As an advocate for both franchisors and franchisees, Christy Wilson Delk has been there and back.
In the late 90s, Christy left her job, sold her house, cashed out her 401(k), and took on an SBA loan to buy into a Kids ‘R’ Kids Academy franchise in Orlando, FL.
After 15 years of hard work, Christy flipped the script yet again in 2015, selling her franchise and exiting stage left with a tidy sum and a load of serviceable knowledge.
Today Christy teaches Responsible Business Management and Social Entrepreneurship at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL, where she leverages her experience to shape the next generation of franchisors and franchisees.
What are some trends you’ve been seeing in the franchise industry lately?
I think a focus on efficiency has started to pick up steam. How can I do more with the amount of time I have? What can I do to control operations better? How can all of this data be used more effectively?
A lot of these topics are covered in my book Adventures in Franchise Ownership. A focus on efficiency will either improve your quality of life or give you the kind of life you were going for to begin with. Or, even better, it allows you keep more of the revenue as profit.
Whether everyone realizes it or not, you can’t always increase revenue. But if you’re not being efficient then you’re leaving money on the table.
We tend to focus on the pressures and challenges of being a Franchisee, but what can we see in the dynamic between the Franchisor and Franchisee?
The industry as a whole is refining how the Franchisees and Franchisors are doing business, which requires an organic interplay between the two.
Hand in glove with efficiency is branding, both to the public and to the company itself because the last thing a Franchisor can do is rest on their laurels. Franchisors have to constantly be showing their Franchisees and the public through their marketing that they’re being relentless. They’re working to improve, to innovate, to deliver better.
You really can’t ever stop. You have to be one year ahead of your competitors with your planning.
What are you seeing in the industry that inspires you?
One overriding trend in the franchise industry is an emphasis on connecting, but in a slightly different way.
Both Franchisees and Franchisors are embracing a trend in giving back. The general public doesn’t realize that when they see a branded franchise, they’re actually looking at a small business, owned and operated by the people in their community.
One of the ways that the Franchisor’s help represent their Franchisees to their local markets is to work toward making a difference and giving back.
Firehouse Subs is tremendous with this. Chris and Robin Sorensen, the two brothers who founded Firehouse Subs, have dedicated a significant amount of time and resources to supporting the public safety community.
Editor’s Note Since its founding in 2005, the Firehouse Public Safety Foundation has raised over 51 million dollars to support first responders.
Sonny’s BBQ is another fantastic example. Eddie Titen took the idea of “BBQ to the Rescue” and went out in his community to serve free meals to local hospital workers, police officers, and daycare facilities. Titan pushed something that the Franchisor had developed, and garnered a lot of national—and local—press.
I think in general we’ll see a number of multi-unit franchise owners becoming known in their community as philanthropists and people who care. Franchising isn’t impersonal or about giant corporations.
It’s about people—first and foremost.
Adventures in Franchise Ownership: 4 Pillars to Strengthen, Protect and Grow Your Business is now available as an audiobook!
Editor’s Note A version of this interview previously appeared on Linkedin.