Reputation Management On The Local Level
Like all businesses, the franchise world is full of opportunities and potential land mines. If you entered the franchise world for the same reasons I did, you were probably looking for something in your area of interest that met several criteria: brand recognition; proven market; franchisee friendly policies; and processes, services, or products that could be easily replicated once you paid your fees and had access to the brand's secrets. After all, isn't replicating the proven easier than starting alone from scratch?
In some ways, a franchise is a sail that pulls us along until we really know what we are doing and where we are going. Certainly, there are some tradeoffs, like giving up some control that non-franchisees have over their businesses. And many times, the level of influence you'd like to have over the business is just not possible because you do not hold the authority that comes with a privately held business operation. As a result, logos, color schemes, promotional materials, and menus become someone else's sphere of influence.
On occasion, even the franchisor gets blindsided, and that can negatively affect you. Someone walks into a restaurant and goes on a rampage. An oil rig explodes. A brand spokesperson gets caught in a compromising situation. A manufacturer creates imaginary data.
Whatever the land mine, you want to avoid becoming collateral damage to mistakes in judgment or character that have nothing to do with you or your local business. It is important for you to have a separate identity that insulates you from the front-page headlines or the breaking news scroll across the bottom of the television screen. In short, you need a crisis management plan as part of your overall business succession plan.
A key piece in every crisis management plan involves building a positive, influential reputation in your local community. There are several ways of building that kind of rapport with those who support your business. Here are a few tips for becoming and remaining the local hero, regardless of what happens to and with your franchisor.
- Become involved in the local economic development group. Contribute as much time and money as you can afford to create opportunities for the people currently living in your community to stay in your community. Participate in major and sometimes minor groundbreaking ceremonies with local and state officials. Let your light shine before all in a humble and sincere fashion.
- Pick a charitable cause that is close to your heart and become active in promoting it. People appreciate those who give something - time and money - back to the community. This helps people recognize that you see yourself as part of the larger community and want to see some level of success for everyone.
- Develop a reputation as one of the better places to work in your community. When you accomplish that goal, your customer base will probably say out loud that, "It is too bad the rest of that franchise does not operate the same way (insert your name here) runs theirs. We are fortunate!"
Your brand franchisor may control anywhere from a little to a lot of how you operate on a day-to-day basis. Only you can control and influence the culture within your piece of the franchise world. Make it respected, make the community proud, and you can be in business for a long, long time.
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