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Leadership Skills Lead To Growth: Building Your Franchise Operation from One Unit to Two

(Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of guest columns that will explore what's required to successfully grow from one to many franchise units)

Growth. It's everyone's goal, from the large publicly-traded franchise company whose value depends on its growth rate to the new single-unit franchisee excited about replicating his success. Growth is a universal desire. It creates a challenge, which in turn, keeps our lives interesting and vibrant.

For the past 20 years, I have helped franchisees grow their businesses and have experienced several of the unique challenges when working toward growth. First and foremost, no matter what type of business you are in, executive leadership will ultimately determine success. We see this in all types of business.

Public companies succeed wildly with dynamic CEOs who successfully share their vision and inspire employees. Multi-unit franchisees have become bigger than their franchisor with strong, consistent leadership. Even NFL teams typically do not realize long-term success without owners and executives who possess solid leadership qualities.

Your business is no different.

The success of your business depends on your leadership skills and your personal character. It is how you apply these character traits and leadership abilities on a daily basis that will make the greatest impact on the team. And it is your team, not you, that interacts with your customers.

During my career, I have worked on the corporate side of the franchise equation for six different franchise companies, both large and small. I work at a level that allows me to get to know the entire group of franchisees, which has provided me with a number of extremely useful learning opportunities.

When you look across the entire spectrum of franchisees in any system--and are privy to their business data (financials, turnover rates, etc.)--there seems to be a universal law: the most successful franchisees possess the best leadership skills.

These are the people that within five minutes of meeting them, you just know they are exceptional. They live their lives by a set of higher standards and seek to become better all the time. They are able to adapt as they grow. They evolve their thinking and their capabilities. But underlying all of that, they genuinely care about and seek to help grow their employees into leaders.

Growing your business into a multiple-unit company puts stress on your leadership skills and tends to uncover areas of weakness and opportunity. As the saying in our industry goes, "Your biggest step is going from one unit to two," and that is most certainly the case.

Upon opening your second franchise, your roles and responsibilities change immediately. You can no longer be a part of every decision made. Sound oversight, delegation, and managing your managers become the new challenges. The unfortunate consequences of not being able to meet these challenges every day result in business failure and closure.

To assist with your growth process, I have identified a few keys to success that I consider to be very important:

Accountability - Set high standards for those that work for you. This includes standards for behavior, work ethic, manager conduct, success profiles, and much more. And once you set those standards, hold employees strictly accountable by reviewing their work, results, and commitment to achieving and maintaining those standards.

Developing People - I believe in the principle of serving those who work for you. Take the time to coach and mentor your employees in areas such as business management principles, leadership skills, and successful operational behaviors (sales skills, customer service, appearance, etc.). Make it a goal to train your replacement and ensure your management philosophies and principles are passed down to employees at every level.

Delegation - You are now growing an enterprise, and your role is less hands-on at the customer level and more focused on setting a great example and providing leadership to your employees. Concentrate your learning on key performance indicators and become a real student of the business. Teach your people successful principles and let them shine. Coach your key leaders as they make mistakes and praise them as they succeed. No matter how big you grow, your leadership will always have a significant impact on your organization.

Ultimately, there are great rewards for those of you who develop yourselves and your organizations into successful companies--rewards that go far beyond profit. I cannot tell you how many franchisee owners I know who take their greatest pride and sense of accomplishment from the organization of hundreds, or in many cases, thousands of employees they have. To touch so many people with the goal of helping them all grow, both professionally and personally, becomes their greatest reward.

So to all of you dedicated franchisees, I say - GROW! Your desire and abilities can overcome any obstacle. Focus on developing yourself first, and then on helping others grow with you. Success will follow.

Michael Pearce is the vice president of franchise development for J.D. Byrider, the nation's largest used car and finance company franchise. Anyone interested in learning more about franchise opportunities with J.D. Byrider can contact Pearce at 800-947-4532.

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