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Feature Story:

Keep It Simple: Customer Service And The Simple Stuff »

By Lisa Ford

Every organization has a chance to deliver a positive customer experience. That experience has many starting points and touch points along the customer interaction. Each touch point will affect the customer's perception of your business and even their loyalty.
To remain competitive, take a look at the simplest of interactions and decide how those interactions represent your company. The simple stuff came to my attention with some recent experiences. As I was checking out at a national retail chain, the employee at the register answered the phone. Here is what she said, "It's a great day at the Dunwoody Large Chain Store, this is Corrine, how can I help you?" Whew! Do you think the customer wanted to hear all of that? And do you think the employee wants to say it multiple times a day? The customer is poised and ready with their question but instead have to wait out this long greeting...

Feature Story:

Ten Years After: Reflection On A Decade Of Change »

By Jack Mackey

In 2004, the first words I ever wrote for Multi-Unit Franchisee magazine (then called Area Developer) were:
"Vast amounts of energy and treasure have been invested to understand why customers do--or don't--come back. Few questions are more important, since same-store sales growth is built on the backs of loyal customers." That connection between customer loyalty and sales growth remains true to this day.
What's different now is that franchisees better understand the value of customer loyalty and, for the best operators, how to improve the customer experience and gain market share by winning customers away from not-so-smart competitors. From my perspective as a 10-year columnist here, here is a brief history of how we far we've come...

Feature Story:

Avoiding 7 Common Negotiating Mistakes »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

While even the word "negotiation" can evoke fear, stress, and anxiety for many, the intent is quite simple: to discuss and ultimately agree on a deal. The negotiation process is a lot like a chess game where strategy reigns supreme--one thoughtfully considered move at a time.
"Even when faced with the most daunting of deals, regarding the act of negotiation as a 'game' may alleviate the apprehension and give you the confidence to make power plays that will ultimately facilitate your desired result," says veteran negotiation and contracts expert Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, author of Think Like a Negotiator (www.ThinkLikeANegotiator.com). "Unlike strategy games like chess, however, the most effective deals are a win-win proposition for all parties rather than a winner-loser result...

Feature Story:

Making Headlines: How To Use The Media To Get The Word Out About Your Business »

By Ginny Grimsley

Reporters love sources who understand their needs. Getting a call from a reporter who wants to quote you as an expert for his story, review your products or services, or invite you to write an exclusive article for a publication, is a major coup. It means that your marketing efforts are paying off.  Who would blow such an opportunity?
Unfortunately, a lot of people do. Those who don't understand journalists' deadlines and needs are liable to be quickly passed over in favor of sources who do. That lack of knowledge can also rack up lots of wasted time and money for those who take a shotgun approach to blasting their message or products to any and all journalists. If you don't consider their individual needs, you're likely making a futile effort...

Feature Story:

Here Comes 2015!: What Do You Still Not Know About Your Business? »

By Steve Lefever

Now that we're nearing November, it's time to refocus on the business with an eye toward planning for 2015. I'd like to suggest that you look a little farther ahead and reflect on the issues I've outlined below.
Over the years, I've encountered far too many business owners who spend weeks planning their vacation (if they take one at all!) and virtually no time planning for the business that makes those vacations possible.
Watch cable news, scan a few TV commercials, or flip through any newspaper these days and it would seem there are no mysteries any more. Let's face it, we know far too much about far too many people's habits, problems, and proclivities. We have more factoids, tidbits, inklings, stats, blogs, and so-called expert opinions (legal and otherwise) than we can use in a lifetime...

Feature Story:

Word Of Mouth Power »

By John Tschohl

Just having a satisfied customer and giving them service that is simply good enough will not get anyone talking. You've got to go above and beyond the call of duty if you want your customers to talk about you.
Word of mouth is instrumental in driving your company's success. Verbal buzz about your business or product passed from one reliable person to the next is still the most cost-effective way to build a loyal following, expand your business, and reach new customers. How does it start? Give them an amazing customer experience and encourage your customers to think of themselves as partners in your business. Like I've said before, the organization chart at your business should show the customer at the top.
How your customers feel about you and what they are prepared to tell others about you can influence your revenues and profits...

Feature Story:

Are You Ready?: New PCI Security Rules Will Require Changes »

By Giles Witherspoon-Boyd

Hopefully, you've heard that the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) has changed... again. In November 2013, the PCI Council released PCI DSS version 3.0 and set the compliance deadline for January 2015. With only a few busy months remaining, many businesses (including franchisees) aren't even close to compliance with the new standard.
Why change the standard? Changing technologies often improve business efficiency, but aren't bulletproof to the weaknesses consistently found and exploited by hackers. New security regulations like PCI 3.0 are released to protect new technologies against recent hacking trends.
In my opinion, Requirement 4.1 is the biggest PCI 3.0 change for franchisees. Many franchises and chains use satellite communications to connect locations...

Feature Story:

The Difference Between Leadership And Management »

By John Tschohl

"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become
a leader it's all about growing others."-- Jack Welch.

Everyone who has a job has a boss or manager, but does everyone have a leader? You never hear people complain about leaders, but every day someone somewhere complains about their boss or manager. Firstly, leadership is action, not position. Just because someone is in a role of control does not mean the person is a leader. According to John Tschohl, best-selling author and customer service strategist, "the best leaders are typically poor managers and the best managers are typically poor leaders. All managers have to do some leading and all leaders have to do some managing. Finding the right balance for the job is what is really important...

Feature Story:

6 Takeaways For Stay-at-Home Business Operators »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Being young and inexperienced can be intimidating for stay-at-home entrepreneurs, but it doesn't mean you're making mistakes, says veteran businesswoman Renae Christine.
Fresh out of college at 23, she thought she'd done something wrong when the wholesaler for her stationery company assigned her a personal representative.
"In reality I was doing so much business with them that they wanted to ensure my satisfaction," says Christine, a serial entrepreneur who has created dozens of successful home-based businesses for herself and others. She shares practical how-to advice in her new book, Home Business Startup Bible, (http://richmombusiness.com/).
She was the busy mother of a 2-year-old and she'd just returned home - to the mess left in the wake of last-minute packing -- when the rep showed up, she says...

Feature Story:

End Of The Bond Bull?: How To Manage The Nearing Possibility »

By Carol M. Schleif

For the past 30 years, the U.S. has experienced the longest bull market on record for fixed-income securities. As interest rates declined, investors in bonds benefited. Fixed-income returns have been far above historical norms, even outperforming stocks during crucial periods, and investors have poured billions into them. The seemingly inevitable end of this run has many investors uncertain about the future.
There has been a great deal of debate recently regarding the notion that interest rates, which are hovering near all-time lows, may be set to increase, particularly as a result of the massive amounts of stimulus provided by central banks worldwide in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. What about the Fed's balance sheet? What will the impact be if quantitative easing continues? What are the ripple effects that may be caused if investors create a disorderly exit? Given the complexity of the issues, we can touch only on a few points here...

Feature Story:

Financial Advisors Should Work In Harmony »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Individuals and families with large estates have enough to worry about - they shouldn't have to wonder whether the advisors they depend upon have their best interests at heart, says financial advisor Matthew T. Shafer.
"Many don't realize that wealthy people are targets for criminals and opportunistic people; that's why an estate should have a good team of professionals who work well with each other," says Shafer, author of The Future of Your Wealth, (http://mattshafer.us/).
"Wealthy families - and many middle-class families - have multiple advisors who specialize in different disciplines, including attorneys, tax specialists, insurance agents and the like. A family could find the best specialist in each field, but if these experts do not work in harmony, the results can be dreadful...

Feature Story:

MU Domination Grows: And What It Means For Franchising »

By Darrell Johnson

MU Domination Grows: And What It Means for Franchising

By Darrell Johnson

Ten years ago, when FRANdata began tracking the concentration of units controlled by multi-unit franchisees, it totaled 45 percent. Today, multi-unit operators control 55 percent of all franchise units. The pace of change has been consistent and rather predictable, with a current rate of about 1 percent each year. Whether this growth rate continues, speed ups, or plateaus has important implications to the franchise business model on many levels, including development, training, and support.
This trend has two big drivers. The first is that we raised a generation of franchisees with growth on their minds. They pushed through the older "buy a job" mentality with business plans aimed at multi-unit expansion from the time they started...

Feature Story:

5 Tips For Small Business Success »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Ambit Energy, a national retail energy provider, released a blog post earlier this year in which it provided leadership tips for successfully building a small business. The company followed that up last summer by hosting their annual "Ambition" event in Dallas, where thousands of its consultants gathered to share their personal success stories, attend training sessions, network, and have fun.
In the blog post, the company provided five simple and highly effective tips for leading a small business to success. These tips include:

Feature Story:

Added Value: Is Your Leadership Personality Helping Or Hurting Your Business? »

By Sally Hogshead

As an entrepreneur, you're often the face of your company, and your ability to capture attention, to fascinate others--clients, employees, strategic partners, influencers--can make or break a business. Every time you communicate, you're doing one of two things:

Feature Story:

Retirement Planning: Knowing When It's OK To Play It Safe And When It's Not »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

As people get closer to the age when they hope to retire, traditional wisdom calls for moving into more conservative - safer - investments, such as Treasury bonds and many fixed-income mutual funds.
"The problem is, what is 'safe' for one person may not be 'safe' for another, given the amount of money in their portfolios, how their investments are allocated, and what their retirement lifestyle goals are," says financial advisor Haitham "Hutch" Ashoo, co-founder with advisor Chris Snyder of Pillar Wealth Management, LLC.
"Some investors believe Certificates of Deposit and U.S. Treasury bonds are safe investments because of their backing, but the income they generate is so low, they may not be safe in terms of producing the income you need for 30 years of retirement...

Feature Story:

Businesses Unite!: Three Ways To "Share Local" And Make Your Business Stronger »

By Eric Groves

Local businesses are stronger together than alone. Your competitive advantage is derived from the local and industry knowledge you possess along with the market power (resources that enable you to attract and retain customers) built. As you forge relationships with other local businesses, you all grow stronger by gaining access to the collective knowledge and power of each other.
One of the simplest ways to demonstrate support for local business, while encouraging other local businesses to lend support back to you, is to "Share Local."
Share Local is the simple act of sharing something another local business is doing with residents. Successful local businesses have resources (typically email lists or Facebook followings) for sharing interesting content with customers...

Feature Story:

Raising The Service Ante: Location Analytics Validates A Wow Experience »

By Jack Mackey

Customer expectations today are dramatically higher, thanks to the likes of Amazon, Zappos, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Ritz-Carlton, and Chick-fil-A, to name just a few of today's customer experience leaders. Once your customers have exceptional experiences dealing with companies like these, their expectations are permanently raised. This means your business is evaluated in the customer's mind in comparison with the best businesses in the world. If you deliver just an ordinary customer experience, rather than a highly satisfying (wow) experience, your business is just average in the customer's mind. And your customer's repeat visit behavior will reflect that judgment.
SMG recently demonstrated how much more effective highly satisfying customer experiences are in driving return visits by using location analytics...

Feature Story:

Implementing The Affordable Care Act »

By Benjamin Geyerhahn

What franchisees need to know about the ACA rollout

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has introduced widespread changes to the healthcare landscape. It has increased the availability, quality, and affordability of health insurance for the general population, regardless of age, gender, or pre-existing medical conditions.
The ACA has also altered the guidelines for employer-sponsored insurance, which has thrown many small- and mid-sized businesses for a loop.
In 2015, the ACA employer mandate will require employers with 50 or more full-time employees (defined as an average of 30-plus hours per week) to offer a minimum coverage health plan at affordable rates (less than 9.5 percent of an employee's household income).
Additionally, companies with 200 or more employees are required to automatically enroll employees in employer-sponsored insurance with a waiting period of no more than 90 days...

Feature Story:

Goals And Visions: Survey Says Business Owners Should Take Risks, Earn Respect, And Inspire Action »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Accomplishing goals is the most essential function of running a company, according to 46 percent of entrepreneurs polled by The Alternative Board (TAB). By comparison, 38 percent place more importance on providing a vision for their business. Despite acknowledging how crucial that vision is to the company's success, most leaders need help communicating it: participants averaged just 7.1 out of 10 when grading themselves on how effectively they expressed their vision to their team.
"It's important that the leader establishes and communicates a vision. But it's even more important that they accomplish goals," says David Scarola, vice president of TAB. "One without the other has little value."
After surveying 336 small business owners and CEOs worldwide (roughly 70 percent of whom have companies earning over $1 million a year), a common profile of the modern business leader emerged from TAB's study...

Feature Story:

Emotional Rescue: Understanding Relationship Dynamics In The Family Business »

By Jeff Faulkner

Recently one of my partners and I were facilitating a meeting between a father and his daughter to work through some mismatched expectations between them in the family business. We had already had several prep meetings laying the groundwork for aligning their expectations, which were all positive and headed in the right direction. They were both excited that we were going to be able to help them get some things out on the table, as they typically would avoid one another and leave issues unresolved.
However, once the meeting started, the dad took the opportunity to unleash on his daughter with unanswerable questions and acted like a prosecuting attorney trying to corner the defendant into a guilty plea. My partner and I were completely unprepared for this, and of course, the daughter was equally caught off guard...



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