The Nordics and Unicorns and Franchises, Oh My! 5 Things Franchises Can Learn From Hot Tech Startups

Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of startups from the Nordics, particularly Finland.  It’s a part of the world that gets really, really cold. It’s the part of the world where Vikings come from. And it’s a part of the world that, you may not know, has a disproportionately high number of “unicorns” compared to its population size. I’m not talking about that fantastical horse with a cone on its head. I’m talking about tech companies valued at over $1 billion. The Nordics has plenty of them. And they’re huge. Out of the five European unicorns considered most likely to reach $50 billion, four are from the Nordics.

The franchise industry could learn a thing or two from these Nordic startups. Here are five that come to mind.

1. Always be selling

This is something that definitely resonates within the franchise space. But, I want to highlight how I’ve seen the tech companies I’ve worked with sell.

They are extremely formulaic about who they target, how often they reach out and when they reach out. In short, they have a system that’s on auto-pilot, watched ever-so-closely by a team of diligent, hungry sales managers.

Many larger franchises have a system in place for attracting leads and then getting them through their sales funnel. But some emerging franchises may have work to do. Perhaps they grew too quickly or perhaps they are waiting until they scale to really put in place a thorough sales process.

It is never too soon to think about how “always be selling” will become a calculated, refined process for your franchise. Whether it is investing in CRMs, bringing on sales teams or finding marketing people who understand the intimate relationship between marketing and sales, create a team that is always selling.

2. Look for the right kinds of collaborations

The Nordic tech startups I’ve met have a way of working together. They all know each other and all seem to get along. In many ways, it is not unlike the vibe at a franchise trade show. People are networking and sharing ideas about how they reach the right franchise prospects.

But perhaps franchises could take it a step further. Maybe non-competing franchise brands could figure out ways to further work together to promote the franchise model. Whether it is cross-posting on each other’s blogs or social networks, or co-promoting seminars or webinars on the value of the franchise model, brands might want to consider collaborating to build more momentum and excitement for franchising.

3. Be decisive

Don’t think about things too much. One thing I have learned from my Nordic clients is that they keep meetings very brief. They don’t waste time discussing unnecessary things. They are laser-focused. What I have found is that they don’t work longer.  Instead, they tend to work smarter.

Part of working smarter is making more efficient decisions. So many decisions are made during the day — should I email this person, respond now, send this update report — that we can easily get in our own way and become our own bottleneck.

Be firm in your vision and ideals and just make your decisions. And then move to the next item to work on.

4. Be serious about your business, but not too serious about yourself

The biggest and brightest tech startups have a way of talking about their businesses. They are super confident with their offering and how it is going to change the world. And it helps them grow. Take, for example, a client that I have worked with from the Nordics. They position themselves as a company “on a mission to collect, read and understand all the information ever written about every company in the world.”  What I find profound about their positioning is how confident and industry-changing it is.

And yet, when you talk to this client in person, their team is extremely down to earth. They joke with one another; they are laid back. Their co-founder wears roughed up New Balance sneakers in the office. He tells jokes a few minutes before walking into a meeting with a ginormous prospect. It is how they operate. It keeps things light. It seems to keep them humble in some ways too as the focus is on their product or service offering and how it is going to help the client.

5. Never settle for where you are

Public speaker Brian Tracy once said “complacency is the greatest enemy of success.” He’s actually not from the Nordics (he is a Canadian-American), but the quote rings true. And it is something I’ve witnessed through my Nordic clients. They don’t settle for where they are. It is why they decided to expand from their home country into other parts of Europe and, ultimately, grow their model into the United States.

The key is that they made incremental changes, ones that advanced their business into the next logical market. On a similar note, never settle when you’re a franchisor. Getting to 10 units might be great, but the question once you get there is: “How are we getting to 25?”

Perhaps you’re not settling on number of franchises — perhaps you want more. But, when it comes to settling for where you are, perhaps that means you keep the same marketing materials that brought you success off the bat. You don’t evaluate your training or sales systems as much as you should. It worked before, so it will continue to work, right?

Remember, things change. It’s the only constant in life.

Don’t become complacent. Remember, it’s the enemy of someone craving success.

Nordic tech companies may not share a lot in common structurally with U.S. franchise systems. But one thing I know — having worked with both types of companies — is that they both share something: They are passionate about their businesses and desire to grow them. Taking cues from fast-growing Nordic companies may inspire you to try new things and advance your franchise. It’s a never-ending journey, one that can constantly be refined. Good luck.
Bob Spoerl is the president of Bear Icebox Communications, a public relations and content marketing agency working with a variety of B2B, franchise and international clients.

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