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"If you are a cow, please press one."
by Jerry Wilkerson

Management individuals in the business of franchising succeed because they have an innermost purpose, a definite goal at which to aim, an acute proficiency at studying the future. It is a keen skill, painted with the brush of bruised experience and honed over time. Nobody suddenly becomes a successful franchise management executive without a bounty of failures, along with triumphs. Practice, knowledge, and experience create tangible results. The executive becomes a trade name, an identifiable mark, a brand.

Franchising is rooted in this extraordinary individual environment, and roots are living things. One can observe these executives mature and elevate the lives of those that encircle the franchise system. These branded human commodities are lights in the community, illuminating vibrantly with a beam of ideas. Others on the management team are the mirrors that reflect the light and help nurture the system. This union with people and franchising enriches the character of the individual with intense focus, while ever building the entity brand, the human trademark.

Successful franchise executives prove that what counts is not what you get for your life's work, but rather what you become by doing it. It is the enrichment of other lives that defines franchising accomplishment. This human brand innovates and pioneers business potential for franchisees before those possibilities become so apparent that the two do not need each other to achieve their common objectives.

Consider for a moment the concept of franchised veterinary clinics. What could a franchise system bring to the vet? The thoughtful brand executive could say, for instance, "Change your approach to communicating with the client consumer. Install a phone answering program that will speak clearly to the user. For example: 'Thank you for calling the animal line at Old McDonald's Veterinary Services. If you are a cow, please press one; if you are a horse, please press two; if you are a household pet, please press three.'"

Bizarre, maybe, but what if you added: "If you are a human being, and need to speak with another human being who really cares about you and the life of your animal or pet, please press four."

Oversimplified, you bet. Yet, the brand added an element of personal attention and curiosity to a typically mundane communication tool. This is what a brand, a special franchise executive, can bring to the garden variety business plan - fresh ideas that speak frankly to the customer's personal concern. When something transcendent happens, perhaps a life saving act, an emotional moment, we tend to remember this forever.

You may be thinking now: how do I build myself into a branded commodity in which franchisors will invest their payroll budget, thereby making me a valuable product, a brand unto itself? I can tell you that it will not be through money.

Money has no soul. It is gutless and guiltless. It won't tell you how to invest it in yourself as a brand or create a brilliant business plan. Chances are you will not become a branded product, a successful franchise executive, for the sake of money. People will see right through the fraudulence. You can, however, flourish in franchising if you have a passion for helping others succeed. You will relish the art of the deal and take pleasure in putting it all together as a group, a winning team.

An ache in your belly should tell you every day that you are here to build a system of business piece by piece, one unit at a time, year after year while continually improving the organization, and adding value enhancements to the bottom line. You will foster good franchisee relations and personally know your franchisees, their family member's health and happiness through good times and bad. The road is rutted and sodden with sweat from those that passed before you into the chronicles of franchise achievement. Yet, the path has few travelers.

One can spot them in a meeting, at a trade show, or convention, those providential in franchising management, and I am privileged to have made their acquaintances. Their brand stands out like an articulate neon logo. "Hey, remember me"? Words need not be spoken.

Within the business of franchising, the brands know who they are, and the future brands are building stock in themselves, amassing those significant assets of human elements, saleable commodities so valuable to us all. Their ideas can turn to dust or weave magic. All depends on the talent that rubs against them.

Harry Truman, with his intrinsic branded Bulldog approach to relationships, once said, "There are always a lot of people so afraid of rocking the boat that they stop rowing. We never get ahead that way." The 33rd U.S. President was empirically sentient as to the construction of his brand, his no bunkum approach to management. He knew that to move forward, one must effect change and not simply for the sake of change. A managed course designed and observed by the executive, will always be altered by the tides of business, the winds of commerce, and the consumer evolution within the marketplace.

Want to be a brand unto yourself, a goliath in franchise management? Then press four and concern yourself with people, the beings that will help craft you into a bona fide registered trademark, a genuine brand within the franchise management community. People will always support what they help to create.

Reprinted with permission from Franchising World Magazine.
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Jerry Wilkerson is a former president and executive director of the International Franchise Association (IFA), in Washington, D.C., and founder of Franchise Recruiters Ltd.®, an international franchise talent acquisition corporation with offices in Toronto and Chicago. He recently marked his 32nd year in franchising.


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