Franchise Success Is Taking Your Franchisees’ Success Personal

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Shelly Sun, CEO and Co-Founder of BrightStar Care, takes success seriously. From the very beginning she has dedicated herself to making BrightStar Care the brightest star, first in the home care industry and then in the franchising world.  Shelly thrives in the face of change and challenge. Her leadership skills as well as her financial and operational prowess have produced a fast-growing yet robust franchise system–a model to emulate by those aspiring to franchise their businesses as well as by emerging franchisors.

I first heard Shelly speak during a teleconference sponsored by WEBB (Women Empowered by Business) back in 2010; she had only been franchising for a few years then and she already had a wealth of knowledge. Yet, what stayed with me was her genuine desire to share and to help others succeed.  Along with being the best at whatever she does, sharing and helping others are Shelly’s main drivers.  Shelly is an insatiable learner and has built an organization based on continual improvement.  “Our focus on culture, systems, and learning the best practices of franchising have been the biggest contributors to our success, both financially and in the relationships we have built within the franchise industry, with our franchisees, and with our corporate team,” Shelly shares.

Shelly Sun takes the success of her franchisees personal. In her book, Grow Smart, Risk Less, she states: “The founder/CEO must have passion and commitment to a relentless pursuit of improving franchisee unit economics. This is not something that can be delegated, because the organization will take its direction from how committed the leader is to enabling franchisees’ success, to supporting franchisees, and to finding the win-win in the decisions that are made daily.” For Shelly this is not just rhetoric; she lives her convictions.  She shares: “I get the most satisfaction from seeing and hearing the results of the Strategic Planning Sessions I hold with my franchisees. I spend one day and a half to work with 10 to 15 franchisees at a time on their businesses. Anyone can come as long as there is space and together we create a roadmap to help them produce the results they desire. I am personally and intimately involved in helping my franchisees grow and succeed,” she shares.  Since Shelly started these sessions almost four years ago, there have been already 110 franchisees who have gone through the program and some of them have chosen to attend more than once.

For a high achiever like Shelly, deciding the best use of her time has been her greatest challenge.  “I had to let go of the day-to-day management of the business so I could focus my energies on what really mattered, like the Strategic Planning Sessions I now hold with franchisees, or the regulatory affairs that need my attention. I had to learn to delegate and elevate and that has not been easy; particularly when finding the right people to be part of my corporate team, in some instances, has been trying,” Shelly shares.

I was fascinated by BrightStar’s franchisee strategic planning sessions and wanted to learn what brought them about. “I have always been close to my franchisees. I asked about their businesses and listened carefully. I realized that there was a gap. They seemed to lack the 360° view that is required for effective strategic planning. I also have a natural gift for using metrics and benchmarking to improve performance. I was already doing it for the company and the next step had to be helping our franchisees do the same for their own businesses,” Shelly answers.

Shelly believes that, in order to replicate franchise success, you must start with owning multiple locations. You need to know what works and what doesn’t before you ask someone else to invest in your idea. Once you have a tight business model and have proven you can replicate its success, the work has just started. “With each franchisee that joins you, there are new lessons. As they go through the training sessions and start applying what they’ve learned, you need to watch out for what they were able to assimilate and what they couldn’t and ask yourself, why?” Shelly shares. “You can never stay still. You have to watch for what may not work in a different market and respond accordingly. You have to be constantly alert to maintaining the highest of quality as well as customer and franchisee satisfaction. And finally, you must be vigilant that your brand’s standards are enforced and act quickly to protect the brand when it’s compromised,” she adds.

If Shelly had to do it all over again there is one thing she would change; she would spend more time finding the right people from the start. “I would start thinking about the staff I needed as growth commenced and look further ahead to anticipate my needs. I would get involved with the International Franchise Association (IFA) quicker and use their resources and mentorship to learn and find people who are more aligned with the core values of our company. I need my team to put franchisees first and to be willing to embrace whatever change is required to serve the needs of the franchisees,” Shelly shares.  Today Shelly has a strong interview process and human resource team and when they hire, they search and test as carefully for core values as they do for skills.

Shelly advises those who are contemplating franchising their businesses to:

  • “Read my book Grow Smart, Risk Less: A Low-Capital Path to Multiplying Your Business Through Franchising. I spent a lot of time, effort and money giving back to the franchising community by writing this book.”
  • “Make sure your business model is profitable at all levels and that there is a continuous demand for your services. We are in a unique industry with senior home care. Once we get clients, their demand for our services increases as time goes on.”
  • “Make sure you test your business model before you franchise it. Owning several locations before you franchise will provide the information you need.”
  • “Create a transparent culture. We have no secrets. Our item 19 in the BrightStar’s Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) is 11 pages long. Our franchisees have access to everyone’s financial results on a weekly basis.”
  • “Take the success of your franchisees personally because it is personal. Their success is your success and you need to not just talk about it, but demonstrate it. Get involved, be accessible, and help them. You know your business better than anyone else; take your knowledge and gifts and use them to make your franchisees’ businesses stronger.”