Franchise Success: It’s All About What You Do for People

Melanie Bergeron

If you communicate with Melanie Bergeron, Chair of Two Men and a Truck, you immediately realize that caring about people is in the very core of her being. After that first encounter, you will never wonder how her company can achieve 97% customer service satisfaction year after year. When you truly care about the people you serve–your customers, your franchisees, and your community–it’s going to show. “It is all about taking stress out of people’s lives; and we know how to do that,” Melanie shares. “Our franchisees take pride in our customer satisfaction rating just as much as we do, and that makes all the difference,” she adds.

Melanie Bergeron, Mary Ellen Sheets (her mother), and her two brothers, Brig and Jon Sorber, share a remarkable story that speaks loudly about the connection of hard work, caring, a positive mindset, strength of values, family, and great success. Melanie says: “For me, nothing has come really easy. I’ve had to work hard for everything that I’ve achieved in my life.  My main motivation has always been pleasing people. If I can make someone’s life better, that’s worth all the hard work I can muster.” Melanie is one of those special people you are lucky enough to meet from time to time who leaves you feeling better about yourself and about the world, someone whose enthusiasm for life is contagious.

It is not surprising that people support and help Melanie whenever possible. She gives full credit to everyone who has worked with her; and of course, to each member of her family. “It has never been about me. As hard as I ‘ve worked and as difficult as things have been for me at times, there was always at least one person helping me along the way; and then, more and more! It has never been just me; it has always been us (meaning her family, employees, franchisees, vendors and colleagues); Melanie shares.

Melanie entered the world of franchising as one of the first franchisees of Two Men and a Truck, which provided her with a unique sensitivity to help steer the organization in the right direction from the beginning. Franchisee satisfaction has always been taken seriously by this very successful company. “For the last 8 years we have used Franchise Business Review to gather and report feedback from our franchisees. Our franchisees are happy; we have an average rating of 4.2 out of 5. And, if there are ever any areas where we don’t get the highest marks, we take immediate action to address them. Open communication and transparency are very important to us. And, when we say: ‘Movers who care’ we mean that at all levels,” Melanie shares.

After a few years operating her franchise in Atlanta, Melanie was recruited by her mother, Mary Ellen, to run the franchising company. Melanie packed up her bags and headed back home to Michigan. “It was really hard. As a franchisor we were not making any money; our franchisees were, but we weren’t charging them enough so we were barely making it. I had no knowledge of franchising, no money coming in, and no paycheck. It was tough! I had to wear many hats and the people I could afford to hire didn’t have the expertise we needed,” Melanie shares. “But, the silver lining was that out of every mistake I made –and I made them all–I learned valuable lessons that helped us propel the company to greater success,” she adds.

Perhaps one of the ultimate challenges a franchisor has to face is raising royalties. And, Melanie accomplished that beautifully. She personally went to visit each one of her franchisees to explain the reason for the change and get a buy-in from all of them. When facing issues that are as sensitive to franchisees as royalty fees are, there is no other way to handle them than clear and open communications. Today this company’s philosophy continues to make the difference. “At every annual conference, before the event commences, we hold what we call ‘Directors’ Chats.’ Basically any franchisee can make an appointment to discuss anything they want with any of the company’s directors. The opportunity to talk with us face to face and to share what concerns them helps our franchisees feel that any grievances they may have are being heard, allowing them to be in the proper frame of mind to get as much as possible from the conference. As the leaders of this company, the Directors’ Chats keep us humble –and that is a good thing,” Melanie explains.

Melanie shared with me that she is a ‘rule follower’ by nature–something else with which I can identify. Perhaps that is one compelling reason behind our love for franchising. “Franchise success is based on consistency and that only comes when all franchisees follow the system. Compliance by all franchisees protects our name. And, from time to time, it also leads to some tough decisions such as non-renewals and, when necessary, even terminations. As you know, what one franchisee does or doesn’t do affects the entire network. So, when we make these hard decisions, the rest of our franchisees support us. We may be kind, but we are also strict when we have to protect everyone’s investment,” Melanie explains. And I couldn’t agree more.

Melanie has been asked many times what she would do differently if she had the opportunity to do it all over again. And, she hesitates because the answer is not clear-cut. “I guess what comes to mind is to have more capital. The thought is that if we had more money when we started we would have avoided much suffering. But along with all that pain came much learning that I wouldn’t want to give up. I feel a lot of joy and pride when I look back at all that we went through–all the challenges we had to conquer made me, and the company, stronger,” Melanie clarifies.

Melanie has some critical suggestions for business owners considering franchising:

  • “Make sure your business is profitable –this is rule number 1.”
  • “Trademark the name of your business as soon as you think you may franchise it in the future.”
  • “Be honest with yourself when you evaluate the sustainability of your concept. If it is a fad, franchising is not for you.”
  • “Is your concept affordable? Is it trainable? Is it easy to learn? If you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions stay away from franchising.”
  • “Learn everything you can about franchising. Research, research, research.”
  • “Get involved with the International Franchise Association (IFA) as soon as you can.”
  • “Differentiate yourself from the competition–this is critical.”

If you want to have the franchise success that Melanie and her family have been able to achieve with Two Men and a Truck, you may want to emulate some of Melanie’s traits such as her hard work principles, her kindness, her energy and enthusiasm for life and franchising, and her total commitment to learning and giving. Melanie Bergeron is a living example of when you treat people right, you will be rewarded.