How some of the world’s biggest franchise brands are adapting their approach to recruitment, in light of unprecedented challenges.
Interviews by Kieran McLoone, deputy editor for Global Franchise.
Franchise recruitment is an intrinsic part of a brand’s development process, and experiential sessions like discovery days are often the perfect way to an entrepreneur to ascertain whether a particular concept is the right fit for them – and vice versa.
In the current time of international uncertainty, however, and in a period where every single industry is being forced to reconsider and restructure, the traditional franchise recruitment strategies may not be as viable as they once were.
To hear first-hand how an assortment of the biggest players in the franchising world are dealing with this, Global Franchise spoke with experts from every franchise sector about how their brands are rethinking franchise recruitment, managing their current network, and overcoming the hurdles presented by COVID-19.
CRAIG SHERWOOD, CHIEF DEVELOPMENT OFFICER, GOLD’S GYM
Number of units: 702
Location of units: Worldwide
“Despite the current circumstances, we see a unique opportunity for franchise development and growth. As we look forward several months, the demand for fitness will be very strong given the forced closure of gyms worldwide and consumer desire to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. With lenders and landlords anxious to do deals with qualified franchisees, we believe the time is ideal for new franchise development with both existing and new franchisees.”
ALFRED NADDAFF, DIRECTOR OF FRANCHISE SALES, EDIBLE ARRANGEMENTS
Number of units: 1,042
Location of units: Worldwide
“As our business continues to adapt in response to the growing health concerns surrounding COVID-19, our top priority right now is supporting our current franchise network which pivoted quickly to start offering whole fresh produce boxes systemwide. We are putting the health and safety of our team and the public at-large ahead of everything we do as we fulfill a critical need to deliver fresh goods in high demand.
“We are putting the health and safety of our team and the public at-large ahead of everything we do”
“The public’s response has been overwhelmingly positive, creating a teachable moment for both our current franchise network and interested prospects to see firsthand how our business model can respond in a big way in times of need. With more than 1,000 delivery vehicles that are available to reach around 75 per cent of U.S. households, we remain strong as we also continue to grow.
“The attention that has created has also energized existing and new franchise prospects – including multi-unit operators from other concepts who see great potential for quick market growth with Edible – to continue moving forward in our development program. We have begun planning virtual discovery days among other approaches to adjusting our sales process as candidates continue to seek out our affordable business opportunity and the chance to join our expanding network.”
SEAN KAJCIENSKI, COO & CRO, BEST LIFE BRANDS
Number of units: 475+ (across entire portfolio)
Location of units: U.S. and Canada
“Best Life Brands (the parent company of ComForCare, CarePatrol, and Blue Moon Estate Sales) is increasing our spend on franchise recruitment in April and diversifying our channels.
“For us, it’s a great time to test new tactics now that potential audiences are in front of their screens all day and several industries have slowed down. For example, we are targeting the hospitality industry for franchise candidates with marketing messaging that conveys that senior care and services are a recession-proof industry, and the need is not slowing down in this crisis.
“We have also transitioned to virtual discovery days among other approaches to adjust our sales process to meet COVID-19 restrictions.”
ANDREW GRUEL, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE CHEF, SLAPFISH
Number of units: 25
Location of units: U.S. and the U.K.
“Recruitment is certainly still a focus. Call me crazy, but I look at situations like this and try to pick out the opportunities. I think that there’s going to be major opportunity when we come out of the other side of this in so many different arenas. From a real estate perspective, from a franchisee perspective, from a product perspective, and from a marketing perspective.
“Call me crazy, but I look at situations like this and try to pick out the opportunities”
“Part of this is also a clean-out. I don’t want to say that in a negative way, but let’s look at it from a real estate perspective: landlords were just so incredible arrogant the past few years. There was no relief, exorbitant prices, and they weren’t working with us in partnerships. They were just getting stronger and stronger or just flipping properties and you’re dealing with a faceless landlord. That’s not going to be the case anymore. I think there’s going to be major opportunity to take second- or third-generation spaces for pennies on the dollar and turn them into goldmines.
“We as a franchisor are all about that. We’re not going to say, ‘You’ve got to have this 1,800 square-foot shell and then invest $600,000 to do the perfect model’. We’re scrappy. If we can back into an existing 1,200 square-foot space that has a kitchen and a hood, and slap up some Slapfish branding and put lipstick on there for $75,000, then let’s do it. That’s where I’m excited from a franchising perspective, is for all of us to pick out some of the major opportunities coming out the other side of this. “
SEAN GOLDSMITH, SPECIAL ADVISOR TO FRANCHISING, VARIOUS BRANDS
[The following is an excerpt taken from a recent episode of the Global Franchise Podcast, in which Sean Goldsmith explains the necessity of ongoing franchise recruitment and development]
“Because of the furlough coming in, that means that a huge number of businesses are going to be on pause. As a franchisor, we don’t have the luxury of stopping, pausing, and thinking about what’s going to happen about a restart.
“The analogy is quite simple: if you imagine the London Marathon, you’ve got a little yellow ribbon, and you’ve got 20,000 people all gathered behind it. The minute that the government says ‘Go’, what’s going to happen is that every single business is going to throw every single thing they’ve got at trying to get customers. They’re going to be completely and utterly lost in this maelstrom of marketing and activity and everything else that comes with it.
“As a franchisor, we don’t have the luxury of stopping, pausing, and thinking about what’s going to happen about a restart”
“At the moment, this is exactly the right time for franchisors to start thinking about that moment. What I’ve been saying to everybody is: right now, get your strategy correct. Start marketing, start going out, reconnect with your old customers. Because when that firing gun goes off at the London Marathon, we will be two hours ahead of everybody else.
“Effectively, what that does is allow the franchisees to be able to walk back into the game with their brand intact and the loyalty of their customers, because they never stopped. There’s a lot to do. Practically, it’s very difficult, but I think beyond COVID-19 is going to be very interesting. “
BRAD STEVENSON, CHIEF DEVELOPMENT OFFICER, NEIGHBORLY
Founded: 1981 (as The Dwyer Group)
Number of units: 3,900+ (across entire portfolio)
Location of units: Worldwide
“While Neighborly’s top priority continues to be the health and safety of our associates, franchisees, and customers worldwide, we are evolving our recruitment efforts to keep our business opportunities readily available to potential franchise business owners seeking a new career.
“We have experienced an uptick in lead generation within the last month, likely due to the essential nature of our brands combined with the availability of prospects to connect with our development team members. We have provided our development team with the necessary technology, system access and tools to remotely provide a world-class experience for potential clients and switched from an in-person Meet the Team Day experience to a virtual platform.
“In addition, we are leaning more on our consulting strategy and utilizing brokers to connect us with prospects interested in Neighborly’s business opportunities. In addition to all of these external recruiting efforts, we remain committed to doing everything we can (i.e., consistent communication to provide health and safety guidelines, direction for how to receive SBA funding, etc.) to support our existing franchisees.”
KEN MCALLISTER, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, SUITE MANAGEMENT FRANCHISING
Number of units: 150+
Location of units: U.S. and Canada
“With 150-plus locations nationwide, we had many of our stores be mandated by the government to temporarily close. However, we haven’t laid off or furloughed anyone, and it’s our intention to open back up 100 per cent of MY SALON Suite and Salon Plaza locations. We truly are all in this together, addressing every obstacle as a team and working to keep the entire system well-informed during these unpredictable times. Our work now is setting us up for a full recovery down the line.
“We’re looking at the silver lining. The health and beauty industry has always proven to be resilient and we’re expecting to see a surge when everything returns back to normal – there’s going to be a lot of pent-up demand for our members’ services because no one is able to get a cut or color right now. Plus, when lock-downs are lifted, the public will continue to stay health-conscious and potentially shift where they bring their business. We’re confident they’ll feel safer in our one-to-one setting, rather than in traditional salons.
“Supporting our franchise partners, members, and their clients is our number one priority. We’re making sure 100 per cent of our franchise locations reopen, so we’re continuing to maintain communication and strengthen our relationships. Since we were on track to have our best year yet, we definitely anticipate growth after the recovery phase. We’re looking toward the future and continuing to nurture the relationships we’ve made with leads.”
LARRY SIDOTI, CHIEF DEVELOPMENT OFFICER, GARBANZO MEDITERRANEAN FRESH
Number of units: 23
Location of units: U.S.
“[Our upcoming] webinar will serve as a way to connect with interested prospects considering the franchise opportunity. The informational webinar will provide a strong glimpse into the Garbanzo brand, our differentiators as a fast-casual franchise concept, the franchising process, industry outlook as well as highlight the support and resources we have in place for franchisees and showcase the prototype options.
“Conducting it virtually allows us to continue propelling our franchise growth strategy forward while also doing what’s in the best interest of the greater good by staying at home. People are active online and are at home, so it’s a good time to get their attention, garner their interest in the concept and connect with prospects. This webinar deck will certainly serve as a useful tool to share with prospects who are interested in learning more about the franchising opportunity.
“Ultimately, our goal is to resume our traditional franchise development efforts when it is deemed safe to do so. However, until then, this will serve as a robust tool to educate candidates while continuing forward with our development strategy.”