Franchising Rises to the Occasion
Nothing I can recall in my lifetime can approach what it’s been like living through Covid-19 these past months. The sheer number of people sickened by this scourge is difficult to comprehend, and the deaths heartbreaking. By mid-July, in the U.S. alone, the reported death toll was approaching 135,000—and, for the first time since the CDC began reporting daily numbers in mid-March, new single-day cases in the U.S. topped 60,000.
Beyond the enormous human toll of this disease is the gargantuan cost to the world economy. Companies large and small have seen customer numbers dwindle as stay-at-home orders virtually shut down communities, ours included. Franchisees furloughed or laid off employees as they shuttered stores, reduced services, and sought ways to stop the financial hemorrhaging from taking them under. For a time, things were looking up with declining numbers and phased reopenings across the country, but new spikes across the Sunbelt from Florida to California have given us the new term “reclosings.”
We know it will take time to recover, reset, and rebuild. But nowhere has the resolve, determination, and optimism of businesses been more evident than in franchising.
For almost four decades I have watched the franchising community step up again and again to provide solutions and aid in times of need, always coming through with a spirit of innovation, dedication, and determination. 9/11 in 2001? Franchising was there. Hurricane Katrina in 2005? Franchising was there. The Great Recession of 2008? Franchising was there. You never have to look far to see those in franchising say, “We can handle this, and somehow we’ll make it through to the other side.”
Locally in communities everywhere, franchisees are doing everything they can to keep their doors open, their employees on the payroll, and to continue providing their products and services to customers. The spirit of innovation was thriving as restaurants began offering new or enhanced take-out, drive-thru, delivery, and pickup services.
As a media company, we’ve also had to innovate, rescheduling 3 conferences this year because of concerns for attendees and staff. Moving these conferences, which represent a significant part of our annual revenue, has forced us to find new opportunities and ways to serve our customers, too. Necessity is often the mother of invention.
As a content provider involved in every category of franchising, we receive hundreds of press releases each day on the business of franchising. In addition to seeing innovation in all sectors, it’s truly inspiring to see the number of franchisees supporting their local communities, even as they work limited hours with limited revenue. As entrepreneurs, we must keep an eye on the future to stay relevant, survive, and grow.
Perhaps most inspiring was seeing franchisors and franchisees step up to help healthcare workers and first responders. Brands donated money and supplies, and franchisees donated products, services, and their time to their communities. I saw story after story of brands providing financial assistance, food, and other help to those working hard on the front lines of the pandemic. And I’m still seeing this as I write, so many long months later. For me this is the True Spirit of Franchising.
Since mid-March, we’ve been asking multi-unit franchisees what it’s been like for them, from PPP to PPE, from surviving today to planning for tomorrow. In this issue, you’ll find selected responses from all types and sizes of franchisees. We hope what they say is helpful, useful, and sheds some light in a dark time.
I know the human spirit will endure as it always has, and that we will get through this pandemic as humanity has done so many times before.
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