FOLLOW THE RULES: The Role of Communication in a Franchise

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Curves GymA Curves Fitness Club: Trainer (Left) and Members

 How does someone go about opening a franchise? According to Sean Dwyer, “You actually just go online and apply, but you have to [be able to] pass a number of strict qualifications.” “Mostly, it has to do with your wealth, really your net assets” Dwyer says of the qualifications. “They [the franchise] want people that are not going to go bankrupt,” he adds, “and the people that have franchise experience obviously get a first choice over those who don’t.”

Who is Sean Dwyer?

Sean Dwyer is an associate professor of marketing, and he has franchising experience from two Curves fitness club franchises that he founded and managed with his wife from 2003 – 2009. He has been working at Louisiana Tech University’s College of Business since 1996. He has a very knowledgeable business background, having earned a BA in economics, an MBA in finance/international business, as well as a Ph.D. in marketing. He also has experience with businesses from working as an associate investment manager, a certified financial planner, and as a business broker.

What was Sean’s Driving Motivation for Franchising?

“We [he and his wife] were broke,” Sean says, “and we had [private] school tuition for my kids that we were having trouble with.” After reading about the franchise’s low cost and innovative setup in an article, he said “This is going to work. I know a good business idea when I see one.” His gamble would go on to pay dividends. Curves was later recognized as the fastest growing franchise chain the U.S. by Entrepreneur magazine in May of 2005.

How Does a Franchisee Communicate with a Franchisor?

Franchisees typically communicate with franchisors verbally and in writing. According to Sean, “The franchisee communicates with the franchiser through email and then through the franchise regional representatives.” He also said that these representatives “…would come through to make sure you’re doing the right thing, [make sure] you’re not selling something other than the franchise.”

How Does a Franchise Communicate with Their Staff?

Sean said he always wrote directives to his staff that included “Any changes in our policies, changes in our operations, new promotions, [and] new products.” According to him, this was “The best way to communicate to them, any changes or additions to our business, was to type it up, in writing, and make them sign their name.” Dwyer found written communication easier than verbally communicating via meetings. He said meetings were difficult because “You can’t get 12 people to come to one or even two meetings because, you know, people have commitments.”

What is Communication’s Role in Customer Relations?

Dwyer’s favorite way to draw in new customers was by using flyers. This is because he found them “…inexpensive and effective.” He also used ads and promotions as other ways of driving in customers. To keep customers, however, Dwyer said he would “Write up new contests [or] new promotions in-house for the members” which “…kept them coming.” Sean considered that hiring “…people who could communicate well, who were likeable” was essential. This was so when they’d stand “…in the middle of a circle of people working on machines…” and talk the whole time, and they would thereby be able to form relationships with the members. If a customer got angry, Sean handled it by following the franchise’s list of rules on “…how to verbally handle angry customers” or using “…an apology note that we would write if needed.”

What Life Lessons has Sean Taken from Franchising?

One life lesson Sean has taken from franchising is “Put others first, and everything else will take care of itself.” He has also taken away the principle of “Follow The [Franchise] Rules.” This is because he believes that when you buy a franchise “…you’re buying a blueprint for success.”

Devin Locke, Guest Blogger