Growing a Franchise: Lessons Learned Along The Way

As many in the industry have likely noticed, Massage Envy has experienced explosive franchise growth in the last several years. A provider of therapeutic facials, and other spa services in the United States, Massage Envy has expanded to nearly 840 locations in 46 states. While this growth is exciting, increasing demand for a franchise can pose challenges for individual franchise owners to manage, especially when it comes to quickly hiring, onboarding, and managing staff.

I started our first Massage Envy franchise with my husband, son, and daughter-in-law, because the idea of running a business with family appealed to me. Furthermore, I was supportive of the spa industry's overall mission - I think we can all get behind the idea that there is too much stress in this world, and the long-term repercussions from this are huge. The idea of addressing this issue through skincare and therapeutic drew me in. We quickly saw demand for the business and began expanding our franchise. Now we own and manage five Massage Envy spas.

Overseeing staff at multiple locations can be a challenge and since opening our first spa I've learned quite a bit about what can make or break an expanding franchise. One of the areas we initially zeroed in on was human resources. Massage Envy prides itself on following a carefully mapped-out set of HR practices to ensure employees - from estheticians and massage therapists to front-desk staff - are put in a position to succeed. Implementing Massage Envy's HR practices across multiple locations proved challenging. Through our experience in addressing this challenge three best practices I've taken away are:

1. Strive for continuous improvement. When operating a growing franchise, always be on the lookout for opportunities (large or small) to improve your processes. For example, as our business expanded, we faced a legacy of complicated HR spreadsheets and printed paperwork to track the 66 different forms and procedures involved in new hire paperwork. Everything including federal paperwork, state certifications, videos, and request policies has to be carefully documented for each of our 200 employees. We could have stuck with the status quo and continued to use this process, but I saw this as an opportunity to make our business more efficient, so we decided to address this problem head-on. When you're stretched across multiple locations, every second saved counts.

2. Lean on technology. In order to remedy our extensive and time-consuming HR processes, I turned to cloud collaboration technology. For our purposes, we selected Smartsheet, an online collaboration We were able to streamline the onboarding process for the five franchises with full transparency, guaranteeing that I have oversight of the entire process. Since the product is based on the familiar spreadsheet interface, our ramp-up time was short.

Although many might not think of a project management or collaboration for their franchise business, I found this to be a flexible and effective solution for managing a wide variety of processes. Furthermore, because the technology is cloud-based, it allows me to access ongoing project and task lists from anywhere with an Internet connection, making it easy to oversee processes and projects without being on location.

Human resources is just the beginning - as we expand, cloud technology will continue to play a role in making our franchise business a success. We were surprised at how easy implementing a cloud collaboration tool was for our franchise business, and plan to continue to rely on the technology for expansion, for setting and tracking team and personal goals, and for managing bonuses.

3. Remember that happy employees are your best asset. Our streamlined HR processes start employees off on the right foot and, based on our experience, result in happier and more satisfied employees. Happy and satisfied employees lead to better customer service and, ultimately, higher client satisfaction. Our thorough and effective HR practices create a foundation that is ultimately a competitive advantage in a customer-service business.

Overseeing a fast-growing spa franchise requires you to be nimble and to wear multiple hats. Turning to cloud technologies to streamline HR processes helps us ensure that nothing falls through the cracks, and has helped us manage the inefficient and stressful tasks that come with expanding a franchise.

D'onn GenoveseD'onn Genovese is the owner and manager of five Massage Envy spa franchises in the San Diego, CA area.

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