Franchise Tip #12: Franchises have systems that are meant to be followed and franchisors have developed a model that is strongly built on consistency and standardization from market to market. But that doesn’t mean a franchisee shouldn’t follow his or her own instincts when they know their market well enough. Here are a few examples of franchisees who did things their way successfully with eventual approval from corporate.
As a longtime successful Togo’s operator in Oregon, Will Brake wanted to open a second location, with a major difference: He wanted to sell wine and beer in the sandwich shop, something that had never been done in the franchise system. But Brake knew that it was something that would draw in customers in his immediate market.
Occasionally a franchisee can break the mold and try something different that works specifically in their market. Brake diverted from the usual Togo’s interior as well, expanding above the average unit size to 2,600 square feet, adding some diverse seating, such as booths, and installing flat-screen TVs.
“It was something I really wanted to add,” said Brake. “Really there is a lack of anything like it in the market.”
He believes Togo’s agreed to the modifications because the store falls outside of the region where most of its stores are concentrated, so it wouldn’t create much brand confusion among consumers.
Debbie Soyka did it her way when she became a franchise partner with Robeks smoothie and juice franchise in a Phoenix suburb. She wasn’t happy with the locations the company was suggesting for her new unit, and the company didn’t approve of the site she selected for herself.
But Soyka stood by her selection. She had very definite ideas about where she wanted to be; and more importantly, from her work at a real estate office, she had knowledge about future city construction projects and how they would positively impact the growth around her new business.
When a corner unit became available in the retail center she had selected, she finally got the green light from Robeks to move forward and today Soyka’s store has had the highest sales of any Robeks in Arizona and ranks among the top 25 percent located throughout the country.
Soyka said she was adamant about her location because she wanted to open a store in her own neighborhood, be close to home and be able to involve her children in the operation.
Her biggest piece of advice to potential franchisees is to make sure a franchise suits your lifestyle when making a decision to invest in a company.
“Find a franchise that really will fit you,” she says to potential investors. “Take your time looking. Find something you could see yourself doing and working and still have a good quality of life.”
Ileen Groves, who was the first franchisee for Bookkeeping Express in California, was able to institute change in operations by providing constructive input to improve the franchise system and assisting other franchisees with marketing and business operations. She partakes in all corporate functions and has been chosen to be part of special internal teams to help analyze and improve company operations on the franchisee level.
One of the suggestions she made to the company was to take the money it was spending on ineffective lead generation through a mass mailing for a new franchisee and devote it instead to researching organizations the franchisee should join in his or her market and help with their membership fees.
It was something Groves found extremely helpful in growing her own business and thought it to be a best practice for the entire system.
The lesson these entrepreneurs teach is to follow the franchise system, but don’t let that prevent you from using your own knowledge and expressing ideas that could improve the model or work well for your individual business.