Surviving the tough times
Kristy Sheppard | Senior Corporate Affairs Manager | Mortgage Choice Limited
What role does passion for your customers, brand, products and services play during an economic downturn for a franchise business?
Surveys of potential franchisees that Mortgage Choice has independently commissioned in the past show job satisfaction (stimulation, challenge and personal achievement) and flexibility (ability to control your own time/movements/etc) are just as important as income potential to Australians who are looking into franchise business opportunities.
So, finding a franchisor that holds its network's passion, stimulation and satisfaction in high regard should be up among the top deciding factors for franchisees-to-be.
Running a small business is not just the purchase of a job, contrary to popular belief. For most it is the purchase of a life-defining career that needs to be nurtured and valued. A supportive, understanding, communicative franchisor holds its individual franchises in high regard and realises how valuable each business is to the franchisee and their staff.
This kind of franchisor will be the one that helps its franchise network stay motivated and passionate about their work, even in the tough times. This kind of franchisor contains staff who are passionate about their roles - supporting the franchise network while building the reach and strength of the overall business.
Franchisors must strive to understand each franchisee's situation and realise every franchisee runs a unique operation for an individual perspective, then tweak their approach to match that along with the industry's ever-changing landscape.
We are really proud to see Mortgage Choice rate number one on the latest topfranchise.com.au list for "Passion: how passionate franchisees are about their customers, brand, product or service they offer", a 50% improvement in that area since the previous update.
Why are our franchisees so satisfied? There are a few reasons & firstly, I believe they know we do our utmost to assist them in building their business. Also, they love their job - helping people achieve their property dreams is a unique responsibility that brings great satisfaction.
We were especially happy to read in the 10 THOUSAND FEET report that we ranked above the industry average in a number of areas, including "my franchise system provides good training opportunities to develop my personal skill set", "my franchise system is a well know brand" and "there is a good structure in place to allow sharing of knowledge between franchisees".
Obviously, these aspects of franchisor support have a lot to do with franchisees staying motivated and positive about their careers as small business owners.
At Mortgage Choice, satisfaction and high morale are engendered in ways such as regular communications from Group and State Offices, quick turnaround times with queries, a "can do" attitude from staff, learning opportunities such as professional, carefully planned national and state conferences, business development forums, comprehensive mentoring and support systems and incentives such as our quarterly and national Business Excellence Awards.
More importantly at times, our franchisees are admirable in their support and encouragement of each other. This and their love of their role in the community go a long way to keep satisfaction up and passion flowing, even in challenging times such as those we have seen recently.
When a volatile environment hits, a savvy franchisor will respond by undertaking a complete reassessment of aspects such as:
- Business systems and processes
- Organisational structure
- Staff accessibility to the franchise network
- The flow of work between departments and through to the franchise network
- Budgets and growth strategies of each department
For example, Mortgage Choice recently took a good, long look at its marketing campaigns and brand essence to see how it could best respond to an evolving housing finance market.
We conducted a strategic marketing review that included a thorough analysis of recent marketing activities as well as consumer focus groups concentrating on brand perception. This was followed by a two-day strategy session attended by Group and State Office staff, franchisees and external consultants. Both convinced us of the need to reinvigorate.
The review included the development of detailed key target audience profiles, which will guide the ongoing development of marketing initiatives. We are really keen to get our franchise network more involved in the process so we set up a National Marketing Committee consisting of franchisee representatives from each state, all of whom meet regularly with Group and State Office staff to collaborate on marketing strategy and implementation. The new look and feel will also be incorporated across internal departments.
We are excited about the direction Mortgage Choice is taking and are very pleased that our franchisees are able to provide even more input than they have in the past.
Franchisee sentiment is of utmost importance to successful franchisors. Without passion and the feeling that they are understood, franchise owners and their staff lose motivation. With less motivation, the quality of work falls. When that happens, a business will no longer thrive.
Keep the passion and you keep the faith and the confidence that you are on the right path. Small business owners work hard and positivity goes further than anything else.