I saw the future yesterday. Are you ready for it?
I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion at Cal State Fullerton presented by Epsilon Nu Tau, the first co-ed fraternity for entrepreneurship. The topic was “Women Entrepreneurs.” As I looked at the audience noticed there were no notepads, but there were plenty of iPads, and e-books. Pocket video cameras were also capturing the event.
Technology is changing at the speed of light and we all work to keep up. You can’t attend a franchise meeting that doesn’t feature a discussion about social media, and that medium changes weekly. At last week’s Unconference franchisors swapped technological solutions for operations and development, but I realized that even the most sophisticated ideas were already old hat.
The problem is that franchisors are designing 20th Century solutions for 21st Century buyers. Many franchisors are employing systems they understand and are comfortable with, but they are not who will buy the franchise or the franchisees’ products and service. Build tomorrow’s system today. Know your franchisee profile and your customer – how do they make decisions?
The students in our audience were studying for careers that didn’t exist when I was in school and they have ideas we are not clued in to. Life changes quickly. Our buyers are used to instant gratification and being told they are winners at everything – so they think like winners who can defy gravity. They are risk takers without realizing they are. Their world and the technology in it are changing faster than ever so new, untested, adventure – they are all everyday occurrences.
We worry about sharing too much information online and they realize it is the way of the world and hide very little. Depending on your age bracket, you communicate by hand-written notes, telephone or voice mail. These students don’t have email addresses on their cards: they list their cell phones because they expect a text from you. It’s immediate, to the point and easy.
1. Remain relevant. To succeed in the future, heck, to endure for the future you have to be relevant to a new generation of buyers. Read, attend meetings, stretch your self and ask questions. If you are not comfortable with technology, hire the people who are. Design cutting edge solutions. But don’t copy others; those ideas are already stale. Hang around with people who are a lot younger than you are – watch and learn from them.
2. Know your audience. Who are you building for? Who is buying your franchise? Who will be buying it and when? Then tailor both the message and the delivery. Today you might be selling to peers, but who will buy in the next few years? Get your message to them starting now.
3. Clean house. When was your Franchise Management System last updated? If your manuals are not read and used, it could be the delivery system you are using. How much e-learning are you using? (There are great tools that make it easy to do yourself.) Royalty collection, lead management, data mining, internal communication, information storage – it’s all changed and the younger buyers want to see that you know that, embrace it and make it available to them.
We are not talking about the programmer who can put useless bells and whistles on a web site. This is about creating a dynamic franchise system that appeals to tomorrow’s audience today. Make history, don’t fade into it.
The future is uncomfortable – for a minute – then it’s the past
Now, I have to call Jon Carlston of Process Peak. He is the smartest guy I know, loves technological advances and is a great teacher. You should get yourself a Jon Carlston. He’s a ticket to the future.