Thursday, August 25, 2011

Franchisees are the QB & Franchisors are the Coach

(Please note - this blog originally appeared on the Franchise Business Review website and you can read it here.)

We were reviewing franchise performance at TGA Premier Junior Golf recently when the conversation shifted to the universal components of the top performers – the crème de la crème.  There were three:

1.    They get out of TGA what they put in (an adage hugely relevant to franchising), and they put in a lot.
2.    They follow the model. 
3.    They are engaged in the system.

As the discussion transitioned to what we at HQ can do to better facilitate these qualities, we found ourselves engaged in an age-old conversation about the role a franchisor plays in managing its franchisees. 

On one hand, we take personal responsibility for the success or failure of each franchisee and our instincts are to do everything we can to help.  On the other hand, each franchisee is the owner and boss of his or her TGA franchise, so we at HQ have to respect the fine line between being supportive and overbearing.

My colleague LeeAnn O’Donnell made a great analogy for this relationship that really stuck with me.  She said: “Franchisees are like the quarterback and we’re like the coach.”

Yes, exactly.

Coaches utilize years of experience and proven results to create the game plan and in-game support.  The franchisor.

Quarterbacks combine the coach’s game plan, natural talent and years of skill development to lead the team to success.  The franchisee.

Coaches/franchisors cannot control a QB's decision-making and actions during a play - nor should they want to.  But, they can provide a strong system that a great QB can become a legend in (i.e. Tom Brady, a 6th round draft pick, winning three Super Bowls with Bill Belichick) and an average QB can execute with success (i.e. the Baltimore Ravens winning the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer).

If you’re thinking about starting a franchise, I encourage you to consider three questions:

1.      Are you a QB comfortable with leading a team of role players (your employees) while shouldering responsibility for the execution and ultimate success/failure of your business?  If yes, proceed to #2.  If no, then employment with an established company is likely a better fit for you.

2.      Are you a team player who wants an experienced coach creating the game plan and helping you out?  If yes, proceed to #3.  If no, then starting a business alone from scratch is likely a better fit for you.

3.      Is the franchise system you’re considering a Bill Belichick (great), a Lovie Smith (decent) or a Josh McDaniels (poor)?  How does this match up with your own talents? 

a.      If you’re highly experienced, you can likely succeed in most competent systems, whether it’s Belichick or Smith’s, so you should probably pick whichever business is a better personal fit. 
b.      If you don’t have a lot of business experience, you can likely succeed with Belichick but you may struggle with Smith. 
c.      Under no circumstance should you continue looking at a Josh McDaniels system.

If you answered “yes” to the first two questions and your talents properly align with the quality of system in question 3, then you very well may be looking at a great business opportunity. 
Good luck and happy entrepreneuring.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wild Entrepreneurial Ride - Zuckerberg, Keg Cups & More

TechCrunch recently discovered an interview with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg from 2005 when the company was still very much in its infancy.  You can find the video below and watching it in 2011 is almost shocking – a 21 year old Zuckerberg talking about how he doesn’t want to change the world and is happy with a network that solely includes college students.  Meanwhile, he’s holding a keg cup full of beer and glancing at a co-founder taking a keg stand.  This was filmed at their office.  Wow.

Fast forward six years later and you have a company valued at $84 billion and a 27 year old founder/CEO who has, in fact, changed the world.  According to TechCrunch, 11% of the world's population and 35% of people online are part of the Facebook community.

If there was ever a perfect example of the entrepreneurial journey, this is it.  Zuckerberg saw a pain – he couldn’t locate fellow students’ info at Harvard – and he created a solution.  He brought this solution into the marketplace and let the customers (i.e. users) take it from there.  He had no idea what he had created.  He threw his board into the ocean, found a wave and rode it.

To me, entrepreneurship is all about taking smart risks.  I remember my dad, an entrepreneur, telling me that he didn’t gamble in casinos because he couldn’t control the odds … whereas, at work, he gambled every day in venues where he could control the odds.  That stuck with me.

Zuckerberg had some traction at the time of this interview.  He would launch Facebook (“The Facebook” as it was referred to at that time) at a new university and have thousands of users within days.  So, he wasn’t working on blind faith.  He knew he had something, and he ran with it.  The “smart” part of the equation.

On the other hand, he had no clue what that “something” was or where the journey would take him.  As demonstrated by this video, he didn't have visions of grandeur.  But, he had the guts (or intoxicated bravado, depending on perspective) to move to Silicon Valley, put himself on the path and walk down it.  The “risk” part of the equation.

For every Mark Zuckerberg of the world, there are thousands of entrepreneurs who don’t make it.  However, for the millions of people with unexplored entrepreneurial aspirations, there are undoubtedly many Mark Zuckerberg’s out there.  If you take a smart risk, who knows what you'll create. 

Enjoy the video:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Coach Wooden & Leadership for Entrepreneurs

I was recently speaking with an accomplished entrepreneur about leadership when he referenced this John Wooden quote: “Never mistake activity for achievement.”

What a great maxim for today’s culture, and today’s entrepreneur.

I’ve always found the relationship between “entrepreneurship” and “leadership” to be interesting.  Paradoxical, to a degree.

On one hand, most of the good entrepreneurs I know are folks who are great at operating independently, and enjoy doing so.  They don’t like bureaucracy.  They despise long meetings.  They feel cramped sitting in an office all day.  They don’t like suits, cooler talk, memos or TPS reports.  They like to innovate.  Challenge the status quo.  Get things done.  This is why they shun the corporate world for a life in the trenches as an entrepreneur.

But on the other hand, if you’re successful as an entrepreneur, you then have to build the same corporate infrastructure that you left behind to become an entrepreneur in the first place.  Either that, or you need to hand over your baby to someone else – which some entrepreneurs do but many can’t and won’t.  These latter folks need to evolve from a small team captain into a C-level executive.  An organizational leader.

Motivated by this conversation and my enjoyment of the previous quote, I took off my USC hat for a weekend and dove into leadership books from the “Wizard of Westwood.”  I found many of the lessons relevant to myself as well as entrepreneurship in general.  These are my favorites (in addition to the "Pyramid of Success" and "Seven Point Creed") and perhaps you’ll be able to connect some of your own dots as well: 

·        Coach Wooden focused on process instead of the outcome.  “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”  For example, he taught players how to tie their sneakers in the first practice, and would often run plays over and over without shooting the basket.  What was important was not the shot but the action that made it possible.  "I'm not going to be talking to you about winning or losing because I think that's a byproduct of our preperation."

·        Coach Wooden experienced almost immediate success thanks to implementing an innovative, fast-break offense that disrupted and overpowered the slower traditional play of west-coast teams. The offense was based on the fitness, quickness, selflessness and teamwork of the players.

·        Although they were winning, they had yet to win a national championship so Coach Wooden decided to change tactics.  “Failure is not fatal.  Failure to change might be.”  “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

·        “Coach Wooden enjoyed winning, but he did not put winning above everything.  He was more concerned that we became successful as human beings.” - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

·        “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Amen.  Good luck and happy entrepreneuring.