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2 Simple Steps to Predict Your Business Future and Success Business success is not about having all the answers — it is about asking the right questions.

By Brian Will Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Have you ever thought about the future success of your business? Have you ever wished you could predict what will happen next year based on the decisions you are making today?

What if you could look at your business 12 months from now based on those decisions? What if I told you that you could see the future and have the ability to predict what is going to happen? Well, I have good news for you. As a part of a franchise system, you have a unique ability to time travel in your own business!

Two things can make this happen.

Step #1

The first is what we call historical pattern recognition. This is the analysis of historical data from your Profit and Loss Statement (P&L). This analysis is done on a line-item basis of every variable and fixed cost in your P&L, as well as the revenue stream and net profits over a 12-24 month time frame.

By analyzing this data, we can identify the 8-10 critical metrics driving your business. This data is then used to create a pattern of numbers based on your history.

A simple explanation of pattern recognition works like this. I used this example in a keynote speech to a franchise organization at their annual convention in Nashville last year. I told the audience that I had two examples of tracking a set of numbers in the previous nine days and wanted to see if they could predict the following number in the pattern.

Related: 3 Ways Your Past Wins Are Blocking Your Future Successes

In the first example, I gave them the number 44. I then asked the audience, "Given that number, can you predict, with any level of accuracy, what the next number in the data set will be tomorrow?" The obvious answer was no. There just isn't enough data.

In the second example, I told them that over the last nine days, I had tracked the numbers 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9. Now I asked them to predict the next number that would come up tomorrow. In this example, they all got it right. The obvious answer is 10.

Not only did they get it right, but there is a high probability of that number being accurate. The entire audience just traveled to the next day and predicted what would happen. This is what we call basic pattern recognition. With enough data, we can figuratively time travel to the future and predict with a fair level of accuracy what will happen.

Related: Why an Entrepreneur's Ability to Innovate Will Make (or Break) Future Success

Step #2

The second step in time travel is unique to a franchise system. This is what we call the "collective knowledge" of the franchisor. This is a potent tool for predicting the future results of the decisions you make today.

Let me break this down. Before the speech I just spoke about, I had requested and been given six P&Ls from different operators within the system.

I got two from their top operators. I got one from a middle-of-the-pack operator, one sample data set the franchisors use in training, and two from lower-performing units. I then lined these up and did a line-item analysis of the past 24 months.

What we found out was that most of the metrics were very similar. (With a few one-off exceptions). Two units were profitable and growing. One was profitable but with no growth, and two were stagnant and not increasing sales. Of the two units without growth, one was breaking even, and the other was losing money.

The one glaring difference between the units that were growing and profitable, those that were stagnant and finally, the ones that were losing money was the amount and percentage of money spent on marketing. There was a stark contrast between the units.

I then took the marketing dollars spent by each unit and showed both the short-term and the long-term return on investment from their marketing spend. The top operators were earning up to $15 in revenue for every dollar spent. This was enough to cover the natural attrition of current clients and acquire enough new clients for growth. The middle-of-the-road operators were getting around $10 in revenue for every dollar spent but only covering enough new sales to make up for the natural attrition of clients. That meant they were stagnant in revenue and profits. The bottom units were generating around $5 in revenue per dollar spent but were not spending enough marketing dollars to cover their client attrition rates. This resulted in declining revenue and profit losses.

Related: How to Reduce What You're Spending on Marketing (Without Losing Results)

What we learned in this exercise was interesting. The top units were spending around 8% on marketing. The bottom units were around 4%. The only real difference in revenue and profits between these units boiled down to about 4% additional spending on marketing. A 4% difference in spending was the difference between profitable growth and stagnation to losses.

This exercise allowed us to look at each unit from a historical pattern recognition perspective and then combine it with their decision-making around marketing spend and determine what the future revenue and profits of the units would look like.

At this same event, I asked the crowd if they would like the opportunity to have a one-on-one with the top operators in the system to ask questions about sales, expenses, growth and profit. Almost every hand went up. At this point, I told them that they had that opportunity through the use of their FBCs (franchise business consultants) assigned to their territory.

These FBC have all the information available on every unit within the system. They have all the data from the top units down to the ones that are not making money. They have the data to do the comparative analysis. In essence, they have the keys to the kingdom. They know the answers to all the questions. They know what works and what has been tried and failed. This is not a guess. This is something they have experienced and learned. This is the power of the collective. The historical decision-making of hundreds or thousands of franchisees is the power of franchising. Every good decision and every bad decision is available to be learned from.

As a rule, business success is not about having all the answers. Success is about asking the right questions. The power of the franchise system is that they have the answers to the questions. They already know what decisions will work and what decisions will fail. Your job as a franchisee is to ask questions. But here is the key: when you ask a question and get an answer, you need to follow the answers you get.

Brian Will

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of Brian Will Media

Brian Will is a Serial Entrepreneur and a Wall Street Journal best-selling author. Currently, Brian owns a growing chain of restaurants, a Real Estate company and runs a Business Mastermind and Entrepreneur Coaching Program. He also serves on City Council in his hometown.

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