Pivot: an action that occurs when a company makes a fundamental change to its operations and/or direction.

That’s exactly what we in the franchise industry are seeing in the business current economic environment. It’s even being called the “Pandemic Pivot!” There is no playbook for this. You can’t Google how to respond or watch a YouTube video for a “how to” demonstration. Nor are there dance steps for it! Franchise companies that are pivoting and figuring out how to survive this pandemic are resourceful and have the strong leadership. Specifically, they have the management smarts to quickly assess, implement and support their franchisees in these changing, dynamic conditions. This is where franchising can really shine. How do they react in a crisis? This is one of those important differentiators that separate good businesses from stellar ones.

When we think of franchising, we tend to think of fast food restaurants. Certainly they have the most flashing signs by the side of the road and garner the most headlines even though they only account for just 25% of all franchises. We know they’re doing a yeoman’s job of surviving through their take-out windows and delivery services.

But franchising is more than just fast food so how are other segments doing and what do their pivots look like?

Let’s shine the spotlight on these four industries: fitness, senior care, home services and business coaching. Here’s what’s happening in their neck of the woods.

It’s a new way to keep a company up and running

Let’s see what Xponential Fitness is up to. You tend to think a leader in the boutique fitness space with eight different brands that are all brick and mortar might just succumb to the circumstances. Not so! They have a Hollywood-style recording studio and had been developing a full digital experience of video on-demand workouts prior to the current crisis. With this GO™ platform now launched for each brand, Xponential Fitness is keeping their members active and engaged while allowing their business owners to continue to generate revenue.

Xponential headquarters quickly set up an online gift card purchasing platform that directly supports individual studios – all 1500 of them! The franchisor is absorbing all transaction costs and fees associated with the new platform while it is also cutting their marketing fund fee in half to each of its franchisees. Outstanding! At the local level, owners are also pivoting. Some are even renting out their bikes from CycleBar or rowers from Row House to members who want to continue their workouts at home!

Anthony Geisler, Founder and CEO says, “We don’t plan on closing any studios.” Nor do they plan on furloughing any of their 200 staff. Impressive!

Working together

At Right at Home Senior Care, Chief Development Officer, Eric Little, said he is so proud of how the network has responded. Home office and franchise partners have always worked together well, but in this crisis, they have come together even more. Since so many of their franchise partners got into this business because they have a heart for seniors, they are even more grateful to be involved in a business that is essential. They are certainly making a difference and having an even bigger impact in their communities during this unprecedented time. 

One of the earliest decisions management made was to source Personal Protective Equipment for all their caregivers in the field. It was best for their franchisees that corporate headquarters source these supplies to ensure quality and availability. Pallets of the gloves and masks shipped to the home office where staff held “pack and ship” parties to distribute the goods to the almost 500 local offices. Management recognized the need, took the necessary steps to address it and absorbed the cost. Win-win! Eric said, “I couldn’t be more proud of all the home office staff for pitching in, figuring it out and facing it head on.” This company is very modest and doesn’t like to “toot their own horn,” but I think this story is deserving of a little ink.

Focused on sustainability

One of the distinct advantages franchise owners have in this time of change is the close connection with and direct support of a franchise company who is dedicated to helping them not only survive but succeed. Owners know they are not alone as they work through these tremendous challenges and make the necessary pivots to best service their local communities.

Home Franchise Concepts (HFC), parent company of Budget Blinds, Tailored Living, Concrete Craft and AdvantaClean, is focused on franchisees’ sustainability. HFC brought in an expert to help their 1000+ franchisees navigate the CARES program, the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). With in-house expertise, franchisees got quick answers to their questions, help connecting with banks and assistance completing the necessary paperwork.

HFC also went to all their vendors across the four brands and asked for concessions. The vendors froze Accounts Receivable. They also gave up additional margin not only helping out the franchisee on the purchase side but also helping the end-user customer get a better price on the buying side. Another innovative pivot had HFC develop and mobilize virtual consultations for their franchisees to use with prospective customers. HFC absorbed the costs of both providing this important sale tool and the training to use it.

Jonathan Thiessen, Chief Development Officer, believes HFC is going to come out of this temporary situation like a scene from a movie on the last day of school. “The doors are going to burst open and business is going to be pouring out into the streets and the ones who used this time to staff up instead of down, train themselves and their people, and position themselves as community-focused are going to be the ones that are in a position to see their market share explode!”

The ripple effect

In these tough and uncertain times, another franchise concept, FocalPoint Business Coaching, is doing all it can for their business coaches, or what they call “the business frontline workers.” The FocalPoint home office quickly developed six new programs for their business coaches who are busy providing emotional support and economic guidance to their clients. As a franchisor, FocalPoint believes it’s only right for it to provide the same support and guidance for their coaches.

FocalPoint also believes in the concept of the “Pebble On The Pond:” their actions have a ripple effect on the people around them and the ones around them and so on. Scott Hartsfield, Director of Coach Recruitment, said, “We are taking measures to be that positive pebble in our communities’ time of need.”

High-road franchise companies and their franchisees are leading the way, revamping and revising so they come out better and stronger serving their customers and communities. Management teams meet a lot – some daily, some twice daily and some continue to meet on weekends given things are changing so quickly. Franchisors strive to over-communicate with their franchisees and address upfront the challenges and questions they have. The four franchisors highlighted in this article are focused on their franchisees’ succeeding; local owners need new tools and ways of engaging with customers so the home office provided them; local owners need help applying for money Congress made available to small business owners so help was provided; local owners need new PPE supplies so shipments started arriving; local owners need emotional support and economic guidance so new programs addressed them. One owner said, “It’s like the home office is the heart beat giving us direction, hope and faith.”

About the author: Diane Pleuss is a senior franchise consultant with FranChoice. She is also a Distinguished Toastmaster and past District Director. She enjoys conducting workshops on franchising at her local SCORE office, career transition groups and business forums.