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“A marathon is hundreds of miles. The finish is the last 26.2”
The life of a franchisor is a challenging one. If we were to go with a sporting analogy then I’d describe the franchising journey as an ultra marathon run over a variety of terrains and over a lengthy period of time – more like the Marathon Des Sables than the London Marathon – with maybe with a triathlon or two thrown in for good measure!
And just like a marathon runner, a franchisor (and their brand) needs to be fit enough both physically and mentally to withstand the challenges and strains of the race (although to describe it as a race doesn’t seem right – it’s certainly not about who finishes fastest!). They need dogged determination and an unwavering commitment to their goals, even when the going gets tough and they feel like quitting. They need to be at the peak of their physical fitness – not only before the race but also during it, to make sure that they can keep going through the rough terrain and the rocky patches – and especially when they get to that dreaded point – the Wall. All long distance runners will be familiar with the Wall – the point in a marathon, generally around mile 18 to 20, when the stored glycogen in your body has depleted and you’re overcome with feelings of fatigue and negativity. The finish line seems unachievable and your body and mind are crying out to give up.
A successful emerging franchisor will have done the necessary planning and preparation before they embark on the franchising journey – aiming to get their business model and franchise package into a state of peak physical fitness in order to be as attractive as possible to potential franchisees. If they know what they’re embarking on – through reading, researching, speaking to other runners – they may also have a strategy and tricks in their pocket in place to help them when they do come up against the Wall. However there are other traits of a long distance athlete that a franchisor wanting to remain in the race and outpace their fellow runners will need to work on developing :
A franchisor wanting to be a leader in the field will need to have huge reserves of energy, most likely fuelled by passion and excitement for their industry. They will need to be willing and able to keep spotting new opportunities and gaps in the market where they can forge through (or around) the running pack and leave the rest behind. However, a wise franchisor will also be able to recognize that sprinting ahead at the beginning is unlikely to be the best strategy – cheered on by the crowd you might feel amazing as you bounce through the first mile or ten, but a franchisor developing and leading a strong and sustainable franchise network still needs to be enthusiastic and energetic at twice that distance! It’s importance for any franchisor to ensure that they have taken time to set a pace that is achievable for them and for their brand, and not to speed ahead to try and keep up with others!
Any marathon runner needs strength. Basic strength training helps you to cope and remain on your feet when you’re running in a crowded pack of hundreds of jostling, huffing and puffing runners, not just when you’re the only runner in sight! If a franchise brand doesn’t have the basics in place then it’s likely to stumble and trip over at the first sign of trouble. A franchisor must ensure that they have not only a tried and tested product or service, a proven (profitable!) business model and the necessary intellectual property in place, but they must also have the processes and systems in place to support a growing franchise network
Flexibility and Agility
As with any business – particularly so in a crowded marketplace as in a group of runners – a franchise brand and the franchisor leading it needs to be adaptable and open to exploring new paths. One route through the racing pack may be blocked or be narrowed – a successful franchisor must be able to respond quickly to changing situations and be open to taking different routes should the need arise. If they fail to do this, they will always simply be following in someone else’s running steps!
Franchising is not a quick sprint! A franchisor needs to have staying power and to be able to remain focused on the overall business vision and goals. What helps here massively is having support in the crowd and from others running alongside – I am personally a passionate advocate of collaboration and peer support and I know that I would not have been able to get through some of the toughest times in my own franchising journey without other franchisors and entrepreneur friends to keep me motivated and push me along. As any good marathon runner will testify, training partners are crucial for those days when you simply don’t want to get out of bed to go for a run.
Planning is key to any marathon success. You identify the race you want to run, the finishing line you want to cross. You have an idea in your head about when you want to reach it. You then formulate a plan to achieve that goal – what you will need to do, when and where. However, sometimes life throws us a curve ball. Sometimes in running, that could be a true storm – the weather! And that’s when we go back to the flexibility – a runner can’t be thrown completely off course by a rain shower and let that disrupt their training schedule completely. A great franchisor will remain focused despite the unexpected obstacles that crop up in their path and understand the need to adapt when situations change.
Running a marathon is not just physically demanding. It’s emotionally tough too. I’ve previously written about the importance of the franchisor mindset and how crucial it is to be emotionally prepared for the highs and lows of franchising. Just like a marathon runner, a franchisor needs to have a strategy and support network in place for when they do hit the Wall – and to be able to recognize the importance of “rest” days in the training regime too so that they remain physically and mentally fit and well and able to continue to lead the business forward and keep the pace going.
The physical and mental challenges, the exhaustion but also the sheer joy of success are exactly why it’s easy to draw some real parallels between a franchisor and a marathon runner. But as I said at the beginning, running a franchise brand is not like running a marathon. It’s like running several marathons. Over and over again. You might think that you’re nearing the finish line……and then you realize you’re simply at the start of another, different race!
April 1, 2019 at 06:08PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs