Franchise Today is a podcast hosted by Paul Segreto. Last Wednesday, the show returned for its 6th year. The first guest of the year was Mary Kennedy Thompson, President of Mr. Rooter Plumbing and Executive Vice President of The Dwyer Group. Below are some of highlights from the show.
More education is needed about franchising as a small business model. Before getting into the main topic of the day, Mary and Paul discussed recent events in the franchising world, including challenges to the business model, and California governor Jerry Brown’s veto of SB 610. During the conversation, Paul touched upon a story about meeting with 11 or 12 senior executives from American Express after calling for a boycott of American Express by franchisees. What was the reason? Five years ago, when “Small Business Saturday” was initiated franchises were excluded. In the meeting, Paul said, while these are “very educated and experienced people,” it became clear “they didn’t get it about franchising” and they aren’t alone. Mary followed up with the tale of how the franchising model helped her become a business owner without a familial background of entrepreneurship.
Are franchise disputes indicative of a lack of a strong business culture? Is the franchisor aware of the interdependency franchise relationship and how it effects success? “When I look at the brands that are mentioned as having problems, you can tell there is a cultural issue there,” says Paul. “Culture is everything,” adds Mary. “Decisions are easy when you have a set of values to follow. I’d rather work in a company that has a set of values that sometimes we don’t get perfectly right than a company that has no values [where] you have nothing to get right.” The biggest takeaway was “value your people. Companies don’t build companies, people build companies.”
Sharing is crucial, and play can be beneficial to business. “I see myself as a player-coach,” says Mary. “My job is to share those best practices, get our presidents together, and we do that regularly. We have monthly meetings that are designed just for us to share things that we are doing that work well, that we can leverage across all the different brands. We also have some groups within our franchise groups that meet within their markets.” She also adds that the leadership summit The Dwyer Group throws at the beginning of each year is integral to the company’s success. “We take the top 10% of our franchisees…We go off to a cool and fun place because we believe play is an important part of learning. Sometimes, some of the best practice sharing happens sitting poolside and saying, ‘How are you recruiting those really good people?’ ‘What are you doing to keep them?’” Mary says that when the strongest people from each brand get together, all of them become even better from the experience.
Overall, it was a good episode with a lot of good discussion on not only the topics above, but also the VetFran and Operation Enduring Opportunity programs. Plus, in my opinion, the inspirational story about Doug Rogers, the president of Mr. Appliance, is worth the listen alone.