The term ‘Early Adopters’ is commonly used in technology and it also has been applied in franchising for many years. It defines those people who join a new franchising company: one that has few or no franchisees. Early Adopters are the key to the success of any franchise company because without them there is no potential for growth. Someone has to invest in your franchise opportunity first and thus prove that your concept works for others. This is the initial gift Early Adopters offer to new franchisors.
However, their gifts don’t stop at just their decision to invest in the newly formed franchise; other significant contributions early adopters tend to make include:
- Providing you with tremendously valuable experience as you learn to be a franchisor and giving you the opportunity to refine your business.
- Having higher emotional commitment to the franchise concept.
- Exhibiting a stronger desire to contribute and to be involved in helping other franchisees be successful.
- Being the best spoke people for the organization.
- Showing a need for newer and better ways, demanding innovation and providing important feedback to you.
Early Adopters indeed have a lot to offer you and your company. However, they also get many unique benefits. These include:
- Paying less for the franchise since franchise fees tend to go up as the number of franchisees increases.
- Choice of territory, and sometimes even a larger territory than future franchisees.
- Complete individual support that can’t be provided as the system grows.
- Personal interaction with the founder and senior management that is unlikely to be available to the same extent to future franchisees.
- Recognition for their contributions and greater opportunities for involvement.
The benefits Early Adopters receive have to be commensurable with the gifts they provide you; otherwise the relationship will suffer.
Early Adopters usually have the following traits and characteristics in greater degree than future franchisees. They tend to:
- Be more entrepreneurial and visionary
- Take more risks
- Have stronger personality
- Be more assertive, independent and outspoken
- Seek higher levels recognition
- Demand innovation
Although these traits make Early Adopters great partners, they may become a real issue for you as your company grows unless you set some initial boundaries. Make sure you recognize the contributions of Early Adopters. Don’t take them for granted. This is true for all franchisees, of course, but critical for Early Adopters. Keep them as your advisors but set yourself as the leader otherwise you will not be able to manage the relationship.
As a senior manager of many franchise organizations I thoroughly enjoyed working with the Early Adopters. Their enthusiasm was contagious and their loyalty was unequal. These great attributes also made them powerful influences with the rest of the franchisees, so making sure they were content was a vital aspect of managing the relationship. Frequent communications were always a must.
What are your experiences with Early Adopters?