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The Wealthy Franchisee

How Doing Good in the Community Is Great for Your Business Many franchisees don't appreciate the potential social impact of their business, and how that impact can actually make them more money.

By Scott Greenberg

This story appears in the June 2024 issue of Start Up.

This is part 5 / 5 of The Wealthy Franchisee: Section 5: Managing the Franchisor-Franchisee Relationship series.

Many franchisees don't appreciate the potential social impact of their business, seeing it only as a means to make money. It can do that, but it can do so much more. In fact, doing more may actually make a lot more money. It's certainly part of the wealthy franchisee playbook.

Wealthy franchisees, by definition, do well financially. It sounds counterintuitive, but they accomplish this by not obsessing over profit. They focus on bigger things. Their goals are loftier and their vision is wider. They're on a mission to make an impact, and it turns out that making an impact makes more money.

Being a Community Hero

The best franchise brands have major community service programs. Few do it better than Jersey Mike's. During the month of March, the restaurant chain invites guests to come into their locations to donate to local charity partners. The campaign culminates with their annual "Mike's Day of Giving" on the last Wednesday of March. One hundred percent of the day's sales systemwide are donated to the local partner charity. To date, they've raised tens of millions of dollars for various causes. But they don't stop there.

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CEO Peter Cancro proudly told me about Jersey Mike's "Coach Rod Smith Ownership Program." The program is named after the football coach who gave Peter the financing to buy his first sub shop when he was 17 years old. In the same spirit, Jersey Mike's now identifies the most deserving managers in the system and sets them up with their own shop.

He said, "We're signing the lease and putting up all the money." The owners who lose their manager in the process will be given a small percentage of the proceeds for three years. Everyone wins. Peter actually got a bit choked up as he told me about the program. As well as he's done for himself selling sandwiches, replicating the opportunity that was given to him seems to be the mission closest to his heart.

Sport Clips Haircuts is another brand that constantly works to serve the community. Through their "Haircuts with Heart" program, they actively seek to make a difference for veterans, families, and children. They have national partnerships with Veterans of Foreign Wars, the St. Baldrick's Foundation, and the American Red Cross. They also have a relief fund set up for franchisees and team members should anyone ever find themselves in need. Founder/Chairman Gordon Logan takes this work very seriously. "I know this is supposed to be good for marketing," he said, "but we do it just because it's the right thing to do." Gordon went on to quote Zig Ziglar, saying, "You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want."

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Another community-minded franchise is Miracle-Ear, which supports and raises money for the Miracle-Ear Relief Fund, which supplies hearing products for needy Americans. Their top franchisee organizes an entire golf tournament to raise money for the fund.

All of these examples are companies and people who do really well for themselves. Wealthy franchisees are givers, not takers. If you want to have what they have, you must do as they do. Charity is part of their formula for success.

What Is Cause Marketing?

Cause marketing is a company's promotion of their social work. The messaging focuses on the brand's charity work rather than on its offerings. The goal is to make a positive impression on consumers while making a meaningful impact on a cause. It works, and people like it. Many folks who took free strawberries from us during the AIDS walk returned at a later date to buy some. Some people see cause marketing as duplicitous and question the company's motives: "These people don't really care about the community. They're just looking for another way to advertise." But the beneficiaries won't care. If they get the help they need, they're happy for you to get some recognition.

And keep in mind that people often start working in community service for one reason and then continue for others. Many people wouldn't think to do it if there wasn't a tangible benefit in it for them. But once they've personally felt the joy of giving, they're inclined to continue, even without getting something in return. If you're going to market your business, you may as well help others in the process.

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Giving vs. Giving Back

You need to shift your thinking away from the concept of "giving back." Giving back implies you received something in the first place, but community service shouldn't be a quid pro quo. It shouldn't be about returning a favor or paying a debt. Too many people wait until late in their lives to volunteer, be of service, or donate. Give first. Donate first. Serve first.

Even if you're young, new, or sales are down, start serving your community now. Do it without thinking of it as a tactic to grow your business or expecting anything in return. If you do, you'll receive payoffs that far exceed (though totally include) money. Life will give back to you. I hope this chapter has somehow widened your mind and opened your heart. But if all you really care about is maximizing revenue, the action you have to take is the same. Think big, and think give.

What we build for ourselves matters less than what we build for others. In the end, we can't take anything with us. All that will matter then is what we've left behind. Wealthy franchisees make plenty of money for themselves, but more importantly, they leave a legacy for the rest of us. Work in a way that contributes to your legacy. Maybe that's what being wealthy really means.

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