Similar to a personal relationship, the relationship between franchisor and franchisee helps both of them grow together and as individuals.
Winmark Corporation® has been operating as a franchisor for 30 years supporting more than 800 franchise owners representing over 1,250 locations for five brands – Once Upon A Child®, Plato’s Closet®, Style Encore®, Play It Again Sports® and Music Go Round®.
Marnie McKnight has been a franchisee for more than 18 years in central Indiana, during which time she opened two Once Upon A Child stores, two Style Encore stores and bought an existing Style Encore location.
It was the support Winmark provided to franchisees that convinced her to pursue the professional relationship in 2000 and become a multi-unit owner after a career in admissions and freshman orientation at Indiana State University and Purdue University.
“Winmark offers a lot of experience, proven practices and they do a lot of the homework for you,” she said. “Basically, they’re a whole company that’s working for you, to make you more successful. I’m one person who owns these stores, but I have these experts I can reach out to, to help me.”
Franchisors Who Listen Empower Their Brands
Besides mutual alignment around brand vision, communication is the key factor in the relationship between franchisor and franchisees.
But at the same time, the relationship should not consist of the franchisor always providing direction. Successful communication fosters collaboration, and franchisees should be able to provide feedback and feel free to share ideas that may benefit the brand.
Open lines of communication and a collaborative spirit makes franchisees feel valued. When other entrepreneurs learn that franchisors care about what their franchisees have to say, the system grows. In addition to seeing a need for Once Upon A Child and Style Encore in the Bloomington, Terre Haute and Greenwood communities, Marnie opened more stores because she appreciated being valued by Winmark Corporation.
For example, Marnie knew she had to bring in more customers to her Once Upon A Child store in Bloomington. She came up with an idea to attract more new mothers to her store that sold gently used apparel and equipment for infants and toddlers – the New Mom Club, which offered deals to mothers of newborns if they joined. Recently, the New Mom Club of Once Upon A Child in Bloomington offered a free pair of pajamas for newborns when you join. Winmark liked the idea and provided her with graphics to use to promote it.
“I appreciate that they’re willing to listen to my ideas,” Marnie said.
Sometimes, the Winmark team approaches franchisees for ideas. Marnie said she has been approached for her thoughts on how to improve Style Encore, the brand created for professional women by Winmark in 2013.
“They rely on the franchisees out there doing the work every day to help shape the brand,” she said. “I like that. It makes the buy-in better. I’m going to listen to them more and I feel like they’re listening to me and recognizing that we’re in the trenches doing the job, and they value that it’s our livelihoods on the line. That’s important in a relationship.”
Winmark also established more formal avenues for franchisee input and feedback, such as franchise advisory councils (FAC). Marnie served on the FAC for Once Upon A Child and Style Encore. FACs are groups of franchisees representing different regions, tenure with the brand and sales volumes that report on programs, practices, operations and systems. Since they and their employees are in the trenches every day putting all aspects of the brand’s model to use, they know best what works and does not work. Not only will the free flow of feedback and ideas help the franchisor evolve more effectively and efficiently, but the council will provide a voice that empowers franchisees. When franchisees feel empowered, they perform better. When franchisees perform well, the brand does well, too.
Franchisees Need to Hold up Their End of the Relationship
Although Winmark works regularly with all its franchisees, Marnie points out that store owners also need to ask for more support if they need it. You’re paying in to be part of a system, so you should take advantage of their experience and expertise. Good franchisors count on their franchisees to seek help when they need it.
Sometimes Marnie looks at her numbers and wonders about fluctuations she sees. She can then ask her field operations manager for an explanation.
“They have all that information, including what all the other stores are doing and they can provide me with feedback,” she said. “They can help me come up with a game plan to improve what I’m doing if need be. They’re creating areas of opportunity for me.”
For communication to be effective in a healthy franchisor-franchisee relationship, store owners need to be able to listen in addition to paying royalty fees in a timely manner and upholding brand standards. Marnie said that’s how franchisees grow their business.
“I want to do better, so I like their feedback,” she said. “But owners have to be willing to listen to what the franchisor has to say. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Are you interested in an exciting franchise opportunity in the growing resale industry? Contact us today to learn more about franchising with Winmark brands.