A Message to Franchisors
As a franchisor, you know that all your franchisees are fearful today. The COVID19 crisis has plunged our economy into a virtual standstill and almost every business has been affected. If you are one of the many franchisors or business owners who have had to close their doors or severely limit services and hours of operation, then you know exactly the fear that I am speaking of.
I am sure that by now, you have or are actively helping your franchisees cope with the shutdown and obtain temporary government SBA loan assistance. If you are, then I applaud you, if not then you will want to start right away.
However, even after the loan packages are completed and submitted, the fear is not going to subside.
Frankly, fear won’t subside until all the uncertainty around COVID19 passes, which could take a while…. frankly longer than the reopening of the economy.
So, my question to you as a franchisor or small business owner is what are you going to do to keep the fear at bay?
How are you going to stop paralysis, that almost always accompanies fear, from setting in?
I have an answer, the best response to fear is Action. Proper action takes our eyes off the thing that we fear it sets our sights on positive things within our control. Action prevents the paralysis that almost always accompanies fear.
I know this, because I have been there. In the summer of 2007, we launched a new franchise system and added three franchises. By the fall, the economy had started to deteriorate, and fear became rampant.
In 2008 the financial implosion hit the economy in full force. Knowing that fear was enveloping the franchise system, we turned our focus inward, looking at ways to streamline and improve service delivery.
We engaged our franchisees and ultimately improved our operations processes, our branding and messaging, and our ties with the franchisees. By taking action in the midst of the panic, we were able to set the stage for the tripling of the growth of our franchise system; this was the best move we could have made.
So, what is the action or moves that you should make as a franchisor or small business owner during the Covid 19 downturn?
The three things you should consider doing today to address Fear among your franchisees and associates are:
1) If you haven’t already, develop an internal program or get help from others to help your franchisees obtain the federal disaster loans available through the SBA. The Payroll Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans offered by the Small Business Administration can be real lifelines to franchisees and business owners.
2) Turn off the 24-hour news and instead focus on improving your business. Focusing on improvements to your business processes… from training, to customer service, to store operations, to the back office, will allow you and your franchisees to positively focus on the things you can control. All the while, it will position the business for growth and efficiency gains, once the stay in place measures are lifted.
3) Know that this crisis will end, and the economy will reopen, now is the time to prepare a growth plan for your business, including a re-opening marketing strategy. We are suggesting to our clients that they use this time to develop a growth plan for their business. This growth plan should include a tactical short-term marketing strategy focused first on what the business can do now to help their community and secondly, how they can best reach consumers once the stay in place measures are lifted. Those businesses with a growth plan will be the ones who catch the eyes and ears of returning consumers.
Today, reflects a defining moment in the life of many businesses and their owners. Those owners that use this time to take action will be those owners who grow and thrive in the time of crisis. Action to proactively stabilize their business through the loan programs, Action to improve their business processes and Action to develop a growth plan, including a short-term marketing plan, are all positive steps that chase away fear.
One of my favorite marketing scholars, Seth Godin, talks about the need for entrepreneurs to Lean into the Fear; essentially, he advises for the need to take action when Fear raises its ugly head. Seth Godin’s advice is more important today than just about any time in the recent past. Taking positive action will be what ultimately allows businesses to grow and thrive, putting COVID19 in a distant rear-view mirror.