Tag Archives: business

Working In A Franchise Network My Grandmother Would Be Proud Of

 

Full disclosure: I work for a company that is part of a franchise network. Does that make me biased? Of course. But, being a human beings that form opinions on everything, we are all biased, right? Right. Just hear me out.

I am fortunate enough to work in an absolutely amazing franchise organization, and I have done so (officially) for almost 7 years. Unofficially for 18. Let me give you so background:

About 20 years ago, my grandmother was in her final moments before passing to the other side. From what I remember of her, she was a wonderful woman. She was generous, loving, selfless and always jumped at the chance to serve someone else. The majority of her life, she worked professionally as a geriatric nurse. If you asked her what she did, she would probably just tell you that she was there for people when nobody else could be.

That was her outlook on life. All the stories I have heard from my family validates her altruistic attitude. My father tells me of times he asked her why she would stay late at work, sometimes hours after punching out, and she would tell him that there was a patient that just needed someone to hold their hand and be there with them. “I have a family at home, but they have nobody.”

When the time came that my grandmother needed medical help at home due to numerous serious health issues, there were no nurses, no caregivers, nobody outside of family (many of whom lived hours away) that did anything more than their “job.” There is a world of difference between doing your job, and fulfilling your responsibility, but that is another story for another day.

Many times, my parents packed all the kids in the car for a trip to Bakersfield to go see grandma. When she passed, we learned that the few people that came out to do their “job” had actually taken advantage of my grandparents. When valuables turned up missing and employers were of no help holding anyone accountable, there was a lot of frustration!

It was not 2 years after the passing of my grandmother that my father stumbled across Home Instead Senior Care. The small Midwestern startup was in its infancy. Paul and Lori Hogan founded the company just 2 years prior, the same year of my grandmother’s passing. When they began interviewing friends and neighbors to find someone to spend some time with Grandma Manhart, Paul’s grandmother, they soon discovered they were not the only ones torn between caring for their loved ones, and raising their own young family. Out of a need for trustworthy help, Home Instead Senior Care was born.

I still remember Paul and his brother John flying to Fresno to visit my dad, sharing their vision of what growing old should be like, what we could do to have a positive impact in the world and how we could change the face of aging. In 1996, when I was only 11 years old, my father bought the first Home Instead Senior Care franchise in the state of California, and the 6th in their entire network. Thousands of hours, countless late nights at the office with my dad and 18 years later, that vision and purpose has never changed. What has changed is the scale in which that passion is now spread throughout the world. From 6 franchises to now over 1,000, Home Instead Senior Care has grown up to become the thought leader on senior care and aging issues in over 18 countries.

But… it’s a franchise network. They are franchises! Doesn’t that limit the ability for individual franchisees to innovate and “own” their brand? Not in the slightest. Though Home Instead may share many similarities with other franchise organizations, there is a world of difference. I’d like to share just 3 of them.

Sharing the Vision

Having a noble cause is nothing unique nor is it enough to justify a substantial risk. Anyone can believe something virtuous and profound. The difference is realizing that vision and creating action. That is a tall order, and not something you can expect to happen overnight and on your own. Each individually owned and operated Home Instead Senior Care franchise office is supported by a dedicated Business Performance Coach. Essentially, we all have our own business consultants. These guys are dedicated to the success of each franchise office. To give you an understanding, I speak with my BP coach on an almost weekly basis. I’ve sent an email with a simple question, and my cell phone is ringing 30 seconds later and it’s Mark, “Hey, I saw your email and I think I have an answer for you…”

Sharing the Critique

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Everybody needs that gut-check and strong dose of reality. The Home Instead network organizes their franchise owners into groups with a healthy cross-section of revenue levels and shared economic/legislative environments to serve as a virtual Board of Directors for one another. These owners voluntarily share business plans, goals, strategies and financials openly with each other. They meet twice a year in person and twice over the phone and hold each other accountable. Each owner has to justify themselves to their peers. Nobody is exempt from critique. These other owners have no monetary incentive to make the other succeed. The philosophy is simple: if we are going to succeed as a brand, then we must do it together!

Sharing the Culture

Our annually held international convention is something special. Each April, over 1,500 franchise owners and key players meet in Omaha to receive training, share experiences and celebrate the wonderful CAREGivers that we are honored to work with. That alone is worth the trip, but the icing on the cake is the Home Office staff. For 3 days, these corporate workaholics transform into tour guides, dancers, rappers, singers, musicians, servers, mentors, stand-up comedians… you name it! The culture of Home Instead is so genuine and real, that every year I spend the flight home grinning and asking myself, “What in the world just happened?” The spirit of love and the attitude of service exudes from every touchpoint and it’s impossible to mistake the authentic commitment to the core values of our organization.

Now if you doubt the freedom these franchises have to “own” their brand, just take a look at our Facebook page, or our Twitter account. These are not cookie-cutter accounts that are automated with a bland “message” to push. FYI, I manage both of them along with my step-brother.

Now, I know these are not unique attributes. Many companies have similar programs or attitudes. But nobody does it like Home Instead. As Home Instead, Inc. president Jeff Huber once said about our commitment to service and excellence, “We don’t do these things because we’re Home Instead. It’s not an obligation to live up to a name. We are Home Instead because we do these things. That’s what gives us our identity. It’s who we are!

And that, my friends, is a franchise organization that my grandmother would be proud of.

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You’re Defending the Wrong Person

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Many of us have heard the phrase “we are like a family here” when people talk about their job. We always talk about it, but it’s not too likely that many of us actually believe it. Often times, this is something many of us say to reassure ourselves that we have some sense of security when, in fact, there is none.

I wanted to share an experience I had this past week with conflict and disagreement with people I see on a daily basis – my work family.

Two ladies I work with were having some difficulty with one another (Since I know they may end up reading this, I will remind them that they don’t need to identify themselves. It’s totally fine to stay anonymous!). 

I was out of the office, but had been keeping up with emails coming in on a regular basis. It isn’t unusual to get about 3-4 group emails first thing in the morning covering things that came up during the evening. This particular day, I noticed a few remarks that seemed to be directed more at an individual than they were the group. Naturally there was a defensive response. The tension was growing, and I knew we had to have a conversation, soon!

I shot back a quick email telling them that we would be meeting together as soon as I returned to the office, in about 20 minutes. As I drove back, I was reflecting on a talk I had just been listening to the night before. (You can watch the talk on Youtube here) I started to think about who we were as an organization and our “culture” (the new hip word in business). I couldn’t help but think about the fact that we are all on the same team and shooting for the same goal, just like a family. Not the typical self-assurance label we all hear, but truly part of a larger group with a common purpose and appreciation of each other.

When I got back, I pulled the two ladies into my office and told them “Ok, I’m going to start this by saying that nobody is right, and everyone is wrong. Now, I need you to both tell each other what you have not been saying all along.” It soon became evident that there were deeper issues than just this specific incident. There were some serious communication issues. For both of them, they were not used to having an environment where these discussions were not only appropriate, but encouraged.

I try to communicate a sense of openness and safety in our organization. I believe that secrets serve nobody and that trust is built by being honest and candid. I want everyone who works in our office to feel that they are safe. If someone is there to serve only themselves, they don’t stick around. Playing CYA is no way to build trust.

I told both of these ladies what they already know: we are all in this line of work for the right reason and they are both fantastic at what they do. With that in mind, they should know that we all need to defend each other. If you feel you need to defend your actions, you are defending the wrong person. If we all trust each other and do all we can to earn that trust in return, then we will succeed.

Ultimately, we are a family. We will have disagreements and arguments, but ultimately we want to best for each other. If we never had conflict, what kind of relationships would we have built? They sure wouldn’t be genuine, that’s for sure.

After a lot of tears and talk about safety, we all left feeling better. We got a lot accomplished and we are back to growing together. It won’t be the last time we have a problem. We are in the people and relationships business, and conflict is part of human nature. Loke we tell our clients so often – It’s not about promising the absence of problems but promising that when they occur that we will be there to make them right.

At the end of the day, a business should be a family. We shouldn’t be on our “best behavior” but instead should be on “our behavior.” If we all look out for each other, we all win. And when we have conflict, we just have to be humble and be sure we are defending the right person – each other.

 

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The Wrong Side of History

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I’m not going to pretend that I’m always right about stuff, or even that I’m usually right. I’m not a “visionary” or natural entrepreneur. What I am good at though, is spotting an egotistical d-bag that just doesn’t get it.

The other night I was following my usual evening routine: lay down in bed, whip out the ear plugs and listen to either a good book or my guilty pleasure. After realizing that since my wife is out of town for work I have no need for ear plugs, I took advantage of the midnight freedom and stood the iPad up and cranked it as loud as I could.

It was during this point that I stumbled across a gem of a video on YouTube. I watched Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, criticizing the iPhone back in 2007 just after it’s release. Watch the HILARIOUS video here.

As I’m listening to the guy go on about Microsoft’s “long term strategy” I couldn’t help but notice something: he’s focusing on the wrong thing! Steve is talking about price point, features, price again, marketshare advantage, and just about anything else that diverts attention away from the fact that Microsoft doesn’t have a well-defined image. They have no why.

So how did this happen? Steve gave a really good example of how they screwed it all up. Quite simply, Microsoft’s mindset was that their customers wanted a cheap device that they were familiar with and that had every feature you could imagine crammed in (I wonder how many focus groups they ran to get that answer). They didn’t understand their customers. They didn’t understand the market. They tried to float by on their clout and the false sense of confidence that nobody was challenging them.

By focusing on price, features and the transaction, they missed the chance to share their identity. I don’t mean the corporate name or clever tagline – I mean who they really are. That’s what we assume we are getting when companies talk to us, right? When we see an advertisement or speak to a sales rep., everything that is communicated to us becomes the identity of that company. THAT is who they really are.

Most of us will spend the extra money to buy the same product or service from someone we know and trust. There is a reason I buy my milk from Target and not the shady convenience store on the corner. It’s the same brand of milk at the exact same price, but who would buy milk from some hole in the wall when there’s a perfectly good Target down the road? After all, I know Target. They’ve been good to me. I feel like it’s my store and I always have a great experience there (even if I walk out with $80 extra worth of stuff I didn’t expect to buy when I walked in).

Steve Ballmer thought people would never pay $500 for a cell phone. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize that we weren’t buying a product at all, we were buying an image. When I shared the video with my step-mom this afternoon she asked me, “What’s a Zune?” And there it is. That, my friends, is what the wrong side of history looks like.

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