What Covid Has Taught Us: 5 pandemic lessons for franchising
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What Covid Has Taught Us: 5 pandemic lessons for franchising

What Covid Has Taught Us: 5 pandemic lessons for franchising

March marked the third anniversary of the global Covid-19 pandemic, and while many of us are keen to move forward, it’s important for businesses to reflect on the takeaways and build on lessons learned through our shared, global experiences.

• Our local community connections really matter. Often, entrepreneurs and family-owned businesses have strong roots in the communities they serve and have the ability to quickly respond to community needs. Mark and Shawn Glenn of Carrollton, Texas, rose to the occasion and went from printing graphics to providing more than 15,000 face shields to local police departments in North Texas. Barry Roufa in St. Louis created St. Louis Strong banners and donated a portion of the proceeds to the St. Louis Area Foodbank. The pandemic changed our perspective of what’s an essential business, and it should be a reminder to look local first.

• A network brings advantages. During the height of the pandemic, our meetings went online, and we navigated illness and limited staffing or no staffing. We also faced supply chain shortages in many areas at the same time as we were inundated with production requests. While the pandemic created a collective crisis, it also allowed us to share collective responses. We leaned on local and national networks for support. What we learned is that a strong infrastructure is important. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that you can’t go it alone, and communities can be created online as well as through local chambers of commerce and franchise networks.

• We became more innovative and creative. Business owners have to be creative problem solvers. They’re magicians in many ways. Sign manufacturers aren’t typically asked to create protective equipment for frontline health workers, but Todd Helfer in Jacksonville, Florida, stepped up and created sneeze guards, face masks, and intubation boxes that he donated to the Mayo Clinic in Florida. The pandemic production pivot allowed Larissa Croll in Englewood, Colorado, to create desk shields for businesses and yard signs for high school and college seniors whose graduation ceremonies were canceled. Whether it was a grommet shortage or adapting to differing health ordinances, problems were solved and sourced from within and externally. We innovated because we had to, and now it’s important to look back and evaluate new industries, new techniques, and new services we can provide.

• It gave us a collective sense of purpose. Those managing businesses faced the same day-to-day frustrations as their customers. For businesses trying to stay afloat, banner flags or vinyl decals that read “open for business” kept the doors open and bills paid. They also reminded customers to value the importance of keeping local communities alive. It’s not just us saying this. In a recent 2022 national poll, 73% of Americans said signage and high-impact graphics make places more noticeable. At a time of uncertainty, it’s important to be part of a greater purpose and take pride in what you do and do it well. You may end up achieving more than you thought possible.

• Amplified efficiency. So much of our initial response to the pandemic had to be reactive. As we adjusted to the immediate crisis, we began to see a need for tightening all around. We all should look at costs, staffing, wages, pricing, and square footage and determine what better practices to use moving forward.

Final thoughts

U.S. businesses should be proud of our shared resiliency. We know we were not alone in this collective effort to come together and work for a greater good. We are not alone in our shared understanding of what it means to be a community.

The storms we’ve already weathered together have made us better prepared and more agile for what may come. Remember, calmness is power and not overreacting is important. Our stakeholders and our communities are counting on us.

Catherine Monson is the CEO of Propelled Brands, a multi-brand franchise that includes FastSigns, NerdsToGo, and MySalonSuites and SalonPlaza. She is the past chairwoman of the International Franchise Association.

Published: June 6th, 2023

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