What Touring Taught Me
By Rob Price, School of Rock
Five tips you should implement to support your franchisees' success.
Two years ago I took on my dream position as CEO of School of Rock. As a passionate musician myself, it didn’t take long for me to become completely immersed in the brand’s culture. In my two years on the job, I have visited nearly 200 school locations across the U.S. in order to see the business up close and in-person. The time I spent on the road speaking with franchisees and learning the business from the grassroots level led to a thoughtful evolution of School of Rock’s franchisor/franchisee relationship.
Here are five things we’ve implemented at School of Rock that have completely rewired how we support franchisees.
1. Use your time wisely.
As a franchisor, a majority of our time can be absorbed with meetings to review the state of the business. Although this is important, the brand can suffer because of it. Your franchisees can suffer because of it. When you dedicate only a few minutes each week to discuss the most recent trends, it conserves precious leadership time to dig into critical initiatives, discussions with teams and brand engagement. This also puts time aside for the whole community to discuss, co-create, and embrace a purpose statement that characterizes a multi-decade vision.
One of the best ways to create results for our stakeholders is to spend every possible minute building enduring value, staggering differentiation, and higher quality dialogue with franchisees. At School of Rock, we’ve been able achieve this by making a massive investment in our team, infrastructure, facilities, and intellectual property. Rather than spending our time focused on money, we are tilling and planting strategic seeds that result in a steep growth in existing schools enrollment, sales, and a spike in interest from prospective franchisees around the world.
2. Don’t control the message.
Rock N’ Roll is loud, but so is a creative community. When you take the shackles off open debate, it allows for your brand’s community to really open up and learn from each other. What does that look like? Consider a secure Facebook Workplace environment where team members can engage in dissent and debate. Not all posts may be flattering or comfortable, but every point made by franchisees is important to consider.
If you’re not into Facebook, scheduled phone calls with owners may be beneficial for you and your brand. At School of Rock, every franchisee has my personal cell phone number with an invitation to call me 24/7. Some would label this chaos. We call it insight.
3. Make money with your franchisees.
Franchisor economics can be a really great gig. A critical reading of many franchise disclosure documents reveals brilliant ways to make money from your franchisees, as opposed to with your franchisees. But what if you bet entirely on the strength of your business concept to drive profits for all?
Imagine this. You have no material sources of profit that are unlinked to franchisee performance, meaning the business will grow only if franchisees grow. When you don’t burden the operating costs or restrict franchisee flexibility on core functional requirements, you show how much respect and confidence you have for your franchisees, ultimately encouraging them to keep moving forward and growing the business. No matter if it’s t-shirts, technology or marketing, the goal is always to make sustainable profits on healthy growth.
4. Stay away from negativity
In a world where people quietly resent and disparage peers and customers, I urge you to reject negativity throughout your brand. It’s amazing what your brand can accomplish when you are committed to never saying anything critical about a franchisee – publicly or privately. Instead of saying an owner is difficult, you may say the owner is discerning. Take out the word stubborn and replace it with determined. You can easily change the outlook on a person when you take all negativity out of the conversation.
Next thing you may want to consider is that you might be wrong sometimes. For those of us who have been immersed in this industry for decades, it can be difficult to come to terms with that. Yet, at nearly 50, I have enthusiastically embraced the realization that everyone knows more about something than me. When it comes to the brand, nine times out of ten my franchisees are more likely to be right than I am.
5. Foster creativity with your franchisees.
As a recovered chief marketing officer, I am sure to lose my membership card for this one: brand rigidity creates more risk of fracture than stability. The speed of consumer and competitive change will render an immobile brand to become a monument, versus a desired destination. The seduction of defining every single element of a franchise is strong. In fact, some would say that is the whole idea of franchising. Yet, what if you picked out only three areas to be rigid about and invite vigorous experimentation around the fringes?
For School of Rock, those three areas include student safety, professional ethics, and pedagogy. This doesn’t mean we ignore our extensive and comprehensive operational expectations, recommendations, and best practices, but instead we support ongoing discussions about concept evolution.
Your franchisees have great ideas and as a franchisor, it’s your job to listen and take those ideas into consideration. Consider their franchisee creative instincts about physical design, collateral, messaging and more. You might find that the opposite of trying to control everything leads to better control of the most important things and that directly coincides to the rapid growth of a brand. Good relationships lead to good business.
Rob Price is the President and CEO of School of Rock. Find out more about School of Rock at franchise.org/franchise-opportunities/school-of-rock.