Any business owner knows full well that networking is a major advantage when working to grow a business. Even the best technology can’t replace good old fashioned interpersonal relationships, and this is especially true for franchisees. In fact, the franchisee mantra has always been “In business for yourself, but not by yourself,” a phrase coined by fast food tycoon Ray Kroc. Traditionally this refers to the relationship between franchisor and franchisee, but it can also pertain to the relationship between individual franchisees who are part of the same family.
Consider the wealth of information held by others within the franchise community, including high level executives. Many seasoned franchisees have gone through rigorous processes to grow their own franchise portfolio, meaning they have first-hand knowledge of how to tackle unusual problems that aren’t touched on in the owner’s manual. Just as a business becomes successful by hiring the most talented employees, so too can a franchise grow by rubbing shoulders with others in the field, and learning from their experience.
Imagine sitting down with franchise owners and discussing revenue targets, growth goals and franchise trends over lunch. For that one hour, you might be presented with a multitude of networking opportunities to form new relationships that could directly lead to the growth of your franchise. These kinds of alliances can be invaluable, mutually beneficial, and make the entire process that much more enjoyable. If you happen to get stuck with a problem you’re having trouble solving, your networking contacts are only a phone call away, and could have solutions you never thought of. Similarly, it’s possible to team up with businesses that you might never have considered in order to pursue new marketing and advertising campaigns. Finally, don’t count out the possibility of acquiring new talent to bring on board. The more contacts you have within the franchise circle, the better your access to a diversified talent pool.
To properly network within the franchise field, it’s important to understand the kinds of franchise opportunities that are out there. Consider local and regional as well as national, or even international franchise contacts. Don’t be intimidated. You can find local franchise networking contacts simply by visiting a trade show, career fair or a community fundraising event. Introduce yourself, exchange pleasantries and see what the other side has to say about their own franchise experiences. Wherever companies are actively involved in local events, you can be sure that franchise networking opportunities are aplenty. If you’re confident enough to pursue a larger network, think about attending international trade shows, conventions or corporate speaking events. Once you’ve built your network, don’t let it sit. Consider narrowing down your list of networking contacts to a specific circle that you intend to stay in contact with on a routine basis. Schedule meetings or lunches to touch base and exchange ideas, discuss new developments in the franchise world, or pass challenges to one another to seek ways of tackling them. Not only is this an excellent business strategy, but it strengthens communication and interpersonal skills which can have a positive impact not just for your franchise, but you as an individual. It builds confidence, trust and partnership.
Always remember the kind of advice you’re going to get from your networking contacts, as well. These are people who are far more inclined to give you neutral advice, as opposed to that which always cuts in your favour. Family and friends might be an excellent support mechanism, but your business networking contacts probably won’t sugar-coat anything for your benefit, which can be invaluable. They may not always tell you what you want to hear, but they will most certainly tell you what you need to hear.
Finally, it pays to consider what franchise networking can do for you on a technological level. They may be using innovative software, hardware or other tools and methods that might benefit your franchise immensely. The broader your networking stretches, the more ideas will trickle down the wire, allowing you to better your business across the board.
Historically, there are no downsides to networking, and franchisees can certainly build on the initial advantage they hold as part of a larger franchise chain, simply by adding new voices into the discussion. If the concept is intimidating, fear not! You’ll soon find that this kind of networking is pleasant, fun, and a massive boost both to your confidence, and your franchise business!
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