By Holly Celeste Fick
Franchising is not an industry; it's a growth strategy, Rhonda Sanderson is quick to point out. Sanderson, president of Sanderson & Associates, a Highland Park, Illinois, public relations agency specializing in franchising, has seen that growth strategy do some growing of its own in the past 20 years.
"There are a lot of paybacks now for mistakes that were made then," says Sanderson. "[Franchising has] become more of a partnership. There is a greater appreciation for the role franchisees play."
Attitudes have changed just as much for those outside franchising. "This franchisor is going to be as big as McDonald's" was Sanderson's pitch back then. "But just franchising isn't news anymore," says Sanderson, who notes that today, press coverage tends to spotlight individual franchisees.
And those franchisees are a new breed as well. Most are already successful businesspeople before they get into franchising. "These people already know what's going on," says Sanderson.
This new group of franchisees has spurred franchisors to reevaluate franchisor-franchisee relations. Sanderson recalls Sam Ross, founder of hair-cutting franchise Fantastic Sam's, describing franchisees of the 1960s: "They're just like teenagers." Fortunately, she says, franchising has evolved. "One of the most important changes in franchising is a better understanding by franchisors of what franchisees [have to offer]," she says.
As for the future, Sanderson isn't hedging her bets. "Franchising will always survive," she says. "Here's why: If I had someone I could always turn to to ask `What new technology is out there for me? What's the best way to do this?' I would easily pay them 5 percent of my earnings."