Franchising Supports Small Business Saturday

Small Business SaturdayYes, progress is being made and franchising is being recognized more and more by American Express in their Small Business Saturday efforts. When launched in 2010, franchises were not included in Small Business Saturday, being excluded with a specific clause in Small Business Saturday literature to merchants interested in participating in the new program. I was definitely surprised and although we still have a way to go I’m happy to say the past two years have seen franchises included in the list participating businesses. And that is great!

When I first realized franchising had been excluded I was quite surprised. Sure, as many are aware, I did flood the social media space with several blog posts about franchising being excluded. No need to regurgitate that any further and I’m not including links to those posts here as American Express did respond, and in a very positive way. They truly wanted to learn more about franchising and its role in small business today and I was more than willing to help. You see, despite the role American Express plays in business today and despite the fact that AMEX executives are very well-educated and understand business, they had huge misperceptions about franchising. Several of the AMEX executives I met with actually thought all franchises were just like McDonald’s – big and powerful! They also incorrectly thought McDonald’s and other [large] franchisors paid for all advertising on behalf of its franchisees. Thus, they excluded franchising, thinking all along that all franchisees had it made in the shade over independent small business owners.

Well, I was happy to share many statistics about franchising and the fact that many franchisees are the same Mom & Pop operators that built their businesses on Main Street USA. Just like many independent small business owners, they have invested their life savings in pursuit of the American Dream. And just like small business owners everywhere, they continue to fight off big box retailers and department stores alike for a slice of every dollars expended by today’s consumer.

Fortunately, American Express listened, and I was quite impressed. Unfortunately, and to my dismay things did not move along as quickly as I would have liked and although progress was made and franchising was included, but limited in the subsequent years since 2010, I was extremely anxious and wanted full inclusion for franchising, and I wanted it now! What I was missing and fully realize now, thanks in part to Tom Epstein, CEO at Franchise Payments Network, is that American Express, albeit a huge organization has a difficult time making abrupt changes to programs as there are many considerations… many financial ones that I had not even considered such as the sheer cost of marketing materials, just to name one of many.

In any event, I was excited to see Tom contribute to the effort of getting franchising more involved in Small Business Saturday. He has spent a great deal of time learning as much as he could from his various contacts at American Express. I believe the efforts are paying off and will continue to do so year after year. Others within the franchise community, including the International Franchise Association have contributed as well, and I applaud their efforts. Speaking of the IFA, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for all they do in promoting franchising as without those ongoing efforts we’d truly be dead in the water. You see, just as American Express promotes “Membership has its Privileges” so, does membership in the IFA.

So, on this Small Business Saturday, let’s pull out those AMEX cards, whether they be green, gold, platinum, blue, plum or black and spend away at small businesses across our great nation. Happy shopping!

Franchise brands are few and far between on list of top brands in customer service!

Despite repeatedly hearing that exceptional customer service is paramount in today’s economic environment, franchising sees few brands make the list of top brands in customer service.

Do you believe it’s possible for a franchise brand to consistently deliver positively memorable customer service along the likes of Apple and Amazon.com, just to name a few of the brands that are repeatedly mentioned when discussing exceptional customer service and customer experience?

Are franchisors dedicating enough resources on customer service training? Are franchisees focused enough on providing exceptional customer service?

Personally, I believe it all starts with the culture of the Franchisor and the same must be conveyed to franchisees, not only through training, but in the way franchisors treat franchisees. It must be a top-down effect to start the process and must be on the forefront of everyone’s mind at all times and at all levels of the franchise organization. I also believe an extremely high level of providing positively memorable customer experiences is a key component towards improved unit-economics, and also in helping increase interest in franchise opportunities.

50 Brands Named ‘Customer Service Champions’ as posted on MediaPost.com March 15, 2012

In the faltering economy, the importance of customer service has reached new highs, overtaking even price as a purchase determinant, according to a J.D. Power report.

Read the complete article.

Want to learn more about customer service in franchising?

Mindy Golde, Director of Sales at Listen360 (formerly Systino) discusses Consumer Sales and Customer Experience at the upcoming Franchisee Sales & Marketing Summit. Listen to what she has to say about franchise brands and customer service! FranSummit is March 26-29.

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Would the World be a Better Place Without Franchising?

This article is a repost from March 15, 2009

It is unfortunate the franchise industry continues to be (and always will be) subjected to bad press because of franchisee failures resulting in lost family savings including the children’s college fund. It’s unfortunate because bad press sells and society has evolved into accident watchers. Need I say “rubber necking on the highway?”

Not to mention that society has become full of gossipers. When was the last time you heard someone in the neighborhood say “Did you know Joe and Mary have been married for thirty happy years?” Such a positive comment is usually left unspoken, at best. Instead, you would be more likely to hear, “Did you know that Joe cheated on Mary.” Well, I think you see the point.

Would it be better for the press to report franchisee failure due to the franchisee not following the system, being undercapitalized or because of serious substance abuse problems? I seriously doubt it. But wouldn’t that at least educate the public? The same public that is looking at franchising as a career alternative or their first step into entrepreneurship. I know, that’s never going to happen either but it would shed a light on the truth.

I haven’t even touched upon less than reputable franchisors, undercapitalized franchise concepts and poor lending practices. Regardless, of how much government tries to protect potential franchise candidates, the government and the industry itself cannot effectively police every franchise professional, every franchise company and every aspect of commercial lending. It’s just not feasible and possible.

What’s the Solution?

So, the ultimate answer lies in dedicating more time and resources in positively publicizing franchise concepts and the industry itself. As well, promoting efforts and results in working with community and non-profit groups would go a long way towards positive public sentiment.

Basically, we (reputable franchisors, franchise professionals and the industry as a whole), need to create a publicity bank that can be withdrawn from as a precaution and hedge against the potential and reality of negative publicity. And just like the cash reserves insurance companies are required to have on hand for future claims, multiple sources and instances of positive publicity must be accumulated to counter the few negative counts of publicity that the media so enthusiastically reports.

The world would not be a better place without franchising. We just need to inform and remind people of the industry’s efforts and accomplishments so the world knows how franchising has actually made the world a better place and will continue to do so for years to come.

The challenge is that in today’s uncertain economic environment, where franchisors continue to cut budgets, the possibility of dedicating more resources towards positive publicity is slim to none. Certainly, it won’t be done in the traditional sense.

But it can be achieved, as it can also be achieved for marketing, development and operations, by exploring non-traditional strategies, methods and processes which are essential to future franchise growth and success.. at all levels.