Which franchisees have the highest potential for growth? In this battle tested strategy, we discuss how Amy Perkins, Senior Business Consultant from Ben & Jerry’s, focused on “middle-to-top” franchisees helping lift results across her region.
It is easy for franchise coaches to focus on the weakest performers, since they are in need of the most help, and are often the squeakiest wheels. But, it is the top performers who have the most potential impact. We sat down with Amy to discuss what she did, and what other coaches can learn.
How did you get into coaching, and franchising in general?
Amy: I started at Ben & Jerry’s right out of college and was in the trenches from the ground up. I did all kinds of roles – I started as a scooper then moved up to assistant manager, manager, regional manager and area manager for all of Vermont. Later I moved my way out West and became a business consultant and have been doing that for 12 years based out of the San Francisco Bay area.
What do you like about working at Ben & Jerry’s?
Amy: Like most coaches, I spend the majority of my time talking about sales and improving business operations. Because Ben & Jerry’s focuses on so much more than that, I also get to have really unique and interesting conversations with our franchisees.
Ben & Jerry’s isn’t just the name of our brand – the guys that give it their name are two very colorful people with a lot to say. Ben once said, “business has a responsibility to give back to the community.” I love that I can go into a franchise business consultation and talk about social mission and what the franchisees are doing to change the world within their community.
And something that I think about every single day – Jerry said, “If it’s not fun, why do it?” and I’m pretty lucky that that’s how I get to live my day-to-day life – it’s a pretty awesome experience!
Which franchisees do you focus on when coaching?
Amy: I tend to focus on the group of franchisees that hovers above the middle, but not quite at the top. Results don’t often come from the folks that are already at the top because those franchisees are typically already doing what it takes to be there. But if you can focus on this middle-to-top pack, you can see some spectacular results.
Why does that make a difference?
Amy: I think that those franchisees have a higher opportunity to move the needle; they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get themselves to the top – they‘re both hungry and thirsty -they have the drive and the desire. They’re the ones that are usually the most adaptable and willing to take on new strategies or ideas. You’ll see them putting their necks out more.
They just know that the harder they work, the more they’re going to see the results. So, these folks are not necessarily comfortable just sitting at the middle of the pack since they can see what top performers can do. They want to be a top performer and they strive to be up there. They want to be at the top as much as they think they deserve it. Of course I support all of my franchisees, but I put a special focus on this group.
What do you think is a common pitfall for other franchise coaches?
Amy: I think we’re all guilty of this, but a lot of franchise business consultants and coaches spend way too much of their time focusing their efforts on the bottom 20%. It’s easy to get sucked into this. You get stuck focusing on that bottom 20% and they don’t really go anywhere. They’re not necessarily detrimental to the business, they’re just kind of comfortable living in a space that isn’t really affecting any sort of real change.
Can you tell us about some concrete examples of when this strategy has worked for you?
Amy: As part of my yearly plan, I chose three franchisees that I knew lived in this middle-to top space that I thought I could make the most direct impact on. I knew that they already had the drive and the desire, and I knew that with a little bit of extra support, they could really have an incredible year.
For the whole year I was hyper-focused on sales and trying to get as many touches in as possible. I called them more. I reached out to them more and asked them more questions. My favorite question – especially at my first consultation of the year is “what is your goal” followed up with “how are we going to make it happen”. I do this because it’s easy to create the goals, it’s much, much harder to figure out the execution plan. I made my field visits with them super-focused and direct, and I wanted them to know that I was rooting for them.
I also didn’t necessarily need them to know that they were on my top 3 list, they were simply getting additional support from me, and even though they didn’t know it, their results were pretty incredible.
Tell us about the results…
Amy: So, of the three, “Shop #1” off-premise sales, which includes business catering and events, were up 25%. Her scoop shop was also up 5%. Her staff was happier than ever. They were selling more of the right product mix, which resulted in a higher average check, a lower cost of goods sold. She also won one of our biggest awards at our annual meeting this year. She was completely shocked, but she deserved it!
For “Shop #2”, their off-premise sales were actually up over 100%. We tier all of our franchisees in our off-premise world, ranging from “Tier 1” if they’re just starting out, to “Tier 4” if they are the best of the best. Shop 2 actually hopped tiers – from Tier 2 to Tier 3. That’s not easily accomplished so I was really proud of them.
For Shop #3, she was a multi-unit operator, and she’d been in a unique situation in that she has three very different types of operations: one neighborhood scoop shop, one that’s a high-volume tourist shop, and thirdly she has a strong off-premise program. She managed to grow all three, which is pretty amazing. In doing this she really had to execute three different strategic marketing plans simultaneously.
Shop sales grew, transaction counts were up, average check was up, and off-premise was up. Their P&L was the tightest I’ve ever seen it. They were able to invest in their staff and grow a manager as well. She found herself putting out less fires and was able to focus more on driving business results. A whirlwind year for her!
What was your biggest challenge in terms of implementing this strategy?
Amy: It was hard to determine who to pick. Every organization has really strong franchisees and management teams and determining who you really want to put high amounts of effort into can be a bit of a challenge. But if you can determine the the middle-to-top performers, you’re going to see the most return.
What advice would you give another coach who’d want to try this strategy
Amy: At the beginning of the year, choose three to five franchisees and their management teams that you know are invested in their business and have what it takes to move that needle. Depending on your work load, this could represent from 5-10% of your franchisees.
Determine what your goals are for each, and then formulate your plan. Track the plan and check in regularly on the goals. Make as many touches with these franchisees as you possibly can, and watch their results play out. Don’t feel like it’s ever too late to start this process – it can be started at any point in the year!
What is the biggest benefit to you as a coach?
Amy: I think it also allows you to control the conversation from a field rep position. Sometimes franchisees think the role of their business coach is solely compliance and I think that’s short-sighted. I think it’s part of my job, and I think it’s an important part of my job, but I don’t want to focus exclusively on that.
To the contrary I want to say to the franchisee: “if you’ll let me be your business coach, we can do something pretty magical here.” This strategy allowed me to support each of the franchisees in my region, but by focusing on these high-potential franchisees – see the results! I could not be happier and I am much more fulfilled as a coach. It just felt good.
With everyone we interview, we ask a series of fun questions! Here is Amy’s Q&A!
What new beliefs, behaviors, or habits adopted in the last five years have most positively impacted your life?
I have been a pretty die-hard Orangetheory Fitness fan for almost two years now. I’m healthier, I’m lighter, I’m stronger, I’m happier, I have more energy and all of those things are great. But I feel like it’s changed who I am – it just keeps me in check and it makes me a better person. Since they are a franchise with locations across my region, I always have a little piece of home when I’m on the road.
Purchase of less than $100 that’s improved your life.
Melatonin. It’s changed my life – because I sleep a whole lot better than I used to!
What would you want to put on a billboard?
“Buy the plane ticket.”
What books have you most gifted to other people?
Kissing in Manhattan by David Schickler