Friday, February 12, 2010

Can Franchising Save Small-Town America?

I grew up in small New England towns. The people in these towns are an independent lot. Generally, we did not have national franchises. There was the local bakery, no Dunkin' Donuts. There was no Dairy Queen or Sonic to hang out at after school, mostly we all went to work after classes, if a job could be found. Ironically, we moved from each of these towns shortly after they each got their first McDonalds (purely coincidental). I believe the feeling was that national chains would detract from the individual identity of the area.

I work for an international franchisor and attended my first International Franchising Association Convention last week. The first bit of information that I took away is, the values of the majority of these businesses align with small town values: Quality, Commitment, & Customer Service.

As I write this, the unemployed young man that is working on my car came inside. We discussed his job hunt, he has applied at one franchise store several times, and not the local store, because of the service he has received at the establishment. He said he noted that the manager at the local store was rude, and mistreated his employees, making a bad work environment. Small town workers want to be part of quality & customer service focused businesses.

When I return to my hometowns, I am sad. They are dying. They are small and dark. People need to drive for miles to get a spool of thread or a pot holder.

One can tell from the number of farmer's markets and craft fairs that the entrepreneurial spirit lives in the hearts of these people. However money and opportunity prevent most from gaining the experience they need to run a successful business. If small town business-person were to invest their money in a franchise system instead of an independent business, he would have the benefit of a proven system, the experience of the failures of those who came before him.

Successful businesses provide jobs and grow local economies. Those looking at a start up business as well as franchisors should look at the small towns. The memory of having a donut with the locals at the town bakery can be as warm and pleasant as the memory of having to drive 120 miles for a chocolate honey-dipped Dunkin' Donut.

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