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Millennials in Franchising

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By John Evans | Originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of The Franchise Voice

It’s official: the millennials have entered the wonderful world of franchising.  All over North America, the millennial generation has shown in many ways that the franchising model is ideally suited to their so-called ‘extreme’ personality traits.  This realization has been a pleasant surprise for the industry, and I encourage all of you to take advantage of this new form of energy that is about to hit franchising at full force.

Millennials are by far the most adaptable and capable generation to ever enter the workforce or pursue entrepreneurship. That’s good, right?  Well, the generation whose formative years came during the internet boom and the rise of social media, is often accused of being narcissistic, hard to please, and entitled.  That’s bad.  How could an entire generation like that possibly fit in to your company’s vision for the future?  Why can’t millennials just conform to how business has been done for decades? I’ve got news for you – they won’t.

It’s time to adjust your thinking towards this generation and explore how accommodating their personality traits can allow for a positive and progressive force to take shape within your organization. The companies that embrace millennials and accommodate their ‘quirks’ are the ones that will gain market share from those companies that do not. It’s time to make your franchise millennial-friendly from top to bottom.

How did millennials get this reputation?

Millennials were born between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s.  After the internet’s break into the mainstream, society advanced at such a rapid pace that it fundamentally changed the day-to-day needs, wants, and behaviors of the average person. Millennials were thrust into this new world, in which their formative years were far different than that of baby boomers or Generation Xers. Millennials face very high expectations for success that were placed on them at an early age.

Throughout history, overlapping generations faced some form of friction with one another in some shape or form, but there was always a loose understanding between them that was rooted in common goals or interests.  When it comes to millennials, the rapid societal development created a rift between generations that has caused friction in the modern workplace. As a result of this unique upbringing, millennials tend to care more about experiences than material things. They seek a personal connection with the brands they interact with (professionally and personally). They value authenticity. They are individualistic, yet well-connected to their peers through social media. They crave and seek mentorship. All of these attributes can be directly correlated with the experiences they are chasing within their desired career or venture of choice.

A franchise system that is people-focused checks off virtually all of these boxes for millennials.  Companies that expect millennials to grow out of their ‘phase’ and ‘get over it’, will find themselves in a challenging situation.  The fact is:  the rise of the internet and social media has had such a profound impact on millennials, that they’ve innately become great multi-taskers, excellent collaborators, and technologically adaptable. They can access information in unprecedented speeds. Organizations who do not adapt to the specific needs of the millennials to attract, retain, and empower them will miss out on these ‘super powers’ that they bring to the table. 

Millennials as key personnel  

With a clear understanding of why millennials are the way they are, the next step is to develop a strategy to recruit and motivate these young go-getters. It is important to note that once they connect to your brand’s values and vision, they can be an extremely powerful force within the company. You’ll quickly discover that they will change their tune from “Me!” to “We!” Without this connection to the company, millennials will seek that connection elsewhere, feeding into the belief that millennials will average 15-20 jobs within their lifetime. They need to feel like they are a part of something bigger and that they are making an impact if they’re to stick around. As soon as they feel like they are just another ‘cog in the machine’, you’ve lost them, and the grass will start to appear greener elsewhere.

The ideal strategy is to clearly emphasize the importance of their role and how they are making a difference within an organization.  Goal setting and follow-ups are key here. Millennials are goal-oriented and are constantly looking to improve through feedback.  They need to feel supported with consistent validation and direction. Given a millennial’s need to feel connected to their cause, a wholesome, and values-driven company culture is required.  In the case of EverLine Coatings, we established our company values to connect with millennials: “We are DRIVEN.” Our corporate motto is one that sends the message that we are “Dedicated, Resourceful, Integrity-focused, Value-based, Excelling and Nourishing.  We refer to these as the “DRIVEN Principles.” These are not just a fancy set of values put on a poster in the office. They are incorporated into the organization’s everyday systems from the recruitment and interviewing processes, to performance reviews and daily meetings.  Millennials can smell inauthenticity when it comes to corporate values from a mile away, and leadership needs to set the gold standard for representing these values.

In EverLine’s experience, our focus on positive culture, support, validation, corporate social responsibility, and millennial-friendly management techniques have proven effective in retaining excellent talent. It’s important to be a guide rather than a dictator.  Give away some responsibility even if you’re not totally ready to. Millennials need to spread their wings. Utilize the delegation model (Instruct, Guide, Inspire, and Empower) as a tool to kick them out of the nest with your support.  Yes, there will be mistakes made, but rest assured that with the right feedback and support, they will learn from them very quickly.  Always ask “how can I help you achieve your goals?” This is a powerful question that yields results.

The best avenue to recruit millennials should be no surprise; an optimized online experience.  Company websites that are mobile-friendly and have a short application process are very important.  How do you get them to apply? Post job ads that are very detailed in their description with a focus on company values. The interview process should incorporate these company values to ensure that you find people that are on the same page from the beginning. Use millennials to recruit other millennials!  Short videos that show young people expressing their passion for the company itself is far more effective to than a testimonial featuring a baby boomer.  Millennials trust each other, not boomers.

Above all, make work fun, challenging and exciting.  Facilitate collaboration, creativity, and a culture of validation.  Millennials crave it, and it can be hard to find in the modern workplace. The franchising industry has an advantage over others in that for it to be truly successful, there must be a focus on people.   

Millennials as potential franchisees

Getting millennials motivated within your organization alone is hard enough. Can they really run franchises? The answer is a resounding yes! Millennials are by far the most entrepreneurial generation to enter the workforce. They understand calculated risks, and once they connect to a brand’s vision, they work their tails off to make it a reality. They are facing many challenges, such as underemployment, conflicts with other generations, higher costs of living, and student debt. Their need to be mentored, validated, and supported fits perfectly with the offerings of a franchisor-franchisee relationship.

The biggest elephant in the room is their student debt and an apparent lack of resources.  The myth is that millennials do not have any money.  That is not entirely true. Millennials are the leading emerging market for new franchises because of their resourcefulness. Government programs designed to help millennials are available with grants and loans for new businesses. Families and fellow millennial business partners have pooled together resources to help millennials get over the prequalification requirements to purchase franchises. This will mean that more creativity will be required when you have a franchisee application from a millennial. The cut-and-dry method of assessing the financial ability of the applicant may need a revisit. EverLine takes advantage of government programs, while other franchise systems have been creating new franchise fee financing options, or “micro” franchises.

Another potential pitfall with millennials as franchisees is their relative inexperience as a business owner. This is where it is important to develop your ideal psychometric testing template, and to apply it during the recruitment and interview stages.  Past the interview stage, thorough and regular support with feedback on key performance indicators and hard data is vital. Without it, as soon as millennials enter the grey area of not knowing where they stand, anxiety will kick in.  Anxiety can become crippling and can cause them to implode emotionally.  This is a challenging reality and it all falls back on the franchisor to ensure that these support systems are in place.

The bottom line  

In order for the franchising industry to continue its growth and ascend to a higher level, it must be open to evolving.  It’s not right to consider the rigid requirements of millennials as a negative, but rather as another challenge for us to rise up to meet.  Do not discount youth. It is key to celebrate the energy and innovation that they bring to your brand. Millennials crave the support, culture, development, and value-based operation that franchising offers.  Millennials need franchising. Franchising needs millennials. Keep an open mind and do not be afraid to take risks with this generation. When you invest in them, and they invest in you back, it is truly a potentially transformative force.

About the Author

John Evans, founder and CEO of EverLine Coatings and Services, has been painting his own path as an entrepreneur for the past 10 years.  He is a true visionary that always looks to stir the pot.  He is known as a disruptor in the parking lot line painting and maintenance industry and he wouldn’t have it any other way. He is truly passionate about providing opportunities for the upcoming millennial generation of entrepreneurs, as he feels they will change the game in way never seen before.

Disclaimer
The opinions or viewpoints expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Canadian Franchise Association (CFA). Where materials and content were prepared by persons and/or entities other than the CFA, the said other persons and/or entities are solely responsible for their content. The information provided herein is intended only as general information that may or may not reflect the most current developments. The mention of particular companies or individuals does not represent an endorsement by the CFA. Information on legal matters should not be construed as legal advice. Although professionals may prepare these materials or be quoted in them, this information should not be used as a substitute for professional services. If legal or other professional advice is required, the services of a professional should be sought.

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