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Feature Story:

Health-Scare Reform: "There's Still More That We Don't Know Than We Do." »

By Debbie Selinsky

Since national health care reform was signed into law in March 2010, it has generated strong reaction from multi-unit franchisees and small-business owners across the nation. Among its provisions, the law ("Obamacare" to its opponents and critics) requires employers with more than 50 full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees to provide healthcare insurance or face harsh penalties. However, when it comes to the actual impact of the law, the sentiments of many franchisees can be summed up as, "There's still more that we don't know than we do."
Misty Chally, deputy executive director of the Coalition of Franchisee Associations, agrees there's still much to be learned about the law. "But as of today, in 2014 there will be a mandate for all employers with 50 or more full-time-equivalent employees to provide health insurance coverage," she says...

Feature Story:

The Customer Within: Provide Coworkers With The Best Service Possible »

By John Tschohl

When we talk about customer service, we usually think about how we deal with the people who walk through our doors--both physical and virtual--to purchase our products and services. What we often fail to realize, however, is that we also have customers within our organizations; those customers are our coworkers. 
Customer service means being responsive to a customer's needs and being resourceful in meeting those needs. Customer service is many things: knowledge, communication, skill, attitude, efficiency, integrity, reliability, knowledge, and helpfulness.
How you interact with coworkers and supervisors has a huge impact on the effectiveness of the team. When Dan asks for your help, do you tell him that it's not your responsibility, or do you eagerly offer to do whatever you can to help him meet his deadline? When Bethany points out an error, do you get defensive, or do you view her comment as constructive and vow to improve your performance?
When you treat coworkers with respect, when you help them solve their problems and meet or exceed the demands of the job, your value increases dramatically...

Feature Story:

Do It Now: 3 Easy Ways To Stop Procrastinating Today »

By Dr. Tony Alessandra

Procrastination is not for everyone!
"Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today." (My Mother - ever since I can remember).
Procrastination is like a virus. It creeps up on you slowly, drains you of energy, and is difficult to get rid of if your resistance is low. Procrastination is a close relative of incompetence and a first cousin to inefficiency, which is why their marriage is taboo. These suggestions will help you conquer the virus:

1. Give yourself deadlines. In moderation, pressure motivates. Extreme pressure debilitates. Set appointments, make commitments, write out your goals, and otherwise develop the determination to succeed.

2. Don't duck the difficult problems. Every day we are faced with both difficult and easy tasks...

Feature Story:

Don't Ask, Don't Know: Actively Eliciting Feedback From Employees Builds Better Leaders »

By Timothy Bednarz

Effective leadership is based on ongoing input and feedback. Where 20 years ago managers rarely asked for input, today effective leaders are regularly seeking and receiving employee feedback. Leaders elicit cooperation from employees and other individuals when they listen to them. To move employees forward, leaders first identify their needs by asking for their feedback. Identifying employee needs through feedback allows leaders to modify their behavior to serve the best interests of their employees and unit.
Feedback is an effective communication mechanism that enhances productivity and motivation. Leaders use it to create a positive sense of direction that increases efficiency and reduces stress among employees. It empowers employees and gives them ownership in both the ideas and direction driving the organization...

Feature Story:

Think You Know What Your Customers Want?: Research Shows 90 Percent Of Businesses Don't »

By Jaynie L. Smith

What customers value most changes constantly, and the pace of change has increased exponentially with the economic recession, says marketing/management expert and best-selling author Jaynie L. Smith.
"The businesses who become relevant by addressing what customers really value at any given time will be the first ones out of the recession," says Smith, whose newest book is called Relevant Selling.
"One year ago, people were looking for financial stability in companies they were purchasing from because of all of the business closings," she says, citing surveys conducted by her company, Smart Advantage, Inc. "Now, on-time delivery outranks that because so many businesses cut back their inventory during the worst of the recession. With demand increasing, customers have more difficulty getting what they want on time...

Feature Story:

Moving Forward In The New Normal: Surviving And Thriving In A Changed Economy »

By Carol Schleif

Is anybody else as fed up as I am with hearing about how bad things are? Let's get on with it already and start focusing on what we can do to survive--and thrive--in the new reality.
Periods of meltdown and renewal are not at all unusual for the United States. Read John Steele Gordon's book An Empire of Wealth for numerous examples of American ingenuity and stick-to-it-ness pulling us back from the brink of financial meltdown. This is the time when we need to pull ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps, dust ourselves off, and figure out how we are going to push forward. At the risk of stating what should be painfully obvious, here are my thoughts on some of the things we can try to get "unstuck" and help us move forward:

Feature Story:

What's In A Name?: Training Front-Line Employees In Customer Engagement »

By Jack Mackey

This has always been the place, right? America, I mean, where anybody can start with nothing and turn it into something. Every multi-unit organization started with a dream, and many with just a single location. And for those who have kept their promises to customers and delivered great service, success has often followed.
Let me tell you about Lenny's Sub Shop, founded in Bartlett, Tenn., in 1998 by Len and Sheila Moore. Lenny's is a Philadelphia-style sub shop that has grown to about 200 franchisees across the country. They serve their own unique brands of potato chips and thin crisps, and they make a signature hot cherry-pepper relish, just one way they make their subs unique. Their sandwiches are terrific. Why? They provision top-quality products, slice meats and cheeses to order, and adhere to their recipes religiously...

Feature Story:

Capital Access: Michael Ansley Uses Cash And Credit To Grow His Franchise Business »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

In 1996, Michael Ansley and his former college roommate asked their fathers for loans to buy their own franchise (Buffalo Wild Wings, then known as BW3) unit near Ann Arbor, Mich.
"We were young and didn't know what we were doing," he recalls. "But we learned how not to run a restaurant and where not to put it." Within a decade, Ansley had grown to 22 Buffalo Wild Wings units throughout Michigan and Florida. The entrepreneur is also involved with the franchise side of Bagger Dave's Legendary Burger Tavern in Michigan.
Ansley's business endeavors generated $45 million in revenue in 2010 and close to $60 in 2011. But his markets have faced difficult and challenging times during the past couple of years. Still, he's optimistic and offered this insight on the economy, his markets, and how he comes by capital...

Feature Story:

Adaptability: The New Keyword; Focusing On The New Realities »

By Darrell Johnson

The U.S. economy is on the rise. While the world economy will be fortunate to realize a 3 percent growth rate in 2012 (less than 2 percent and we'll see a global recession, something too close to call at the moment), most of the domestic indicators are signaling a positive outlook for next year. Yes, Europe is a mess, China is slowing down, and Japan is close to returning to the economy of its lost decade. With most other economies substantially smaller, there aren't any foreign engines of growth to get the world humming again.
Despite all that, the U.S. gives us some reasons for optimism. We're still in the aftermath of the decade of indulgence. The period from 2002 to 2008 was marked with unprecedented consumer and government spending...

Feature Story:

A Rewarding Change: How You Can Use Rewards To Change Your Company Culture »

By Ron Kaufman

What gets rewarded gets done, so recognize and reward a lot! This is especially so if you want to learn how to change company culture.
First, reward all the traditional categories: sales achieved, goals accomplished, customer compliments received. Then add some spice to really promote efforts on how to change company culture.
Celebrate new accounts, repeat orders, projects completed under budget, money-saving ideas, increased efficiency, and of course, improvements in customer service. To learn how to change company culture, you need to reward the actions you want to become ingrained.
Acknowledge achievements of individuals: most productive person, most consistent performance, most outrageous extra effort. This can also help in efforts to learn how to change company culture...

Feature Story:

It's All About Perspective: A "Great Manager" Is A Relative Term »

By Howard Putnam

When I was 19 years old, I was promoted to passenger service manager for Capital Airlines at Midway Airport in Chicago. I had no college degree, no supervisory or managerial training, and there I was in charge of a shift with about 20 employees in customer service and 20 flights per shift. My experience level consisted of growing up on a farm in Iowa, being a baggage handler, and then a ticket agent for 18 months.
Kind of scary.
How do you know whether you are going to do a good job or not?
Everyone else was at least 10 years older than me in experience. So, I just asked them. I didn't know any better than to be open and honest and ask for their feedback. Wow, did they give me helpful and outspoken feedback. It was very eye opening...

Feature Story:

Food: By The Numbers »

By Eddy Goldberg

Food--fast, slow, casual, takeout, sit-down, delivery--is by far the largest single sector in franchising. One look at our Mega 99 list of the country's largest franchisees shows their choice of brands dominated by food, primarily QSR. Beyond the sheer size of this sector, changing consumer tastes are spurring the creation of new brands, even in a belt-tightening economy. We asked two well-respected market researchers--Technomic and FRANdata--for data that would provide a big picture overview of the franchised food segment--where it's been and where it might be trending.

Tracking Food Brand Growth
As of 2011, there are about 1,200 franchised food brands operating in the U.S.; roughly two thirds began offering franchises in 2000 or later...

Feature Story:

The Art Of Negotiation: Getting Better At Getting What You Want In Business »

By Sharon Housley

Negotiation really is an art, and can be a challenge to master for even the most astute business professional. And like any art form, it must be refined and crafted. Getting a "good deal" can result in a feeling of euphoria. So, how does one "negotiate" a good deal? It can be difficult, especially if the other party appears to be holding all the cards. Here are some tips that will help you negotiate great deals.
Know What You Are Willing to Concede. Decide what your minimums are before you enter the negotiations. Knowing your bottom line, as well as what items are "non-negotiable" will help tremendously. It is important to know this before you enter negotiations, simply because all too often, in the excitement of bartering and negotiating a deal, parties will be tempted to make concessions they had not actually intended make, in an effort to close the deal...

Feature Story:

Sustaining Business: Zane Tankel On Growing During Tough Times »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

As the economy continues to struggle through a slow recovery, business people everywhere are looking for any tools or techniques that will help them keep their businesses alive and thriving. Zane Tankel, CEO of Apple Metro, Inc., a company that owns 34 Applebee's restaurants in the New York area, is no different.
Yet Tankel has not only kept his business afloat during the recession, he even grew his businesses - opening ten new Applebee's restaurants since 2008, while garnering the brand's coveted Franchisee of the Year in 2009 and 2010.
Last time, Tankel began offering some tried and true tips that businesses should note in order to sustain and even grow their businesses in the days, weeks and months ahead in an uncertain economic climate...

Feature Story:

Online Only?: Don't Neglect The Personal Customer Service Experience »

By John Tschohl

No one I know would dispute the benefits technology--specifically the computer--has had on every aspect of our lives. It has put information at our fingertips and allowed us to communicate with others whenever and wherever we happen to be. Technology also has allowed businesses--no matter their size, location, products, or services--to compete on a global basis.
For many businesses, however, that technology has a downside. They have used technology to provide their customers with the speed and convenience of online shopping but, in the process, they have downgraded the importance of human interaction to the stage of near extinction. Many of those businesses don't even include an e-mail address or a telephone number on their websites so that customers can contact them...

Feature Story:

On The Lookout: OSHA Inspectors Are Targeting More Small Businesses »

By Matt Deffebach

For months, Republicans in Washington have been beating a steady drumbeat about the harm regulations have on businesses, the economy, and job creation.

While the rhetoric has been loud, it is clear regulators around the country, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), are not listening as they continue to fulfill their job descriptions.

The impact of regulations on businesses is constantly up for debate; but businesses - including franchisees - cannot ignore them for the health and safety of their employees and customers or the financial impact of a fine. In reviewing recent announcements and developments from OSHA, there appears to be an emphasis on the food and service industry oversight...

Feature Story:

Sink Or Swim?: Dealing With Underperforming And Distressed Units »

By Helen Bond

When Greg Thomas decides whether to fix or ditch a financially troubled store, he typically thinks big. "I don't pay attention to pennies, nickels, and dimes," says Thomas, franchisee of more than 30 Great Clips salons in the Southeast. "When something is distressed, saving a few nickels, dimes, and pennies doesn't do anything. You have to increase sales 25 to 50 percent overnight."
Not everyone has his constitution--nor his experience turning distressed franchise units into profit-makers. Thomas, president of Parkside Ventures in Duluth, Ga., has made it his business to know whether a store has profit potential or will continue to bleed red (for an in-depth profile of Thomas, see

Feature Story:

Instant Review: Social Networks Share Customer Complaints With A Big World »

By John Tschohl

Never before has timing been as critical to an organization's success as it is today. While it certainly is critical to, for example, the introduction of a new product or the infusion of cash, it is equally critical when it comes to solving a customer's problem.

Technology--specifically social networks--has driven the need for timely customer complaint solutions to a new high. Those networks have put businesses throughout the world under a technological microscope, as disgruntled customers share their experiences with thousands, if not millions of people, in a matter of seconds with a simple click of a button.

In the past, customers who had a problem with a company would tell, on average, 20 of their friends, coworkers, and family members about it...

Feature Story:

Subway Going 'Green': Franchisor Now Opening Earth-Friendly 'Eco-Restaurants' »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

For years, Subway has prided itself on offering healthier fare for its customers. But now the brand is honing in on what it can do to promote a healthier planet. In fact, the franchisor now has 14 of its "Eco-Restaurants" open while many of its franchisees also implement a number of these "eco" elements into their existing stores. The overall goal of the eco-restaurants is a design that offers environmentally friendly aspects that help reduce energy, water, and waste consumption in cost effective ways.

"All of these new eco-restaurants reflect the brand's commitment to social responsibility and sustainability," says Marketing Director Elizabeth Stewart, who heads the brand's corporate social responsibility efforts. "We have made a commitment to make our restaurants and operations more environmentally responsible...

Feature Story:

Deals On Wheels: Mobile Food Trucks Are Delivering The Goods »

By Kerry Pipes

The roach coach has hit the road, Jack.
Those sanitarily questionable movable feasts that have rolled through America's cities for decades are being replaced. Filling the void come this year's models: clean, efficient, state-of-the-art mobile food trucks with kitchens, griddles, stoves, and all the refrigerated machinery a small restaurant could possibly need. A new day has arrived for mobile food trucks, and a dynamic market shift is under way.
Major U.S. cities have experienced an increase in mobile food trucks during the past few years. Often, they are mom-and-pop operators who rove industrial parks and office complexes in search of hungry customers. In some cities, mobile food parks with a dozen or more trucks and trailers representing all types of mobile food vendors have set up camp, offering everything from subs, sandwiches, and ethnic specialties to espresso, desserts, and more...

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