day one it was obvious that Paul was a man of honor. I loved his honesty, his straightforward style, his heart, his thirst for knowledge–and most of all, his passion for franchising and for sharing and helping others. Paul has a rich franchising history having been a franchisee as well as leading several franchise companies in many management roles. He is the first one to talk about the ups and downs of his career and all the lessons he has taken from both turns. Paul is always filled with great ideas; his mind never stops, always learning, and always passing on the lessons. He never rests and never gives up; his tenacity and perseverance are equal to none. I was thus delighted when he agreed to be part of this study on Franchise Success.
Paul first defined Franchise Success academically as: “the combination of bottom line profitability and bottom up profitability and growth.” In other words, “You can’t kick in high gear the growth of your franchise network until you have unit and overall company profitability,” Paul explains. “But, it is really all about culture,” he shares as he starts getting into his passion. “Franchise Success is about building a culture that creates positive, memorable experiences at all levels and at all times. Many franchisors get this at the customer’s level, but forget about it when it comes to their franchisees or their staff. It has to be a culture that produces these types of experiences for everyone,” Paul goes on.
“So how do you do that?” I asked. According to Paul, it comes from the realization that success is not a permanent state. He says, “You can go from total success to total failure in an instant if you take your eye off the goal. You must have processes and procedures in place and you must make sure that they are followed at all times. You also must be constantly aware of and foster the interdependent relationship that exists between the franchisor and the franchisee.”
Paul considers the greatest challenge he’s had to face in franchising as “getting franchisees to realize that you truly have their best interest in mind. When a relationship is fragmented, trust disappears, and without it, healthy relationships can’t exist.” Paul has always found himself in situations where he has had to introduce a new way of doing things and has inherited cultures that haven’t been the most conducive to true and honest communication. Although he thrives in the challenges of making a difference and turning around companies, he also has to deal with recreating rather than creating, which is always more difficult to do.
Paul believes that as important as trust is in a company’s culture so is the resilience of its members. The ability to change is crucial for the longevity of franchise companies. “Moving your brand forward requires you and all of your franchisees and staff members to adapt to change. Comfort levels are shaken when we embrace change, so not everyone is going to like you; and I am OK with that,” Paul shares.
Paul deals with these challenges in his usual honest and straightforward style: “By putting my money where my mouth is; by knowing that I must earn the right to people’s trust, that I must lead by example and that I must put my ego aside and say ‘I am sorry’ when needed and try a different approach.” Paul does not sugar coat his communications with franchisees, or anyone else for that matter. He helps them understand how their results are directly related to their actions, and also to their lack of action. The company cultures he creates are not only resilient and trust-filled, but they also include personal accountability at all levels as well as transparency.
When talking about what is required to replicate success, my conversation with Paul got even more interesting. “Here we face an oxymoron. When we think of franchising we think of doing the same thing over and over again all over the place; but to really replicate success franchisors need to be discerning and they need to modify the concept according to the conditions present, be it economic or regional differences.” Paul continues, “For example, take McDonald’s, why have they been so successful? They have adapted. Today the locations look different depending on where they are. You have urban locations, suburban ones, and specialty ones like the one in Asheville, NC, where you live. The menus also change. So, what’s stays the same? The culture: clean bathrooms, attention to details, management controls, and some core menu items.” Paul summarizes, “To replicate success, a franchisor must be quick to adapt and change and tweak the concept slightly to ensure it works in the new area of growth or under new economic conditions without compromising the culture that is identified with the brand.”
Paul has some great tips for those who are considering franchising their businesses. He says:
– Make sure you understand that when you franchise you are no longer in the business you used to be. You are now in the business of franchising, which is all about process, procedures and relationships.
– Keep your eye on the details: ALL OF THEM.
– Give back to the community, and remember you are now entering the franchise community.
– And, most importantly: From the beginning make sure to build a culture that produces POSITIVE, MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES AT ALL LEVELS AND ALL OF THE TIME.