Longevity through evolution

All too often, brands emerge in a flash of brilliance, only to fizzle out unceremoniously when the going gets tough

Longevity through evolution

Less common, but even more worrying, is when a seemingly well-established and successful business becomes obsolete or irrelevant in the eyes of its customers through failure to grow, evolve and adapt. In a modern, fast-paced world, no brand can afford to stagnate.

Here, Frank Milner, Global President ofTutor Doctor, offers advice to prospective franchisees on how to identify brands that are making the most of modern solutions, why it’s important and how these things help to ensure longevity in the marketplace.

Having been at the helm of Tutor Doctor for nearly 17 years, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the transformative power of leveraging technology, talent, and collective knowledge to drive franchise success. But spotting these things at work internally isn’t always easy, especially when you already have a wish list akin to a bingo card to tick off along the way.

The first word of advice would be to take care not to underestimate smaller models or dismiss them as simplistic, and, equally, don’t assume that because a brand is larger, multinational or in a progressive industry, its inner workings are dynamic by default.

A good franchisor will always have one eye on the future, balancing emerging technology and market trends with insights and analysis of current performance. Evidence of new software being piloted, new processes being trialled and new suppliers – perhaps ones who are more sustainable or those that operate with more sophisticated automation – are definite green flags. These things should give you confidence that a brand has a great feedback loop with franchisees about where efficiencies can be made, as well as a willingness to invest finances and resources into model-enhancing technology for the long-term benefit of the network.

In the world of education, for example, technology is playing a pivotal role. By developing and rolling out cutting-edge solutions, such as our interactive learning tools and online tutoring platform, we enhanced the student experience and gained a competitive edge in the market. Had we stopped there, we wouldn’t have been in the lead for long – today we’re exploring and developing powerful AI in our internal processes, which have been transformative for our franchisees’ businesses.  

But before you get carried away on the tech-train, it’s important to remember that it’s people who will make or break a brand. In a franchise, the ripple effect is even more powerful. You are always advised to seek out validation of the model and experience with the franchisor from existing franchisees during the due diligence process – it’s very run of the mill. To help you get a truer picture of what’s really going on, why not ask for an unfiltered list of franchisees and pick your own to speak to. Better yet, ask for one or two top, average and poor performers to chat to and set yourself a project to identify why each franchisee is in their current situation. After all, they all have access to the same resources…

People power begets longevity. No franchisee is going to be happy 100% of the time – I’m certainly not. Are you? But a network of collaborative, satisfied and motivated franchisees who all share the common vision of the brand are the cornerstones of enduring success. A franchisor who facilitates and nurtures this environment is one you should want to be a part of.

Try not to focus solely on the minutiae of initial training. It’s important, yes, but every half-decent franchisor will have a training programme locked down. What happens to you mid- and long-term? Here is a window into those ‘inner workings’ that will see a brand wilt or thrive. What ongoing development and mentoring mechanisms are in place? How does a franchisor make sure that if you are a top performer, you don’t end up simply left to your own devices? Tutor Doctor’s peer-to-peer ‘Going for Growth’ groups, regular specialist Boot Camps and personalised review programmes galvanise a dynamic and resilient network made up of franchisees who are always seeking improvement for themselves and their peers.

And it’s not just franchisees who need to be happy and fulfilled, aligned with missions and values. A franchisor’s head office and support teams operate as a hive-mind, a knowledge bank of skills, experience and passion. Recruiting the best talent and retaining them long term should be a critical component in any brand’s business plan.

Regardless of the sector, size or age of the franchise you have your eye on, evidence of strategic future planning needs to be on your bingo card!

Frank Milner
Frank Milner