What I’ve Learned From Opening Franchises Nationwide
Three years ago, I set out to revolutionize the health and wellness world with a new concept called OsteoStrong with a heavy emphasis on fracture prevention through improving bones, muscles and balance.
Last year, we signed major contracts that represented a commitment to open 500 new locations nationally, and we’re still growing. OsteoStrong was so completely different that it was hard for some people to understand at first, and we quickly learned a lot about the importance of sticking with our vision as we grew. It’s all about understanding not only what your franchise is, but also what you want it to be down the road.
Every franchise is different, but they’re all created with growth in mind. One of the defining factors that separates successful franchises from flops is knowing what you want and making appropriate choices along the way. Regardless of whether you’re thinking about franchisee connectivity or CRM systems, maintaining balance and perspective is at the heart of everything.
Know what you are, and plan for what you want to be
When growing a franchise, planning is everything. Whether you’re an organic nut packing company or a fitness center, you need a clear picture of where you want the business to go before you can move forward. Some people might just want to open 20 locations in 20 years, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Others have their eye on the global prize. Whatever you want your business to become, having distinct goals will help you make much better choices and be much happier.
Lots of franchisees assume a “deal with it tomorrow” attitude when it comes to making serious decisions about how their business will operate on a larger scale. It’s easy to say you’ll make choices later—when you may have more time, more help, or more money—but it’s important to make decisions today that will help operations function better tomorrow.
Decide on infrastructure before you think you need to
Starting franchises is complicated, but a lot of the headaches having to do with a successful launch can be solved with a reliable Customer Relations Management system (CRM). Consider something as mundane as paperwork. Every new location requires a substantial amount of legal documentation with plenty of signatures. Traditionally, this required multiple document shipments back and forth that came with expense, lag time, complications from write-ins, and delays if a signature was skipped.
With the right electronic signature tracking system coupled with a good CRM, you can manage all legal documents and signatures through an online portal that makes complex documentation simple to view, sign, and manage. The CRM can keep track of all franchisees, notes, and operations right down to the point of sale. Franchisees and corporate should be connected through the same CRM to increase visibility and avoid headaches and mismatched information.
CRM costs are predictable and generally increase only as new franchises open, so implementing the ideal system the first time is a worthy investment. The highest and most painful expense you can experience in this area is selecting the wrong CRM. Changing it later can come with a high cost, and a lot of heartache. Take your time, choose wisely, and choose early.
Never lose sight of the franchisee perspective
My first franchise encounters were with a phenomenally successful business that experienced epic growth in a short timeframe. It was a great company, but growth became so paramount that leadership lost their focus on training and connecting with franchisees. Over time, it’s easy for franchisees scattered throughout a broad territory to feel disconnected, ignored, and helpless in hard times.
Here’s where balance comes back into play: As you lead your brand, never forget about your franchisees. To build a truly successful franchise family from day one, a company has to have outstanding systems for franchisee training, networking, and accessibility. Franchisor delivery systems will always be slower than a franchisee’s needs, so before we did a national launch of OsteoStrong, we invested in a portal that gave franchisees on demand resources. Our team members can instantly access video training, press releases, white sheets, operations manuals, collateral, and other helpful tools that answer plenty of questions immediately which eliminated a lot of administrative stresses.
We also touch base with every franchisee by phone at least once a week and have a Facebook group to help keep everyone connected with one another.
Protect your brand identity, especially when you’re new
When you have a new concept, everyone wants to give you advice, but it’s important to safeguard your core idea and brand identity from brand-creep. Everyone from franchisees to friends will want to offer ideas, and it becomes tempting to tweak and modify your brand as you navigate through the early years. However, you have to maintain a centralized vision to keep your company from being diluted by too many outside perspectives that can’t see the vision for your brand the way you do.
Too many interesting brands start with a successful concept that people love, but over time they try to be everything to everyone and are lured into markets they can’t excel in. The result is a murky, confused concept that appeals to no one, and the original winning brand sputters out. Resist the temptation to make changes or tweaks that pull away from your core values.
No matter what your franchise is about, staying grounded in the vision of your brand and growth ideals is essential to your company’s health today and years in the future. Never lose sight of infrastructure, make franchisees a priority, and keep your eye on the long-term goal as your guiding light.
Kyle Zagrodzky is president of OsteoStrong, the health and wellness system with a focus on stronger bones, muscles, and balance in less than 10 minutes a week using scientifically proven and patented osteogenic loading technology. OsteoStrong introduced a new era in modern fitness and anti-aging in 2011 and has since helped thousands of clients between ages 8 and 98 improve strength, balance, endurance, and bone density. In 2014, the brand signed commitments with nine regional developers to launch 500 new locations across America. Today, the OsteoStrong brand is staying true to its growth towards a brand with global reach with the addition of more franchise sales and new regional developers.