After 17 years on the corporate side of quick service, Rob Parsons stepped out of the suit, threw on a purple polo, and opened his first Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen unit in 2009. Having previously worked for the real-estate division of Popeyes and at Denny’s corporate, Parsons helped his first store hit $1 million in sales within just four months. With three units already in the Boston area, two on the way, and plans for 18 in all, Parsons has not only successfully carried his corporate experience into the franchisee world, he’s also worked toward perfecting the relationship between franchisee and franchisor.
Parsons shares his tips on how franchisees can leverage the resources of their franchisor to turn the partnership into business success.
1. Respect and Meet Your Franchisor’s Needs
You have already put in a lot of time and money as a franchisee, even before you open the doors for business. The franchisor has invested in you as well, with company time, money, and allowing you to represent the brand. Starting out, treat each other with tremendous respect. The franchisor has a great number of individuals just like you that need to maintain standards and uniform. It’s like trying to get eagles to soar in formation. It should always be a partnership between the two and that will happen right at the start.
Each franchisee has a host of its own needs. Some require more assistance with operations, while some might need help developing. The best is when both sides understand the needs of the other and have a determination to fulfill them. The franchisor will meet the needs of your individual store if you can meet the needs of the brand. It can be that simple.
2. Talk to Your Franchisor Every Day
As cliché as it sounds, communication is the key to maintaining a beneficial partnership between franchisee and franchisor. As independent as franchisees are, myself included, there should not be a day that passes without communicating with the franchisor. I have extended experience with operations and finances but that does not mean I don’t need help on future product development or the architecture of the building.
The franchisees who constantly communicate are the ones who become and remain successful. A lot of franchisees look at communicating with the franchisor as a weakness, and this will only hurt them in the long run. Again, the franchisor is a hub of business owners and information that you can only stand to benefit from. Often times the franchisee will view the franchisor as the enemy, and I can tell you, if that mentality stays in their heads, it will inevitably happen. Many take an aggressive stance right from the get-go and it will only hurt the future relationship. Aggression will be met with aggression, whereas communication will be met with conversation.
Understand that communication involves intensive and attentive listening.
3. Be Honest About Your Problems—But Not All
Going off of communication, or the lack thereof, a lot of franchisees have an issue of what to report to the franchisor. If there is a problem that has the potential to affect the brand in any way, it should always be revealed to the franchisor.
For example: Popeyes had an issue with its “Pay Day” promotion two years ago. At that time, we reduced the price of an eight-piece box of chicken to $4.99, which always leads to a huge sales day. The promotion was such a success that some markets ran out of chicken.
The problems came when some franchisees took it upon themselves to solve the issue of running out of chicken. Some franchisees simply stated that their location was not going to honor the sale, while others physically purchased chicken somewhere else to keep sales moving. This sort of panic should have gone straight to the franchisor. The franchisor can solve problems on the brand level. Our next “Pay Day” was met with exceeding preparations than even more successful years prior.
On the other side of the coin is what shouldn’t surface to the franchisor. Simply put: Self-serving issues will always be met negatively. If you, as a franchisee, wanted the opportunity to run things yourself, these issues give you that chance. Some franchisees follow the school of thought that they do not need to reinvest in the brand but only themselves. The brand constantly needs to reimage and franchisees that fail to see how won’t get as far as the ones who do.
4. Be Willing to Accept Business Advice
Take a step back and look at the franchisor: They see a multitude of franchisees in different markets and have the ability to see what works and what does not. While you as a franchisee might have a specific methodology on how to run the business, the franchisor sees all types of business models and can retool and advise on how to improve the store. Being on the corporate end of things in the past, I am now emulating the franchisees I saw doing the best individual practices for the betterment of their business.
With that, there is an opportunity for the franchisees to communicate with one another. The franchisor isn’t the only gateway for you as a franchisee. Often times other franchisees for the brand are viewed as enemies. While you might be battling for business, it does not mean that industry insight can’t be learned from one another.