A Guide to Conducting Effective Virtual Field Visits

A Guide to Conducting Effective Virtual Field Visits
The way we communicate and connect with those around us has changed dramatically as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the globe. Many franchisees have had to adapt their operating model in order to meet social distancing standards, and this same methodology applies to those working on the franchisor side of the business. Field managers’ roles often involve travelling around and logging face-to-face hours with their franchisees, however at this current time it just is not feasible, and as a result virtual field visits are becoming more common.

Despite the many ways that virtual field visits can increase efficiencies, such as reduced travel time and more flexibility in scheduling, this can be counteracted by technical issues and distractions and at time derail meeting plans. So, how can field managers best conduct effective virtual field visits?

The tools you choose to use matter. Opting to conduct visits over a video platform is a great choice as it helps to make the conversation personal and allows participants to gauge each other’s reactions and engagement. However, ensure that there is the option to partake with audio only, as video requires a strong internet connection which may not be accessible. Another important step is for both the field manager and franchisee to do a test-run ahead of time. Making sure that the chosen software is installed correctly, webcams and microphones are working, and that everyone is familiar with the program will avoid any frustrations.

The next step is to plan an agenda to ensure that the meeting stays on track. This is something that field managers would likely do regardless, however during a virtual visit it is vital that the conversation stays focused. Field managers should reach out to the franchisee in advance and ask if there is anything they would like to discuss in the meeting. This allows both parties to prepare any necessary resources and ensure that each issue can be properly addressed during the virtual visit.

The sharing of information and resources is also an important consideration. The software or platform being used to conduct the meeting will determine the process for sharing of resources. Some platforms will allow for the live sharing of documents during the meeting, whereas others may not have this capability meaning that documents should be sent ahead of time via email.

Finally, it is important that all participants are given time to talk. Just like in any field visit, there should be a balance between what the franchisee is bringing to the table and what the field manager is contributing. Ensure that the environment is collaborative and productive, this can be achieved by discouraging multi-taking or the use of any ‘mute’ functions.

We hope that these tips help both franchisees and field managers in adapting to our new normal (at least for the moment). Field visits are an important part of the franchisor-franchisee relationship and the ability to continue conducting such visits despite social distancing restrictions will help keep the network connected.

 

How Well Does Your Franchise Network Embrace Change?

How Well Does Your Franchise Network Embrace Change?

When it comes to franchise networks, it is a well-known fact that implementing change can be a tough job. A lot of the problems stem purely from the logistical difficulties faced on both the franchisor and franchisee sides of the business that come with implementing any changes, but another important element is the networks willingness to embrace it.

Whether it be a re-branding activity, a move to a new system or procedure, or the introduction of a new product that requires buying equipment or stock, the process of making change within a franchise business is often met with resistance. Franchisors see that change is necessary and key to a businesses survival and success, however it is often the way they go about implementing such changes that ruffles feathers within the network.

When planning a change to be rolled out across a franchise network, it is vital that each and every franchisee is able to understand the reason behind the decision. Taking on a ‘because we said so’ attitude will be met with resistance everytime, and if franchisors can’t make their case as to how the change will be beneficial to the franchisees business, it will just be seen as an inconvenience.

Conducting a cost versus benefits analysis to detail the impact of the change is a great selling point when it comes to getting franchisees on board, especially if the business owner will be incurring a significant expense. It is important to consider that despite being part of a larger franchise network, many franchise owners likely have a plan in mind for how they see their business growing. Asking them to get on board with an unexpected change may be a strain and misalign with their current plans for themselves and the business, particularly if it effects their time or financial commitments.

Another point that gets raised often when discussing the topic of change within franchise networks, is that franchisors should lead by example. Implementing changes in corporate run stores, or with a select group of eager franchisees is a great strategy to actively show the rest of the partners why the change is needed. This strategy can act as a trial period to eliminate any issues before a network wide roll out, and if all goes well will leave you with a group of franchisees to act as positive ambassadors for the change.

This is the first step towards a collaborative approach that gets all parties involved in the decision making process. Opening the proposed change up to recommendations, questions and comments can help air any grievances and answer any burning questions. Embracing some form of collaborative change process often leaves everyone feeling more settled and open when the time comes. Having been involved from the start removes any element of surprise, and gives the network time to have input.

However, franchisors shouldn’t wait until they want to make a big change, to prepare their franchisees. In any franchise group it is vital that willingness to embrace change is encouraged and embedded in the company culture. This starts with the type of prospects that are recruited into the business and is maintained through building a positive association with change and a high level of trust between the franchisor and franchisees.

When dealing with any large network of franchise partners a unanimous decision is unlikely. But taking these steps to foster a company culture that sees change positively and actively following a collaborative process will make all the difference next time your franchise network faces change.

What Consumers Are Valuing Most In 2018

Value is somewhat of a buzz word in marketing, often used to describe the benefits of a product or service, and what one company can offer that another cannot. What creates value in the minds of consumers has adapted over time, as new technology is released and consumer trends and preferences change.

In 2018, there are some clear trends for what consumers are valuing most. With major market disruptions and the rapid rate at which new technology is being produced, here is what consumers are expecting from their goods and service providers.

  1.       Convenience

For many years convenience has been king and nothing much has changed as 2018 rolled around. However, the concept of what convenience means to consumers now is distinctly different to that of the past decade. Many years ago, drive-throughs were the height of convenience, but now as food delivery apps have become widely available, anything that involves leaving the house is a bother to most consumers.

This trend isn’t confined to the food service industry however, with almost all major retail brands and even boutique stores adopting an online shopping platform, consumers are expecting click of a button service across all areas of the market.

Another industry that is booming as a result of adapting to provide the convenience that consumers value so much is the fitness industry. One would be hard pressed to find a gym that didn’t offer 24/7 access to its members and an extensive class schedule that catered to a flurry of different lifestyles.

  1.       Real Time Service

Off the back of the convenience trends come consumer’s expectations for real time service and feedback from brands. With social media now a part of everyday life for almost 80% of Australia’s, no longer do consumers expect to wait in que whilst trying to call through to a company’s call centre.

The game changed dramatically with the introduction of social media platforms like Facebook, as they became a channel for consumers to reach out to brands and receive a prompt response. As instant replies became the norm, brands searched for a way offer their customers this level of convenience without the huge manpower required to deliver it. Introducing chatbots: a form of artificial intelligence that can respond to most customer queries. Chatbots eliminate the need for an enormous customer service team and frees up employees to focus on more complex work.

  1.       Digital Integration

Consumer offerings have morphed greatly as people around the world turned to technology to read their news, talk with friends and buy their goods. As a reflection of this societal shift, newspapers are now offered as online subscriptions and banking is almost always done online. Though small, these changes reflect a wider demand from consumers for all aspects of their life to have some level of digital integration.

We Are Social Identified that 55% of Australians prefer to do tasks digitally wherever possible. With thousands of Australians waking up to ask Google Home what the weather is today, and taking recommendations from Siri about where to get their morning coffee, it is clear that brands who fail to adapt to the digital landscape will quickly fall behind.

The rise in popularity of apps from major retails brands including ASOS and The Iconic are matched by the introduction of apps from major QSR providers such as McDonalds and KFC. For those who aren’t on a scale where they can build their own app, many brands are turning to intermediary apps like Uber Eats to reach out digitally to consumers.

  1.       Personalisation

Mass produced products are no longer golden in the eye of consumers, despite offering a lower-price point and often widespread availability. As marketers employed strategies centred on individualisation to capture consumers attention, this level of personalised service has become the norm.

What started at as an EDM that Read: Dear Michelle, rather than: Dear Reader has now become a widespread obsession with ultra-personalised offerings on both the goods and services fronts. With brands such as The Daily Edit offering consumers monogrammed products through to companies that allow you to handcraft a whiskey to suit exactly your tastes, anything that seems remotely standard is lost amongst the sea of tailor made products. Whereas on the service front concepts such as personalised learning begin to take centre stage.

The popularity of personalisation doesn’t have to be seen as an extra expense to brands however, with this trend providing an opportunity for brands to learn more about their customers and their preferences, strengthening their relationship with the client.

  1.       An Experience

Finally, something that has been slowly integrating itself into almost every aspect of a brands service offerings is the concept of an experience. There was no one point over the past few years where the atmosphere of a restaurant become almost as important as the food, but rather this was something that happened over time.

Fuelled by a more widespread change of consumers valuing experiences over things, characteristics including aesthetics, service and atmosphere have become just as important as food quality and range. Brands that can offer an experience that is unique and iconic will see great success, with many consumers seeking authenticity in the brands they choose to spend with.

This trend is not limited to the food service industry, with millennials taking a different path than those before them and opting to value experiences that make them happy over material goods. This has resulted in an increasing in spending across travel, leisure and entertainment, with these same experiences often used as a tool for people to define themselves to their friends on social media.

The Take-away

It is clear that no matter what industry you are in, what consumers want is changing, and brands value propositions must change to reflect that if they want to stay competitive in the market. No doubt that in three years’ time consumer preferences will have seen another major shift, and one again, brands will have to follow suit.

Why Mobile Franchising Is Having a Moment In The Spotlight

Many looking to break into the world of small business ownership through franchising a seeking an option with low initial investment but opportunity for future growth. For a long-time mobile franchises have offered the solution.

Mobile franchising offers a broad range of benefits to its owners and operators. Initially, the buy in is often low and start-up costs are minimal without the need for a large initial fit-out. In the long term the lack of a lease and few secondary employees to pay produces lower overheads, allowing franchisees to maximise on profit. In addition to the financial perks, mobile franchising is often considered a lifestyle choice, allowing for more flexible working hours and more control.

Mobile franchisees also report having strong customer relationships, and invest little into marketing as their mobile business offers great exposure. Considering long-term growth, mobile franchisees can expand into a broader geographic market without having to invest in a second location, a known limitation of the traditional bricks and mortar model.

With all these benefits it is no surprise that mobile franchises are becoming a popular choice among aspiring franchisees. While Mobile franchises may be limited in the minds of consumers to portable dog washes or home cleaning services, this micro-sector of franchising has seen a wealth of innovation and growth.

Consumer demand for convenience is driving industry growth, and as a result the goods and services offered by mobile franchises are expanding. With pop-up markets and mobile events appearing frequently on consumers marketing calendars, the industry has responded with food trucks and and bars. Other fresh ideas to the mobile franchise market include group finesses classes, home improvement service and even innovative concepts such as within the hour alcohol delivery for parties.

Mobile Franchises offer a unique opportunity for franchisees to invest in a business that can be flexible to their lifestyle, sensitive to their budget and move with them wherever they may go. On top of this, the mobile model is better able to adapt to changing trends and consumer preferences, without the confines of a bricks and mortar model that required significant financial investment to adapt.

Why You Should Consider Local Area Marketing

Local area marketing (LAM) is the activities undertaken by franchisees to market and advertise within their local communities. Unfortunately, many franchisees choose to cap their marketing efforts at their contribution to their franchises national marketing fund, failing to realise the impact LAM can have on their business.

Whilst LAM can be vital to the success and growth of an individual franchise, franchisors often make it difficult for franchisees to feel as though they can undertake such activities, due to strict terms in their Franchise Agreements and a lack of support and guidelines. Often such agreements stipulate that franchisees must gain approval to conduct LAM, which isn’t without reason, as franchisors have worked hard to create and maintain a particular brand image. However, franchisees often find themselves lacking any guidance or materials to take the next step without potentially compromising the brands national image.

Nevertheless, LAM can be the element that makes or breaks an individual franchise, and franchisees should develop a plan to appeal to their local area and seek approval from their franchisor to launch it.

LAM has a wide range of benefits, including increased awareness, engagement and reach amongst the local community. It also aids in building customer loyalty and gaining repeat business. For franchisees, establishing a positive brand image within their local market is what will help the business survive long-term.

Often, especially with the rise in popularity of independent small business, consumers are turning away from the concept of large national chains, and feel driven to support local business. This is why it is key that franchisees are able to make this connection with their local community, and ensure that consumers can see they are one in the same.

Whilst LAM can be done through many channels, social media pages continue to prove the most popular form of community outreach. However, involvement in local events can be a highly effective awareness building tool, and sponsoring of local clubs and sporting teams can further cement customer relationships.

The good news is, LAM doesn’t just benefit the individual franchise, but can help build upon the reputation of the brand as a whole. Research by The Nieman Journalism Lab shows that social media posts targeted to smaller geographic locations are six times more successful than globally targeted posts. The high levels of success achieved through LAM suggests that franchisors should be taking action, encouraging their franchisees to invest in LAM, and providing the support and materials to help them do so in line with the national brand image.

In the start-up and expansion stage of a franchise, the majority of capital often goes to funding equipment and fit-outs, leaving very little capital left to invest in Local Area Marketing. If you’re starting your first franchise, or expanding to more locations, Cashflow It provides equipment financing so that you can channel your capital into marketing and advertising, to help grow your business.

Cashflow It provides various financial solutions, so if you want to hold onto your capital to invest in Local Area Marketing, apply online now. 

Franchising As A Path To Self-Employment

Franchising-as-a-path-to-Self-Employment

In recent years we have seen a notable change in the way we work, with a shift away from more traditional 9-5 jobs, and a move towards more innovative employment solutions. In addition to this, there has been a spike in the popularity of entrepreneurial ventures as the concept of self-employment captivates the mind of the young workforce.

Franchise Business identified ‘Adaptive Entrepreneurs’ as one of the top 10 consumer trends for 2018, going on to say that ‘There’s a strong trend for self-employment as consumers reject traditional 9-5 working models and are prepared to take risks.’ Other sources have also noted that it is likely a lack of available jobs in more traditional sectors of the market that is causing people to look into these alternative paths.

The franchise industry presents itself as a great opportunity for those looking to be their own boss and have more control over their employment situation. Despite slow economic growth across the country, the franchising sector continues generate solid results, employing approximately 472,000 people and pouring almost $150 billion into the economy, says Eden Exchange.

Furthermore, looking at a smaller segment of the Australian market, Raghu Rajakumar, director of the Eden Exchange, notes a 50% increase in franchise applications in Victoria compared to this time last year. Figures like this make it clear that whether it be an opportunity to launch into a new career, or the appeal of being one’s own boss, the franchise industry is booming as Australians make the move.

Taking the step from employee to self-employed can be daunting, and the cost of opening a franchise can require a lot of capital. If you’re looking at making the move but are a start-up franchise business who cannot obtain government funding, or doesn’t have the backing of private investors and don’t want to give away a controlling share of your business, debt finance could be the path for you.

Instead of purchasing the equipment you need outright at the start and using up valuable capital which may be needed at a later stage to promote or expand the business, get franchise equipment funding through a company like Cashflow It.

At Cashflow It we aim to take the confusion and the hassle out of your asset financing. We do this through our simple and fast application process, transparent contract, manageable payments, excellent customer service and solutions to suit your needs.