Four Operations learnings from 2020 that will strengthen franchises for the future

Operations & Training

By Patti Carr, Sport Clips Haircuts

Even decades of work in the franchise industry couldn't have prepared the most seasoned among us for the rigors of 2020. But leaning into the culture and values of your brand can make needed operational challenges less daunting and bode well for the strength of your franchise moving forward in 2021 and beyond.

  1. Safety will remain key – Safety will always be an important component of running a business, especially a franchised one in which so many others are dependent on the franchisor and other franchisees to protect their brand identity and investment. In 2020, safety became even more critical, and the steps individual franchises and franchisees had to take to protect themselves and those they serve will become a matter of course in the future. When new safety protocols were required by health officials and state and local governments, franchises were some of the first to step up with rapid prototyping of procedures that will become part of standard operations. From finding ways to secure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to franchise-wide enhanced cleaning protocols and training, the investment made in safety is one that will have a positive impact for years to come.

  1. Client/Customer experience is more important than ever – It's easy to get lost in the detail of what it takes to keep your franchise operating, especially during rolling shutdowns, coin shortages, and supply chain disruptions, but it can't be at the expense of what your customers and clients experience when they interact with your brand. With the start of a new year, a vaccine to fight the pandemic, and the world moving back toward a more hopeful future, those who engage with our brands are looking for a positive experience – one they can trust. A recent report notes, "…we are engaging with customers who are collectively traumatized, surrounded by risk of exposure, lockdowns that impact day-to-day activities, and increasing financial worries. Customer experiences designed to market products and services must be crafted with care, with less focus on 'sales' and more on delivering messages of empathy, education, trust, and safety."  The first quarter of the year is the perfect time for revisiting training, both virtual and in-person, when safe to do so; reviewing and adjusting efficiencies in your business; and re-engaging or staying engaged with your customer base to pave the way for greater consumer confidence and trust in our franchise brands.

  1. Heightened communication has become essential – Communication became a high priority for franchises during COVID, whether the business was operating at full capacity or experiencing closures. A consistent flow of communication will remain an operational best practice in 2021 and beyond. From keeping franchisees well-informed to making sure team members remained engaged, most franchises were successfully able to pivot to virtual meetings and training sessions. Maximizing technology to educate staff, holding virtual options for recruitment and discovery days, and relying on system leadership and franchisee input to chart the course through the pandemic created a flow of information that is now an essential part of doing business.

  1. Laser focus on streamlining operations – Over the past year, franchises, like other businesses, were forced to scrutinize the delivery of their services or products. Efficiency became even more acute as mandates, staffing, and cleaning protocols stressed operations. Much was learned through that process when franchises were pushed to the limit and had to take a long, hard look at their business processes. A new sense of urgency is lessening the impact of business disruptions on individual franchisees, staff, and systems that will enhance and streamline operations for years to come.

The 2021 outlook is positive, and I see nothing but progress ahead. It was an awfully hard year for many of us, but most franchises are thriving -- several are actually growing. The resourcefulness of the franchise industry, and those of us who are a part of it, are innovating for the years ahead. Companies with a solid culture and values in place that embolden team members to apply their learnings from a situation as a complex as a pandemic are strengthening the future of franchising.

Patti Carr is the vice president of field operations for Sport Clips, Inc., a franchisor member of the International Franchise Association (IFA).