Archive for February, 2010

Countdown begins

The excitement is growing within the COMPUTER EXPLORERS team for the arrival of franchisees in less than 10 days! If you are not a franchisor and never felt the excitement prior to a conference, it’s similar to the excitement that is felt when approaching an annual family reunion.

COMPUTER EXPLORERS is a system of franchisees that have known each other for 1, 5, 15 and even 20 years!  With this history comes an intimate knowledge of franchisees,  rivalries and  friendships.

There will be groups of franchisees that will huddle together and reminisce of previous conferences and events. Stories will be told about the year  franchisees gathered for a group photo and were mooned by a hotel resident. The poor photographer at the top of a tall ladder had no clue there was mooner just below him. It is the best group photo in COMPUTER EXPLORERS history!

There will be stories of the years we conducted Franchise Advisory Council meetings and how the northeast region of franchisees were locked up in a room for hours. There were arguments, tears and  laughter until  the meeting concluded in the wee hours of the morning. (The west and south region of franchisees met and conducted business in less than 30 minutes!)

Some will remember the year the Franchisee of the Year took the microphone and her acceptance speech was almost as long as the conference itself. Very entertaining and heart-felt! The same year another  franchisee delivered a “clicking heels” story that is retold year after year.

So the countdown begins. This year with the implementation of social media so does the taunting. I admit I have really enjoyed posting tweets or Facebook messages providing hints about conference. I have generated interest and intrigued some with messages like “what do lizards, rocks and conference have in common?”

There will be an expectation that 2010 conference will be better than ever. I am confident that the COMPUTER EXPLORERS corporate team is working as hard as they possibly can to make that happen.

Ten days to go and my extended family arrives! To those franchisors that do not feel the excitement as I do prior to an annual conference, I’m sorry! There is nothing better than the excitement and opportunity to spend time with franchisees.


COMPUTER EXPLORERS group photo at annual conference

If you lead, they will follow

When I attended IFA (International Franchise Association) I learned that there were several franchisors that did not make it due to the poor economy. There are several more that may not make it this year.

I will admit that COMPUTER EXPLORERS  was rattled. We  asked ourselves if the poor economy would force us to quit. When I say “we” I mean both corporate and franchisees.  In a strategic planning session late last year we answered that question. It was decided that we DO NOT want to quit nor continue as status quo. What is needed for COMPUTER EXPLORERS is to seriously look at the model, opportunities and possible changes. We are doing that.

What  I am also finding is that the effects of the economy shook some of my franchisees to their inner core.  I have conducted serious discussions about their future. Do they have what it takes to continue? Can they move from fear to fight? Are they planning to close or to lead?  If they choose to lead what is needed from them to lead their team? What changes if any do they as a franchisee need to make to survive? The conversations are hard. Honesty is a must in order to move forward.

Sometimes I need to call in reinforcements to help me with these discussions. Strong business coaches that will make my franchisees dig deep and discuss  their plans and strategies about the future of their  business. Coaches that will not accept the standard “I plan to grow my business” but make them articulate the how and why in detail. Coaches that will push for clarity and discuss their why and detail the how.

Some of the reinforcements I have worked with are the best in the franchise industry: David Handler, Joe Mathews and Flo Schell to mention a few. My latest recruit is Randy Hall, CEO 4th Gear Consulting. In the short time I have worked with Randy I have grown to respect and trust his coaching skills. Randy is not only a coach but a presenter and I look forward to his presentation at our annual conference in March.

Last week a group of franchisees exerted emotional labor on a call with Randy. They love their business, pour their heart and soul into the daily activities and without realizing it they are the “Linchpins” that Seth Godin writes about. They are the essential building blocks of our franchise system. They speak frankly about their needs and challenges as a franchisee. They are not afraid to address what  they are not receiving from the corporate office. But they do it constructively and with a purpose to improve the system.

As President & CEO of COMPUTER EXPLORERS I know that there will always be franchisees that will leave the system. It will be a decision that is right for them as individuals and for the system. I am confident that the franchisees that plan to continue will lead their business by working hard. They will attend conference in March with a goal to succeed and an open mind to new strategies. Leading franchisees will continue to work with business coaches and not be afraid to put themselves out there. They will make a committment to build a stronger business which naturally build a stronger system.

I don’t want to quit. I plan to be a strong leader and dig much deeper into the how I plan to lead.

Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors. I just finished reading “Linchpin” .The first paragraph on the inside jacket which convinced me to buythe book says “The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.” Personally, I think that is a powerful statement!

When you remove the jacket of the book there is a collage of photographs. In the middle of all the photos is a caption “Will you make a difference”. Being very curious I carefully studied each photo trying to recognize the people only to discover there is only one person I recognize and blown away that I know her personally! Congrats Flo Schell 

As I said, Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors. He is a favorite because he makes me think. He makes me think hard!  After reading the first few chapters I recommended the book to one of my franchisee focus groups. A few members read just the first chapter and requested that we make it part of our next discussion topic.  Our goal is to make ourselves indispensable which will make COMPUTER EXPLORERS indispensable.

Some of the things that I learned after reading Linchpin:

  • You don’t become indispensable merely because you are different. But the only way to be indispensable is to be different. That’s because if you’re the same, so are plenty of other people.
  • The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.
  • Markets are crying out. We need to stand up and be remarkable. Be human. Contribute. Interact. Take the risk that  might make someone upset with your initiative and  innovation.
  • Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or a better boss. Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen.

Seth says that Linchpins do two things for the organization. They exert emotional labor and they make a map. He lists seven abilities of the Linchpin:

  1. Providing a unique interface between members of the organization
  2. Delivering unique creativity
  3. Managing a situation or organization of great complexity
  4. Leading customers
  5. Inspiring staff
  6. Providing deep domain knowledge
  7. Possessing a unique talent

 When I review the abilities above I realize I’m closer than I thought to being a Linchpin. 

How close are you?

Geek Group


Nikki Sells, Vice President Franchise Development Tasti D-Lite walked into the Marriott RiverCenter after attending a Super Bowl Sunday event and stopped to take the photo above. When Nikki walked over to say hello we were buried in our blackberry, iPhone or Droid texting, posting messages on Facebook and of course tweeting while watching the game. Nikki said “you look like the geeks in high school at the back of the classroom!” The big smiles on our face show we were not the least insulted by the comment. 

We were attending the 50th anniversary convention for the International Franchise Association (IFA). Together we attended many sessions. No surprise that our interest was sessions on social technology. The IFA  Information Technology Committee chaired by Jerrod Sessler and Ken Colburn obviously worked hard on content and speakers. The sessions were well attended and received positive evaluations.  

Internet and Technology Entrepreneur Scott Klososky opened the Technology Summit with a bang and then closed the convention sharing the newest trends for leveraging technology to build a franchise system. There were several panel presentations. I was honored to speak with Philip St. Jacques, Managing Partner, GMLV/St. Jacques Franchise Brand Marketing,  Grant Kreutzer, Franchise Recruiting Director for Jack in the Box and Bill Zinke, Chief Marketing Officer, Tasti D-Lite. 

Fred and Fun Stuff Guy

The session “Using Social Media to Build Your Brand & Grow Your Business” received attention from Subway CEO Fred DeLuca. After the session Fred walked up to panel speakers Ken Colburn, CEO The Data Doctors and BJ Emerson, Director of Information and Social Technologies for Tasti D-Lite (also known as fun stuff guy) and asked if they would spend some time explaining Twitter. After a few short hours @FredSubwayCEO was tweeting feverishly! 

Attending the IFA annual convention offers a tremendous opportunity to connect with other franchise executives! It is the most comprehensive franchising event with interactive roundtable sessions, educational sessions and influential franchise leader panel presentations. Great food (Taste of Franchising), a world of franchise innovation (Exhibit Hall) and priceless networking opportunities should not be missed by anyone in the franchise industry. 
Mark your calendar – February 13-16th, MGM Grand Hotel Las Vegas, NV for the 2011 convention. You won’t want to miss it!