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Although Kelly Amundson loved her 16-year career as an occupational therapist, she realized in 2019 that the time had come to help husband Marty manage the family farm and his lawn care businesses, all located in Zumbrota, Minnesota.


It would allow her to spend more time working towards a common goal alongside her husband and also allowed her to run and operate one of the newest, hottest franchise concepts Pet Butler. All this and more time to spend her family in general.

This location services South Eastern Minnesota.

"I learned so much in my career working with teenagers and young adults in the areas of mental health experience and many lessons about teamwork, dealing with whole families and working towards a common goal.

It was all invaluable.

And now I am using those same skills to run my own business, and my husband's lawn care businesses."

Husband Marty has worked in lawn care for 19 years, initially starting his own lawn mowing business up years before with Kelly's brother. The team serviced residential and commercial properties. He began moving into providing fertilization and weed control programs for these local customers and realized there was so much more to a good lawn care business than mowing lawns.

When approached by top lawn care franchise Spring-Green Lawn Care, based in Plainfield, Illinois five years ago, Marty decided the time was right to add this proven concept to his already existing Green Edge Lawn Care. At one of Spring-Green's conventions he was introduced to a new concept the parent company had acquired, Pet Butler.

Pet Butler provides pet waste removal and other pet related services to homes and multi-family communities, also offering a variety of scheduling options.

The business model is also set up to add expanding services such as; pet sitting and pet shuttles. The franchise offers large, protected territories that foster scalable growth and strong recurring revenue.

Said Kelly,

"Marty has been blessed with the courage to take risks, to start business', and with the opportunity to hire good staff and delegate work.

Now we get to have a hands-on opportunity to start a new business together with Pet Butler, working off of Marty's experience, corporate's assistance, and my willingness to take on something out of my comfort zone.

This will be a chance to promote more personal growth, and an opportunity to provide jobs for more people as the business grows.

This will be another business we can begin as a legacy for our family.

We feel our children have a lot of great learning opportunities here at home."


About Pet Butler

Pet Butler Franchise was acquired in 2017 by Spring-Green Enterprises, the parent company of +43 years old Spring-Green Lawn Care and SGE Marketing Services. They currently have 30 franchisees located in 25 states with long term plans to open 60 more within the next 5 years.

Pet Butler provides an opportunity for pet lovers to turn their passion for pets into a business. To learn more about how Pet Butler serves pets and their people, visit on Facebook and LinkedIn.

To inquire about a franchise call 844-777-8608 or go to

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35-year-old Kristen Denzer was ahead of her time before the concept she is currently franchising was so desperately needed.

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Quality daycare is a must for so many parents-not just a place to "drop the kid" for eight hours because you both need to work; but a lovely, enrichment filled environment that can also help shape the child's future with education and activities nearly impossible to duplicate at home for these busy parents!

Thus, Tierra Encantada was born of an idea out of a working mother's head.

The then 28-year-old Kristen was that working mother. With two small children she yearned for a better quality daycare experience for her own second child and with her usual tenacity and thorough research (and buying a vacant church!) this young entrepreneur created a Spanish Language Immersion daycare concept.

Why not educate while caring for these young children at an age where they soak up knowledge?

Kristen started her first entrepreneurial endeavor in 2008 - an event rental company. She grew that company from 20 events to 500 events annually in just 6 years.

While operating the successful event rental company, she started a second business in 2010 with a childhood friend called The Woof Room - a dog daycare and boarding facility.

She managed to grow both into profitable companies serving thousands of clients annually. In 2013, while searching for quality early education for her young child, she founded Tierra Encantada's first location in Eagan, Minnesota.

She continued to operate all three businesses until 2016 when she sold her event rental company and dog daycare facility to focus solely on Tierra Encantada's growth.

In Spring of 2019, she launched Tierra Encantada's franchising expansion to provide access to language immersion education to families across the country. Today, Tierra Encantada is an Inc 5000 company.

With waiting lists for spots at each of the Tierra Encantada centers, she and her team find themselves helping parents who are Covid-19 first responders by providing tuition free placement for their children.

Thanks to some great families who CAN stay home with their children, spots are being voluntarily given up for first responders' children. A great example of how we can all find ways to help.

Why read about it when you can watch it on NBC-KARE-TV.

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March 31st from 11:00 - 5:00 PM EST

On Tuesday, March 31st, the largest Virtual Reality Franchise Expo (VRFE) in world history will be unveiled.


Entrepreneurs from around the world can access hundreds of franchise concepts online and interact live with franchise executives to discuss how to get back in business after the pandemic ends.

As an added benefit, many of these companies will be offering full tours in Virtual Reality accessible online or with FREE VR Headsets that they can request when signing up.

The speed with which the Coronavirus has spread around the world is what everyone is talking about. As it has stopped the world in its tracks hundreds of industry categories have felt the devastating pain of having to stop their production, their events and their business.

But the franchise community is nothing if not innovative!

Agility is being demonstrated by The Great American Franchise Expo as it pivots from a traditional trade show format to an Online Virtual Reality Trade Show.

Rightfully claiming the title as the original and largest Virtual Reality Franchise Trade show in existence, The Great American Franchise Expo has been the innovator in using Virtual Reality in franchising since 2017.

Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment seeing all in 360-degree multiple images.

The only limits to near-real VR experiences are the availability of content and cheap computing power.

Unlike traditional user interfaces, VR places the user inside an experience. Instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are immersed and able to interact with 3D worlds.

By simulating as many senses as possible, such as vision, hearing, touch, even smell, the computer is transformed into a gatekeeper to this artificial world.

"Our platforms have been extensively developed and tested over the past 2 ½ years" says Abel Beyene, Director of The Great American Franchise Expo, "we are able to combine Virtual Reality with human interaction in a trade show.

Virtual Reality's most immediately recognizable component is the head-mounted display (HMD). Human beings are visual creatures, and display technology is often the single biggest difference between immersive Virtual Reality systems and traditional user interfaces.

"Our technology runs on your smart phone and/or we will send you a VR head set free of charge so you can be totally immersed within the images as you are talking with a live human being about what you are seeing.

Asking questions, getting answers and feeling like you are actually touring a facility in a way you have never imagined is the smart way to keep driving franchise sales in this crucial period." Says Nick Neonakis, CEO of the company.

People can use their smartphones from home and "take tours" of hundreds of franchise companies.

Attend our first online trade show being held from 11:00am-5:00pm on Tuesday March 31st by signing up at

Contact: [email protected].

For the 5 Most Fascinating Stories in Franchising, a weekly report, click here & sign up.

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According to the IFA, veterans account for about 7% of our population but 14% of franchisees are veterans! In addition, veterans are far more likely to hire other veterans for jobs within their companies. It shouldn't be hard to understand why.

Among other disciplined attributes, veterans aren't likely to sweat small problems. Many of them have seen the worst of humanity, have been shot at and more. It's pretty tough to rattle their cages over an unreturned phone call.

Here's what three veterans have to say about their lives as franchisees:

Ron Finch is a franchise owner with Enviro-Master Services, North America's leading health and safety-focused commercial cleaning service that has doubled in size since 2012. A favorite among veterans, Enviro-Master offers a 25 percent discount to former military members. "Veterans are equipped with the most important qualities for running a business," said the 46-year-old Finch.

"I would tell any veteran to keep their nose to the grindstone, because it's going to be a lot of work. However, the reward is great; the ability to make a difference in others' lives, to make a difference in the community where you live and financial independence and autonomy for yourself."

Finch, a Mobile, Alabama resident who purchased an existing Enviro-Master franchise in July 2018, serves commercial businesses throughout the Florida Panhandle and the Gulf Coast regions of Alabama and Mississippi.


Paul Holt served in the U.S. Army for 21 years and after retiring from Fort Bragg, he decided it would be a perfect match to take his attention to detail and combine it with his interest in the residential home market by joining the No. 1 home inspection company in North America, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors.

Said Holt,

"As a soldier I was trained to look at projects in finite detail, as well as from a macro vantage point. Dedication to the accomplishment of my mission was paramount. I work until the job is done, not when the clock says it's time to go home.

These are the characteristics that I counted on when I made the move into my own business and so far they have served me well on this new career path."

Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is a member of VetFran, a program of the International Franchise Association that helps vets purchase franchises and the company has achieved 5-star status in that program, the top ranking possible.

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Keith Young was already a successful franchise owner with FirstService Brands, the leading North American brand in the property services industry. So when he sold his CertaPro Painters of Central Houston franchise after 10 years, he didn't have to look far for his next opportunity.

The 48-year-old Young stayed within the FirstService Brands family and became a franchise owner with Floor Coverings International, visiting customers' homes in a Mobile Flooring Showroom stocked with thousands of flooring samples from top manufacturers. His Floor Coverings International serves customers throughout Houston and the surrounding areas.

Young is also a U.S. Navy veteran, who has put an emphasis on hiring veterans in the past and plans to continue that practice with Floor Coverings International.

"I will be hiring a sales associate before the end of 2019," Young said. "Military veterans make very successful franchise owners and employees since they know how to follow a proven system and take responsibility for achieving their objectives", Young shared.

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We Salute all Who Serve and Have Served on this Veterans Day!

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"Great service and attitude will help you grow"

(Fayetteville, Arkansas) As the birthplace and home of Walmart, Arkansas is a great place for an entrepreneur to shine. The region has proven to be perfect for Aaron Lewis.

He opened CertaPro Painters of Fayetteville in 2006 with his wife and business partner Michelle. Soon they added two employees.


Today the couple boasts a thriving business that employs 60 people. Securing contracts with huge brands like Target and Bass Pro Shops helped the couple's business grow revenue exponentially, reaching more than $3 million during the last consecutive three years.

Lewis claims his success is owed in part to watching his grandfather run a profitable insurance company in the river valley of Arkansas which began in 1947. The business eventually went to Lewis's father, then to his brother and 70 years later is still a success. Lewis inherited his grandfather's business acumen and philanthropic heart and adopted his strategies which were to run and create a family business.

"I've always been keenly aware that the struggle is real for small businesses," Lewis said. "I don't think I would own a business outside of a franchise, and CertaPro was the perfect fit for my family because it offered support, a solid reputation and the freedom to work remotely so I could spend time with my family."

As the largest residential painting contractor in North America, CertaPro's success is owed to its corporate leadership, solid training and support programs and to its franchisees.

The company's locally owned and operated businesses consistently bring personalized service to customers in every region.

Lewis's franchise location embodies CertaPro's core values, which are centered on delivering integrity, practicing continuous improvement and taking pride in even the smallest details of the work they perform.

Drawing pride and inspiration from the strong values set by the CertaPro Painters system and his grandfather, Lewis said,

"My lifelong goal is to build a business like my grandfather did that serves as a conduit for generosity and social problem solving."

The path to success is hardly ever an easy one. After growing up without parents and raising his siblings from a young age, Lewis's grandfather started a bank to help others in the community. The success of the bank quickly fueled a local construction boom, with the first subdivisions and modern homes being built in the community.

At only 39, Lewis has a long way to go before reaching the legacy of generosity that his grandfather left, but it's in his DNA and in his business plan!

He and Michelle are already giving back to his state. The couple has set a goal of protecting 1,000 miles of wild streams in rural Arkansas. They are also building a citizenship program that focuses on work visas to help workers migrate successfully into US employment. The company employs several legal immigrant workers and enjoys watching them learn, grow and flourish into great workers who in turn, take care of their families.

"That's what it means to build a legacy and help others build new lives using the opportunities afforded them here in America," said Lewis. "I want to leave a legacy of helping people that have fewer opportunities than I do", says Lewis.

"I see business as a way to help solve many social problems including immigration".

CertaPro Painters of Fayetteville serves a wide area encompassing Northwest Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Commercial and residential painting is an estimated $60 billion industry in the U.S. and Canada.

CertaPro Painters has been consistently ranked No. 1 in its category by Entrepreneur magazine and boasts a customer referral rate that exceeds 95 percent. Best-in-class operational systems and procedures make CertaPro the most professional business model in the industry, and its satisfied customers are the direct benefactors.

What's more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of actively employed painting and wall-covering contractors will increase by 38.5 percent during the 10-year period from 2010 to 2020. The bureau further concluded that sales of residential painting services are likely to increase by an annual rate of three to four percent during the same period.

For more information click on CertaPro Painters of Fayetteville or call 479-587-1250.

For more information click on a buying a CertaPro Painter Franchise

About CertaPro Painters

Founded in 1992, Audubon, Pennsylvania-based CertaPro Painters is the largest painting company in North America. With more than 350 independently owned and operated franchises worldwide, CertaPro provides a customer-driven painting experience for both residential and commercial properties that is unparalleled in the industry (both residential and commercial). The company's stellar service and proven business system have made CertaPro North America's most referred painting company. For more information, visit

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How You Can Partner With Your Best Friend in the Top Painting Franchise, CertaPro Painters...

Chris Mehring and Steve Leeland began their journey with CertaPro Painters® in 2002 and 2003, respectively. They didn't know each other at the time, though their territories all but overlapped.

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So, it made perfect business sense when the two joined forces in 2012, forming one of the biggest and most successful CertaPro Painters franchises to date.

CertaPro Painters is North America's largest and most-referred painting company with more than 350 locations and growing. "CertaPro Painters of Waukesha County proudly services every zip code in Waukesha County except one, four zip codes in Washington County and one zip code in Walworth County. We also service areas of SE Wisconsin for some commercial projects," said Leeland.

For Mehring, who started his career as a painter, the transition to CertaPro Painters was a natural one. "I'm not sure I ever really 'left'. I simply transitioned from painter to franchise manager (for a different company) to franchisee. I was 25 years old at the time, and had already delivered great results for my employer, so CertaPro Painters was the next logical step for me."

Steve Leeland says he knew since the 8th grade that he wanted to own his own business. He began his career at Auto Trader Magazines of Wisconsin where he sold advertising and managed circulation. "I knew the corporate world wasn't for me," explained Leeland.

"The experience of servicing customers and wearing many hats with Auto Traders proved to be an asset in my early years as a CertaPro Painters owner, though, so I do value those years that I spent 'in the trenches'".

Leeland says the driving force that led him to CertaPro Painters was the company's culture and clear business plan.

"The culture of friendly support, success and business-execution-clarity are what drove me to sign the franchise agreement. The company was also up and coming and fit well into my budget," he recalled.

Commercial and residential painting is an estimated $40 billion industry in the U.S. and Canada. CertaPro Painters has been consistently ranked No. 1 by Entrepreneur magazine in its category and boasts a customer referral rate that exceeds 95 percent.

Best-in-class operational systems and procedures make CertaPro Painters the most professional business model in the industry, and its satisfied customers are the direct benefactors.

The pair agree that there is no 'secret to their success', but the right attitude and perseverance certainly play a key role - a fact they both wholeheartedly agree on.

"I get more enjoyment from the impact we have on people and their community than anything else," says Mehring. "Everyone wants a good value, but that means something different to each person, so it is important that we listen.

We create painting opportunities that fit each individual customer's needs." Leeland adds, "Our customers are not only looking for quality work at a great price; they are looking for a partner in their contractor. We work together to solve problems and find the best products to suit their needs."

When asked about advice they might offer to prospective business owners, their philosophies were, again, right in line. "My path hasn't been easy," said Mehring, "but it has been when I needed to get me to where I am today. I wake up every day excited and ready to face new challenges.

If that scenario appeals to you, then I recommend business ownership."

"Starting a business requires a lot of hard work," agrees Leeland. "You have to remain committed to succeed, but the long-term rewards - such as profits, flexibility and a sense of accomplishment - make it all well worth it."

CertaPro Painters® of Waukesha County, WI is pleased to provide the best house painting to your specific neighborhood in and around Waukesha. For more information, visit CertaPro Painters® of Waukesha County, WI or call 262-676-2138.


About the Franchisor: CertaPro Painters

Founded in 1992, Audubon, Pennsylvania-based CertaPro Painters is the largest painting company in North America. With more than 350 independently owned and operated franchises worldwide, CertaPro provides a customer-driven painting experience for both residential and commercial properties that is unparalleled in the industry (both residential and commercial).

The company's stellar service and proven business system have made CertaPro North America's most referred painting company. For more information, visit

Rhonda Sanderson -SandersonPR -847-612-9829


Several years ago, Joe Caruso, wrote a very well received story "ABC's Shark Tank Sushi Franchise Fiasco."

Now, we want to present a slightly different & more upbeat story -- How to Pitch to the Sharks. Stay tuned for the final in September.

For the 5 Most Fascinating Stories in Franchising, a weekly report, click here & sign up.

In Latin, it's called consensus ad idem, meaning "meeting of the minds." In layman's terms, or in the case of Mitch Berliner and Peter Buttenwieser, it's simply two guys who turned a chance occurrence into an uber-successful business partnership that has exceeded their wildest dreams.


Although Their Paths Crossed By Chance,

Synergy Has Propelled Biz Partners To Top

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Berliner and Buttenwieser are managing partners of CertaPro Painters of Westchester, NY and Southern CT, which for the past five years has earned the status of being the No. 1 residential business within the 400-plus offices of CertaPro Painters, America's largest and most-referred painting company. 

What makes their story interesting is that neither ever thought he would be in the painting business, but by happenstance - and most importantly, a lot of hard work - they have turned what Buttenwieser calls a "very synergistic partnership" into a thriving business that has been one of the most successful in the CertaPro Painters' franchise system.

"We refer to ourselves as managing partners vs. owners," said Buttenwieser of the pair, who each hold a 50 percent stake in the franchise. "While we each have our own areas of expertise and specialty, we are always seeking the other's advice and consulting in each other's domains."

In 2004, Berliner was an IT sales executive when he hired CertaPro Painters to stain the cedar siding and paint the trim on his home in Somers. When Berliner's general contractor said the finished work was some of the best he had ever seen, Berliner was so impressed... he bought the company.

Flash forward to 2005 and Buttenwieser was an advertising and marketing executive who hired CertaPro Painters to restore and paint his circa 1908 house in Bedford. Buttenwieser was so impressed... he called Berliner and ended up buying into the company.

"When I got a message to contact Peter, my assumption was that he was calling to complain about something. It turned out he wanted to discuss how we were marketing the company and if I would be open to selling him equity in the business," Berliner said. "I was initially hesitant to take on a partner, but in hindsight, I made a pretty good decision."

Buttenwieser had done his due diligence on CertaPro Painters and the painting industry as a whole. Three things caught his attention: 1) it was a relatively low overhead business; 2) the competition was mostly mom-and-pop businesses with no definitive branding; 3) as people increasingly turned to the internet to make home-improvement decisions, a national brand such as CertaPro Painters was well-positioned to capture internet market share.

Despite their bullishness on the industry, in the early going neither Berliner nor Buttenwieser quit their day jobs: Berliner with Hewlett Packard and Buttenwieser with his marketing firm, I Before E Marketing. "We started out thinking it would be a fun side business and we might make some great vacation money every year. But things kept getting bigger and bigger," Buttenwieser said.

That is an understatement.

Today, CertaPro Painters of Westchester, NY and Southern CT has a management staff of 14 and more than 150 painters and tradespeople on its team. Two of those team members - Shawn Gallagher and Alex Ramos - who were the account manager and job site supervisor, respectively, when Berliner and Buttenwieser had their homes painted, are still with the company, Gallagher as Senior Residential Accounts Manager and Ramos as Senior Job Site Supervisor. In 2014, the entire team was honored with the Certa Cup, an award given to the top franchise throughout the CertaPro Painters' network.

"We are very proud of what we have built and for how many families we are putting food on the table," Buttenwieser said.

The majority of CertaPro Painters' franchises are single owner/operator businesses. While there are some husband/wife partnerships and a few where two businesses have merged operations, very few have grown organically as Berliner and Buttenwieser have done with their franchise.

Berliner is general manager, overseeing all sales and operations, while Buttenwieser manages all marketing and customer relationship management.

"It is a rare day when we do not speak at least two or three times," Berliner said. "One of our keys is that we can be really honest with each other because we trust each other, which really says something, given that 10 years ago we had never met. It's quite a remarkable relationship. During this whole time, I can't remember a single situation where we have had a major disagreement."

That being said, each business partner knows how to deliver a subtle message to the other when the circumstance warrants. You know... just the slightest little jab - with a nod and a wink - to get a point across.

"One thing we use with each other is the 'two strokes and a poke' method when we provide feedback to each other," Buttenwieser said. "The other day Mitch gave me some feedback on a piece of promotional literature that went something like this... 'Great job, looks really sharp; though I believe we discussed adding in a minimum job size, but I don't see that in the fine print.'"

More than a decade has gone by since their paths crossed, but the relevance of that meeting has never been lost on the pair. It's something Berliner certainly didn't forget to mention when talking recently about his two keys for running a top-tier CertaPro Painters franchise.

"Follow the system; that is why you bought into a franchise business. You can tinker here and there for your local market conditions, but don't try to outsmart everyone else who is doing this all over the country," Berliner said. "There are a lot of opportunities to take advantage of and landmines to avoid. And the best way to succeed is to get yourself a partner."

CertaPro Painters' best-in-class operational systems and procedures make it the most professional business model in the industry and its satisfied residential and commercial customers are the direct benefactors within the estimated $40 billion industry in the U.S. and Canada. CertaPro has been consistently ranked No. 1 by Entrepreneur magazine in its category and boasts a customer referral rate that exceeds 95 percent.

         Founded in 1992, Audubon, Pennsylvania-based CertaPro Painters is the largest painting company in North America. With more than 350 independently owned and operated franchises worldwide, CertaPro provides a customer-driven painting experience for both residential and commercial properties that is unparalleled in the industry. The company's stellar service and proven business system have made CertaPro North America's most referred painting company. 

For more information, visit CertaPro Painters 


A few years ago, Brad Cowan made the switch from dealing with sets of wheels to wet basements. 

However, it was a natural transition for the 52-year-old Cowan, who in 2015 retired from his position as a Corporate Vice President in the Insurance Replacement Division of Enterprise Rent-A-Car to become Senior Vice President of Business Development with Paul Davis, the one-stop disaster and reconstruction franchisor based in Jacksonville, Florida.


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While one business deals with moving vehicles and the other with stationary buildings, Cowan found many similarities that dovetailed with the business experience he earned during a 24-year career at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, where Cowan started as a manager trainee in a rental branch fresh out of college in 1991. 

In his role as a Corporate Vice President at Enterprise, Cowan worked closely with insurance companies and body shops to support customers during the auto claims process.

Likewise, Cowan now oversees Paul Davis' national business partnerships, as well as the national business development team, while also developing new programs for the Paul Davis Network.

With more than 375 locations in the US and Canada, Paul Davis is continually growing with a business model that Cowan said is very similar in scope to what he experienced at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. "The rapid growth here feels like Enterprise did 25 years ago when I first started there," Cowan said.

While always looking for qualified franchise candidates, Paul Davis is also expanding its geographic footprint of company-owned territories, recently completing two acquisitions, one in Kentucky and the other in Seattle. The first provides additional service coverage and capabilities between the Eastern and Midwest regions of Paul Davis company-owned operations, while the acquisition of the Seattle franchise adds a presence in another major metropolitan market which will serve as the foundation for a new regional platform on the West Coast.

"Paul Davis and the property industry are in a growth mode and we are in a great position to support our customers and provide opportunities for great people," Cowan said. 

"Our decision to build a network of company-owned locations illustrates our dedication to providing additional support to our clients and expanding our brand. As we continue to grow, we are always looking for A-grade players who will provide great service to our customers and who want to be part of a dynamic and growing industry. It will be real win for everyone working along with our network of experienced franchisees out there."

More About Paul Davis Restoration

 For more than 50 years, Paul Davis Restoration has restored residential and commercial properties damaged by fire, water, mold, storms and disasters. 

The experts at Paul Davis understand the complex process of recovering from property damage and provide complete services; there is no need for the expense and confusion of hiring multiple contractors. Paul Davis is a one-stop shop for disaster damage and restoration.

 Paul Davis Restoration has more than 375 independently owned franchises in the USA and Canada. The professionals at Paul Davis are certified in emergency restoration, reconstruction and remodeling. 

For further info go to Paul Davis Restoration


When you are a big well respected company like Jacksonville, Florida based Paul Davis, lots of people come to you for your knowledge and expertise. The area of restoration and repairs, particulary after this awful spate of hurricanes, floods and now fires, is a busy one.


Unfortunately, most of the calls that the EMS division of Paul Davis (Emergency Services--damage evaluation) receive brings them to an unhappy scene.

A house severely damaged or even lost, a teary-eyed family searching through what belongings may be saved. One can't help but sympathize with the emotions and difficulties these victims experience.

A full Paul Davis Restoration team then moves in to clean up and repair the scenes after evaluation. Not a happy time but often it does end up with a happy ending.

Even without Mother Nature's huge events, common hazards of life can cause chaos. One is extreme cold; but surprisingly, there are easy and inexpensive things to do so you never have to deal with this particular problem.

On December 7th Paul Davis' "flood house", a demo home at their state-of-the-art training facility in Jacksonville, was used by consumer journalist Jeff Rossen to demonstrate all the ways in which one can avoid bursting pipes and other cold weather hazards.

We have shared here:

Full segment:

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Clients ask me all the time how important rankings are.

Franchise Times, Entrepreneur, Franchise Business Review among others, all publish several franchise ranking lists per year. Here's my response.

Everything positive you can show about your system is a plus, clearly. The important thing is to participate-answer emails from publications or entities that tell you you are being considered for this list or that.

You can forward to your PR people, but much of the information will likely have to come from your CFO.

As a PR firm for franchises, we keep a list "alarmed" for the most popular and (and this is important) the most credible rankings.

Four months before the list is published we remind clients to look for an email, form or link that they need to go to in order to be considered for inclusion on the said list.

We will also happily vet a request for legitimacy which you can ask your firm or PR person to do as well.

You can Google the list and publication in question yourself.

Then I recommend you do this below: not with every one but certainly when you have amassed as many as this Number One in Home Inspection franchise has.

Go ahead. Toot your horn, but putting out a press release for every list you are mentioned on minimizes the weight of the honor. Announce two-three awards or rankings at a time and soon you will become the SuperStar in your category like Pillar To Post!



They Will Raise Veterans Discount from 10% to 20% on Franchise Fees

(TAMPA, FLA.) -- Pillar To Post Home Inspectors has achieved the highest position in the Top Franchise for Veterans ranking in Entrepreneur Magazine for 2016. This prestigious honor is the sixth such ranking from the famed business publication for Pillar To Post Home Inspectors. The company ranked as follows in the magazine's January edition of the Franchise 500: #1 in their category of Home Inspection, Best of the Best, Fastest Growing Franchise, Top Home Based Franchises and Top Low Cost Franchises. In addition, the booming chain has already awarded 70 additional franchises since January of this year.

"We couldn't be more thrilled with this honor," said Dan Steward, President & CEO of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors. "It says so much not only about how hard we've worked but how hard our franchisees have worked and maintained absolute integrity in their home inspections."

In addition, Pillar To Post ranks high in Franchise Business Review rankings. Franchise Business Review is a national franchise market research firm that performs independent surveys of franchisee satisfaction and franchise buyer experiences, examines the critical areas of a franchise system including training & support, operations, franchisor/franchisee relations, financial opportunity, and more. Its survey results deliver the unbiased facts about the overall health of a franchise system directly from today's franchise owners.

Pillar To Post has been named by Franchise Business Review's rankings of Top 50 in Franchisee Satisfaction, Top 30 among Home Service Franchises and Top Low Cost Franchise for 2016.

"We have been doing so well and are so honored to be named among Entrepreneur's Top Franchises for Veterans," said Eric Steward, Marketing Manager for Pillar To Post. "The veterans who join our system end up as top performers. Our business model and structure and culture seem to be a perfect fit for those leaving the military. As a result, we have recently added an additional 10% discount on our franchise fees for veterans, going from a 10% discount to a 20% discount for them.

About Pillar To Post Home Inspectors
Founded in 1994, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the largest home inspection company in North America with over 550 franchisees, located in 48 states and nine Canadian provinces. Long-term plans include adding 500-600 new franchisees over the next five years. For further information, please visit

I personally could not be more excited. And I don't want to brag but I nudged Ms. Moss or ([email protected]) to do this the day some very misguided International Franchise Association board members allowed an even more misguided then president Stephen Caldeira to relieve Debbie Moss from her amazingly successful run as Convention Director.

After 18 years of being widely credited with the turnaround of the association's educational programs, convention and ultimately, their bottom-line financial performance, that was her goodbye. Well, now meet Debbie Moss, The Meeting Boss.

I always say everything happens for a reason and this situation is no different. It's what one makes of his/her bumps and lumps in life that determines one's future.

Now this world-class event expert has launched a meeting consulting business for franchise systems. services will include in-office training for meeting staff, development of an exhibit hall or creating a sponsorship program, maximizing sales efforts or program development for any event.

The signature service will be the MBoss Assessment, which takes a comprehensive look into 13 key components of any meeting to evaluate how to improve KPI's without sacrificing the registrants' experience.

"Events can be executed so much more efficiently and profitably with an experienced professional. Even a small board meeting can realize $10-$15k in savings with savvy contract negotiations and experienced on-site management of food & beverage costs," Moss said.

As most of the readers here know, Debbie has more than 30 years of expansive experience from upscale board meetings for 50 to city-wide conventions of 7,000+. At IFA from 1995-2014, in her last 10 years, overall revenue at the Annual Convention soared from $1.7MM to $4.4MM and bottom-line surplus grew from $900,000 to $2.4MM.

I have some personal knowledge having served a year on the Board of the IFA and as Supplier Forum Chairman that Debbie brought the association from the red to the black.

Her efficiency in holding fantastic, organized and flawlessly orchestrated events accounts also for the savings realized during each convention; and further the rise in registrations because people want to attend a good, educational and well planned function.

Debbie Moss' career didn't start with the IFA. She was Convention Director and then Vice President of Industry Affairs for the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association for nearly 10 years before she was recruited by Don DeBolt, the then president at the International Franchise Association, to build the non-dues revenue at IFA in 1995.

Said Don Debolt, ""Debbie Moss is a meeting and event planning professional creating exceptional results, which I have personally experienced over the past 20 plus years. As Past Chairman of the International Franchise Association I saw first-hand how Debbie's meeting and events were produced on budget, on time and achieved impact for both large & small programs. Her approach combined vision, creativity, writing and staging general sessions to lead our association's revenue growth. High attention to detail, personal commitment, accountability, and communications are the hallmarks of her organization."

Another fan is the terrific Mike Isakson who we all remember as building giant ServiceMaster and who now is Managing Partner at Insight To Execution, "My opportunity to work with Debbie began a few years before I became IFA Chairman. In those volunteer roles, which included Convention Committee Chair, I had a front row seat to observe her ability to multi-task at an extremely high level -- always striving for flawless execution, better than better performance and rock solid efficiency & effectiveness. She demonstrated an affinity to look around corners for both challenges and opportunities and often took the lead to address those issues. Her commitment to build conferences revenue, while maintaining high standards, allowed the organization's finances to grow exponentially over her tenure."

Since I have known her I have always said that any meeting I ever attended would have been so much better had Debbie Moss in charge. Now she can be!!

Visit for a complete look at the services offered by this long-time industry expert.

Wellington, Florida based LED Source is considered one of the top innovators in franchising. (See Entrepreneur Magazine October 2015 issue) Not only is the company a franchisor itself, but many of its customers are also franchise chains looking for awesome lighting designs and for a vendor that will outfit all new stores with the lighting of the future; LED lighting. In less than a decade it will be a "must have".

Many systems and large box store chains are already hiring LED Source to retrofit all of their old locations and to install all the lighting in their new locations.

ledsource-logo-211.pngFASTSIGNS and Massage Envy are just a couple of examples.

But CEO Marcel Fairbairn realized he needed to streamline the process between his franchisees and his vendors.

He generously shares his knowledge with you here in a Q&A.

  • Describe how your franchisees originally got all their materials when you first began the franchise program.

Our system was one where our zees were "forced" to buy ALL products through the "head office". In fact, we had a two-stage royalty where it would cost them twice as much if they were buying product from an approved vendor other than our office.

Our internal team would help the zee determine what to buy, process the order, place an order with our vendor, bring the shipment into our office, re-package the shipment to complete for the zee, send to the zee, carry the A/R, then process any returns that might happen as well. It was a crazy amount of administration and we eventually realized we were losing money on our franchise business due to this.

  • When did it occur to you that this was not the way to go?

Very early on we could see it was problematic but we felt there was no other way to do it. Our vendors are very big old lighting brands who are also finding themselves in this new, disruptive business called LED. They had enough on their plates with that to then delve into a whole other world.

The world of franchisees or small business owners as it was. It took my team more than a year to convince all of our suppliers to do business directly with our franchisees and to help design an expedient method for doing so.

  • What was your first real issue that opened your eyes?

The short answer is the impact it had on our financial performance. Since we were not making a margin sufficient to cover all of the support needs of our franchises, we were mounting losses each month.

Additionally, we were carrying inventory for our suppliers who never seemed to have what we needed when we needed it.

So we'd cover their deficiencies as best we could which never really seemed to be enough.

In the end, we were hurting our zees, ourselves AND our suppliers and I really took a hard look within to come up with a very obvious answer.

  • What was the very obvious answer?

If it's broke, fix it. First we pushed very hard on our vendors to create a model they had never used before. Again, we are talking multi-billion dollar businesses with 50 or 100 years history.

Change does not come easily and there is a tremendous amount of time and work involved so this was an enormous task. The fact is we never really had to admit anything because it was going to be such a positive change for our vendors and our zees. There was very little, if any pushback.

  • What exactly IS Vendor Direct and does it have steps that you put in your manual now so franchisees can follow easily leaving you all out of the fray?

Vendor Direct is quite simple. When a franchisee signs on, we provide them with a list of vendors, contacts, links to training videos and materials, etc. We basically introduce the franchisee to their suppliers.

The franchisee goes through the process of signing up as a dealer, applying for credit, etc. It has been a huge update in our manuals and processes, but well worth it in the end!

  • What was the reaction from the franchisees as you transitioned to this plan?

Initially there was some hesitation. Having us supply them gave them a certain comfort factor. They didn't have to deal with many other individuals.

The real issue was one we helped with to make sure that the franchisees receive credit from these large suppliers who often had very strict standards.

The truth is we were acting like a bank even to some who were not very solid credit risks.

But we worked through that and the affected few did very well in the end and now have solid credit and a solid business to go with it. Since then we've received nothing but praise.

We've got a stack of testimonials from happy zees who are discussing everything from the choices now available to the speed of shipping, wider availability, etc. Some of our zees have created very good relationships with their new suppliers and many of these relationships have already been quite productive.

  • How's it working for you and them now?

Even on my side, my finance team was at first skeptical towards the idea. Because we were, in reality, lowering our revenue, how could this possibly be a good thing?

The facts are the facts.

While yes, our gross sales have been impacted; our bottom line has already increased and will continue to. In addition, we've been able to re-purpose people who had been glorified order placers or trackers to now support franchisees in other, more productive ways.

We've allowed the manufacturers to discuss process and support THEIR products, and we support our zees on application, training, marketing and general business management.

As our business continues to scale, we do not have to borrow money or tie up resources toward massive inventories or administrative costs. Plus, our franchises have proven very quickly that the program works by rewarding themselves and us with growing revenues!!

  • You are clearly happy with the decision. In one sentence sum up what you learned from it.

It's hard to put such a laundry list of lessons and bumps on the head into one sentence, but for sure the one thing that comes to mind is that you should always play to your strengths. In this case, we were a challenged, even deficient supplier to our zees, and it showed in their numbers and our own.

So I looked at what we were doing and said to myself, "we are very good at what we do but this is not it. So let's get out of this role!" And that's precisely what we did.

About LED Source

Founded in 2005, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions. In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit. For more information and/or about franchising opportunities, please visit

As a franchisor, you've dedicated years to your business, built its reputation and perfected your products - so what do you do when you know when others are sullying your business reputation?

If your next major business step is to franchise your brand then reputation management becomes vital. You have to monitor and if necessary defend your brand's reputation. You definitely don't want to deter potential franchisees.

With the increasing number of review sites, social media and blogs it's great for the consumer to find information. But do you know what's being said about your business online?

Reputation Management - Addressing the Issue

It's a tough problem, and it's even tougher knowing that the majority of your customers are happy and satisfied. Yet there's always a few who complain. Any potential franchisor who has had his own business for any length of time may expect to come across a few complaints - he should understand it's a part of doing business.

You can't please all the people all the time.

The worst of it is those complaints and negative reviews may exist without you knowing it, adversely influencing your potential customers and franchisees.

You had a good month, how do you know you could have had an even better month if only it wasn't for Bert from Boston spreading his discontent online? Did Bert actually contact your customer service department to talk about his problem?

The only way to find out is to conduct reputation monitoring and address each complainant as you find them.

Set up a Google Alert for each of your brand names and your company name, or use a similar service offered by Technorati which alerts you via RSS feed. If the majority of your feedback is positive, then great, build on it further by thanking those who did leave a positive review.

Addressing Negative Feedback

But in the case of negative feedback forewarned is definitely forearmed.

Sometimes a customer may have a valid complaint. Bert from Boston could have called your customer service department and been blown off or promised something he never received like a replacement part.

By talking to Bert directly you may get to the root cause of the problem. You may need to retrain your customer service personnel as a result, or improve your product. If either is lacking, then improvement is positive for both your business and your customers.

The negative side will be if you ignore the issue. Bert could leave negative reviews on dozens of sites and on FaceBook and Twitter. It could spread like a virus, so reputation management should have been addressed as soon as the first complaint appeared.

It is how you address individual people and issues that will enhance or decrease your business reputation.

When others see that you are striving to resolve Bert's problem, the negativity may just be turned around. Most people don't expect things to be perfect every time, but they don't expect to be ignored.

Make Bert happy and you may just find he'll start spreading the word about how great your company is at resolving problems. The franchisee will see how you handle complaints the right way, and should be impressed. Problem solved.

Yet, you will always get people who complain just for the sake of it. You may even find that negative reviews are being posted by a competitor. Yes it happens, and it's difficult to prove.

That's a job for your lawyer if you feel it's seriously impacting your revenue.

Train Your Staff

Many social media sites, blogs and forums rank well in Google and may come above yours in the SERPs. You don't want a prospective franchisee reading response-less negative reviews of your business before he picks up the phone.

Train one of your customer service staff in proactive reputation management. Have that person be responsible for checking those alerts and RSS feeds daily.

They should then become skilled at responding quickly and diplomatically to any complaints and be able to manage your business reputation online effectively.

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Most companies know that product reviews can make or break a sale, and that customers have come to rely on word of mouth reviews, feedback, and opinions when making purchasing decisions.

Amazon has taken this a step further and turned to their customers to provide that much needed information that can push customers to making a purchase.

Their "ask a question" feature allows customers browsing items to ask a question that will be answered by people who have purchased the item. When looking at products on their site, you'll see a "ask a question" or "XX number of questions answered" for each product:


Clicking on the link allows customers to ask a more detailed, "nuts and bolts" type question that might be the one factor in deciding to purchase or not, and customers who have bought the item can respond.

In the example of above, questions ranged from "Does it play DVD's that have been burned?" to "Does this DVD player remember where you left off"" to the more technical, "I have an old Panasonic TV. Will this work with it?"

Amazon realizes the importance of product information and providing enough information, in as many ways possible, to educate and encourage sales.

Of course, customer buy in to participate by answering questions is an important component - if customers don't reply, potential buyers may not get the information they need. Similarly, they could get the perception, based on the lack of activity in this area, that the product is not popular or one that many people purchase.

One way Amazon tries to prevent this is by routing these questions, as they come in, to customers who have purchased the item. Often times customers will be happy to share their feedback. As an added benefit - those customers may become more loyal to Amazon, as they company turns to them for insight and feedback on a personal level.

While not a new feature, it is one that is picking up steam, and is a great example of finding new ways to encourage sales and engage customers, as well as potential customers.

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In this day and age, 95% of customers turn to the Internet to quickly find products and services -- and that includes finding a local business provides them. The importance of having a website for your brand franchise is a no-brainer, but should local franchisees have a website, too?

One of the great things about franchises is they have national brand recognition and local identities, so they can connect with their individual communities while also staying at the forefront of customers' thoughts. However, the challenge becomes defining the local identity of each franchisees location all within the established brand.

When local franchisees plan to market themselves online, they may turn to practices that the franchisor needs to oversee so there are no mixed brand messages in the market. What I'm referring to is franchisees having their own website, separate from the established franchise website. Not only will this cause customer confusion over which site is the main one, but it will cause customers to lose trust in the franchise as a whole. After all, 73% of customers lose trust in a brand when there is incorrect listing information on the Internet.

The danger zone

While it may seem like a good idea for franchisees to have their own website -- a place for local customers to quickly find them -- it will spread the overall brand thinly across the web and franchisors will lose control of managing their online reputation.

If each franchisee maintains their own website, each will both look different and present different messages vs. what the franchise as a brand is promoting. Let's use Planet Fitness as an example. They promote their gyms as "judgement-free" zones, a selling point to those who are intimidated by the avid gym-goer. If every Planet Fitness location put out their own website, the core message would get lost. Even simple typos such as, "judgement-free zoo," has the possibility to damage the brand, franchisor and franchisee across the web.

In addition to inconsistent and incorrect messaging, individually-maintained franchisee sites will cause the main franchise website to get lost in the crowd and confuse the customer. For example, there may be a franchisee that is killing it with their SEO, so much so that they overshadow other franchisees (and possibly locations closer to a searcher). The situation becomes more complicated franchisees run Ad Word campaigns because they will entering into a bidding-war for the same keyword -- a waste of valuable marketing dollars.

The easiest and simplest plan is to eliminate local websites and focus on the main website with a local approach.

Out of danger + into the community

Keeping your brand message consistent can be as easy as 1-2-3 when it comes to local marketing.


1. Provide an online marketing strategy

Whether you want to give your franchisees some freedom in their marketing, or lay out the entire strategy for them, it all starts with a structure. Share the marketing guidelines, clearly delegate responsibilities and provide them with the materials and information they need to be successful.

A great place to start is with individual location listing pages on the main franchise website. By providing each franchisee with a place to house their NAP (name, address, phone), you will help establish SEO that each location can contribute to.

2. Distribute brand guidelines

In addition to providing a marketing strategy, distribute brand guidelines that each franchisee should follow in order to eliminate confusion about the ultimate franchise goal (like the one mentioned with Planet Fitness).

A consistent message across the franchisees creates a strong base for each location to build their local marketing on.

The brand guidelines should cover how the slogan and logo can be used and establish the voice and tone for the franchise as a whole.

3. Maintain consistent support

To keep the brand strong across all locations, you should consistently share the brand message and always provide answers to franchisees who have questions. By providing support, you will be able to track the who may not be complying with the guidelines -- and reach out to them and provide alternatives in order to maintain the brand and prevent damage.

A small thing, such as a separate franchisee website, can start brand damage and lead to bigger issues across the franchise. By evaluating your own franchise website (and the local location pages you provide to your franchisees), you can present a consistent brand message nationally and locally, all while growing your online customer base.

Many franchisors don't have systems in place that enable their franchisees to control their own local online marketing activities.

LocalVox provides franchises from all industries -- from furniture retailers to grocery stores -- with software that lets franchisees contribute to their local online marketing and still allows the franchisor to monitor franchisee activities and control larger brand-building campaigns.

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

For more information on how we can help your franchise, please contact us and we would be happy to give you a demo.

The post Prevent Brand Damage With a Complete Franchise Website appeared first on LocalVox.

LED Source- the Franchisor's Vendor

My client LED Source is an awesome company that has now been valued very highly by the "right people".

They are a franchisor & also a vendor to franchisors, retrofitting lighting for great chains like Massage Envy and Starbucks.

We will ALL eventually need LED lighting so they are out there promoting themselves on both levels. They are a terrific futuristic franchise opportunity and at the same time franchisors and chains, such as Starbucks, need to be retrofitted with all new lighting.

But how to go after a Starbucks type entity when you think "hey I'm just a small company?"

Be a small company that ROARS!

If you can make an intelligent presentation as to the whys, wheres, how tos and in LED Source's case, the tax credits the customer will receive, you can pitch anyone. It just takes tenacity and an intelligent, succinct "pitch".

Window Genie- 3M Partnership

Another great example is another terrific client of Sanderson & Associates: Cincinnati based Window Genie.

Window Genie has reached an agreement with 3M Company to provide a residential window film solution as part of the company's lauded Envision™ line of films. The partnership will provide Window Genie, a franchise chain with over 200 units that provides window cleaning and window tinting to homes in more than 24 states, an opportunity to service over 125,000 residential customers with window film that reduces fading, heat and glare and can help lower utility bills.

Beginning April 1, Window Genie franchisees will offer the residential Envision™ film options that include clear view, glare control, sun block and shade offerings. The film options range from 70%-40% for total solar energy rejection (TSER), a quality which stands to save homeowners significantly on their utility bills.

Window Genie's partnership with 3M is the result of two years of discussions between the companies, initiated by Window Genie.

"We approached 3M two years ago actively seeking the partnership," said Ken Fisk, vice president of operations for Window Genie.

"We believed Window Genie's reputation as an established residential home service business put us in a great position to illustrate to 3M the value of forming a partnership with us.

Through two years of conversations pertaining to the opportunity 3M had to penetrate the residential market through a partnership with Window Genie, a company with over 125,000 residential customers in our database, both parties agreed it was mutually beneficial to move forward."

"The partnership is mutually beneficial," said Fisk.

"While Window Genie is able to further customer satisfaction by providing a highly recognizable brand of top quality window film, 3M is able to successfully penetrate the residential market and build brand awareness for their line of residential film among Window Genie's customers that span over 200 markets in 24 states."

For years 3M's line of Envision™ Wrap Films has been an industry favorite, earning commendations for its high performance, sustainable materials and comprehensive warranty.

Founded in 1994 by Rik Nonelle, Window Genie recently appeared on Inc. Magazine's 2014 Inc. 5000 list and on Entrepreneur Magazine's list of top 100 home-based franchises. The partnership stands to benefit Window Genie franchisees every bit as it will benefit customers," said Fisk.

"We look forward to improved training and support by providing one brand of film to our franchise partners," said Fisk. "We believe it will help streamline systems and enable growth with a more successful method of coaching throughout the entire Window Genie system."


Window Genie is a mobile cleaning services company focused primarily on its "big three" services: window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. The company also offers, among many other services, dryer vent cleaning, chandelier cleaning and gutter cleaning and re-securing.

Window Genie services primarily residential customers, as well as small offices and commercial spaces. The company currently has 72 franchise owners operating more than 200 units in 24 states, and expects to grow to 100 franchisees by the end of 2015 and over 300 within five years. Target markets include California, New York and Florida. For more information, visit


Founded in 2005, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions.

In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit. For more information and/or about franchising opportunities, please visit

Social media has been inching its way into other forms of advertising, including commercials.

At first, it was "innovative" when companies would include their Facebook URL or Twitter handle on their commercials, but Panera took it to a new level.

Did you catch it? They used actual tweets from customers to promote their products.


This is a great way to reward customers for talking about your brand, and also connecting with customers on a more personal level. There are a few ways you can get this type of conversation to use in your marketing strategies:

Start with your fan base: use a content for a double win - encourage customers to tweet about your product with a specific hashtag on your social media sites. Select a random post every day as a winner. Not only can they win something such as a gift card to your business, but the opportunity to be highlighted in your upcoming marketing piece.

Thank & reward those who are currently doing this: you may not need a contest - you may find that your customers are already talking about your brand, even maybe using hashtags. By reviewing the data from your social media monitoring program, you can identify these consumers, connect with them, and ask permission to use their content in your upcoming marketing promotion.

This is a great way to engage and reward your customers!

Using social media conversations as marketing tools is yet another great reason for monitoring social media data surrounding your brand and products. Use the unstructured feedback as a tool while building relationships and engaging your fans.

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The good news in PR during the '90s? Clients on magazine covers, Wall Street Journal columns, 900 word stories in their major dailies. The bad news? Lots of mistakes, lots of jockying for space, bad photos appearing, misquotes.

2015-Content Management. I'm liking this better. Here's what we can do now and make sure it's seen by thousands of people. With photos, graphics and artwork.


National Brand Partnerships, Technology Enhancements, Franchisee Growth Planned for 2015

(Cincinnati, Ohio)---If 2014 was any indication, Americans are appreciating home cleaning services the likes of which Window Genie provides more than ever. The 21 franchise locations opened throughout the year--with three additional locations pending an early 2015 opening--are proof enough of the growing demand for the mobile cleaning service famous for window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. Now, heading into 2015, the company that celebrated its 20th year in business in 2014 is gearing up for even greater growth, spurred in large part by the multiple programs and partnerships set to take off in the year.

Beyond franchisee growth in 2014, Window Genie was also lauded by a number of business journals throughout the year. Inc. Magazine recognized Window Genie as the 13th fastest-growing business in the Cincinnati metropolitan area in addition to placing it on the upper half of its annual Inc. 5000 listing of fastest-growing companies in the United States. In addition, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Window Genie 195th on its annual Franchise 500 list, cementing its place as one of the fastest-growing and top home-based franchises.

In 2015, says Window Genie founder and CEO Richard Nonelle, the company has big plans to benefit franchisees and customers alike. "We will continue to focus on improving the experience between franchisee and customer," says Nonelle. "We'll do this both through new partnerships we've founded with a number of national brands, including Yelp and Home Advisor, as well as by enhancing our technology." Window Genie's mobile search strategy, adds Nonelle, will be in full effect in 2015, which will entail an improved online presence and SEO enhancements to benefit owners.

Window Genie aims to continue its growth in 2015, and Nonelle points to years of consistent annual expansion as proof that his plan is a sustainable one. In the last three years, 60 franchisees have joined the Window Genie system. Window Genie franchisees can be found all throughout the United States, with target markets for growth for 2015 in the East and West coasts and throughout Florida.


About Window Genie

Founded in 1994 by Richard Nonelle, Cincinnati-based Window Genie is a mobile cleaning services company focused primarily on its "big three" services: window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. The company also offers, among many other services, dryer vent cleaning, chandelier cleaning and gutter cleaning and re-securing. Window Genie services primarily residential customers, as well as small offices and commercial spaces. The company currently has 72 franchise owners operating 140 units in 28 states, and expects to grow to 100 franchisees by the end of 2015 and over 300 within five years. Target markets include California, New York and Florida. For more information, visit

6 months ago I met with the Head of Digital at a major movie studio.  

He was recounting a meeting with Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook in which he explained that they didn't need Facebook advertising.  

They had already built such massive audiences around their movie brands and their characters that all they had to do was coordinate posts across these to reach and saturate their audience on Facebook.  

It was an owned media channel so they didn't need for it to be paid.  

That's part of what made Facebook such an appetizing choice, and brands flocked to leverage it to communicate with their customers.

But, Now Facebook Wants It's Piece of Your Pie

News reports have been surfacing that Facebook is testing updates that would make your Fan Page posts seen by even less people, unless of course you pay their advertising fees to boost the reach of sponsored posts.  

Last year, there was a lot of fan fare made out of the algorithm change that reduces it from 12% on average to 6%.  It meant that if you had 100 followers, the average post would be seen by only 6 people instead of 12.     That doesn't seem like a lot.   But it's about to get worse.  A lot worse.

Recent reports are stipulating that a brand page's organic reach is going to drop even further from 6% to 1-2%.   Now you really have to pay to reach your own "Owned" audience.

On one hand, we all knew Facebook would become an advertising medium.  

Free services almost always end up charging brands to reach the audiences they aggregate.  

But at the same time, brands and media outlets are fuming.  

They have effectively paid and invested heavily in building an audience that they then have to pay again to send messaging to - effectively they feel Facebook is double dipping.

What Does This Mean For Social Media Advertising?

The question is what is a fair compromise and frankly, I don't have a good model for saying whether 12%, 6%, 2% or 1% is fair.  

In the end, Facebook will determine what's fair by maximizing revenue - making sure there is enough return for people to keep investing en masse and then making the paid rates manageable enough that there is a positive ROI.

In the meantime, what it means for brands is that they should be cautious of audiences they don't control.   Email is still great.  

There is no middle man and it's still the number one rated marketing channel in terms of ROI, returning $38 for every $1 spent.  

Organic search and your content footprint continue to deliver incremental value over time.  

That's why content marketing is so crucial.   You should continue to build your Facebook audience organically, but it is time to reconsider the value of a Like.  Is it worth the cost-per-acquisition plus the cost in reaching them?   Time to update that marketing ROI spreadsheet.

I do believe Facebook advertising does provide better audience targeting (geographic, demographic, retargeting, etc.) and in many cases is extremely cost-effective.

A Monetization Guide for Other Social Media Channels

A fellow marketer said to me, that's why Instagram and Twitter is great.   You can still message for free.   To that I respond, it's only a matter of time.  

Facebook bought Instagram and will run the same playbook, and Twitter's Dick Costolo and Adam Bain inevitably will as well.   They are running the same playbook.

So think about what you own in marketing.  What you really own.   Otherwise, you might be betrothed to a third party who owns your audience.

The post Your Facebook Reach Is About to Drop Considerably. Now What? appeared first on LocalVox.

That is a question we should all be asking.

Then we should decide if the answer matters to us or our business. 

If you are Erbert and Gerbert's Sandwich Shops and a Subway franchisee is going to several of your locations buying and tasting your sandwiches, there isn't much you can do about that.

But if you are Erbert and Gerbert's Sandwich Shop and Subway's HR person calls your best development person, or contacts them through LinkedIn for an interview, you need to ponder that dilemma and decide if and how to combat it.

We are in an age of lots of connection!  Do you have employees sending out resumes from the office computer? You can track that. Are they posting their resume on LinkedIn with notes such as "Looking for Job Opportunities"?  That's another matter. 

There is always the standard non-compete agreement which you can ask an employee to sign upon hiring.  Make sure the agreement is legal and protects you from the things that matter.  No need to put a bunch of items in that you can't enforce and do not matter to you and your business. 

I've always found in my thirty years in franchise PR, that an employee that is gone should be gone.  In other words, even if they seemed ideal, if they can be stolen, they shouldn't be in your shop. If you've let them go and they end up at a competitor, well that's his/her new headache, and no longer yours.  You know why you terminated them. Let your competitor find out too!

Then there is the matter in our case of clients stealing employees. I use the word "steal" but can they really do that? It's a human being.  Is it ethical? No   Is it legal? Yes, unless you have a non-compete agreement worded properly that forbids that action.  Even then you can ask for no more than a year-long reprieve. The upside? You got rid of a client with questionable character and an easily bought, disloyal employee.

My favorite is when you have been working with a company for years; they see how well you are doing and decide to go into your industry, in our case PR, by shopping your business or your competitors' for people.  

This scenario teaches you so much about people, loyalty and business that any possible damage that can be done by the occurrence is totally exceeded by the brilliant lessons you learn from it.

In this scenario, they likely end up with all the industry misfits that couldn't make it at the competitors' shops and really, when you look at all the pieces together, what's missing is the burning passion and talent that drove you to start your own PR firm, franchise service business, restaurant chain, consulting business, whatever you have created that built a name for you to begin with.

In other words, don't sweat it. The joke's on your competitor!

Recently I met with a franchisor that is quickly growing the franchise across Canada. What I discovered about the company's social media surprised me...not because I haven't seen evidence of it before with other franchises but because I've never met a franchisor state it quite as plainly as this one did.

The franchise had a Facebook page and a Twitter profile that were relatively well-maintained.

It also had a slew of Google Plus pages, none of which were optimized or being utilized.

When I opened discussions into ways they could expand the audience of their (what I assumed to be) corporate brand pages, they said they weren't looking to grow them as representative of the entire brand because they only represented the one corporate location and not the franchise overall.


Then when I asked about the lack of franchisee pages and profiles, they said that was up to the franchisees.

They didn't care what the franchisees did with their social profiles because it was "their business."

I was stumped...not that a franchisor hadn't put a plan into place to support franchisee social media growth but that a franchisor actually said it wasn't their business.

Franchisee social media not a part of the franchisor's business? To say this is short-sighted is an understatement.

What this franchisor hasn't come to understand (and what I did try to impress upon them during our meeting) is that every bit of franchise exposure, be it local, corporate, or lack-there-of, impacts the franchise overall and each local franchise.

The strength of the corporate brand presence impacts the franchisees, and the strength of each franchisee on social channels impacts every other franchisee and the corporate brand overall.

Why? Because social networking is both hyper-local and global at the same time, and online conversations are public and pervasive.

This franchisor took an entirely hands-off approach to franchisee social media marketing. While this may, at first glance, appear to be exactly what prospective franchisees may want, consider what this really means (given that you know you absolutely, positively must be on social media, of course):

  1. Setting up social media pages and profiles will be up to you.

  2. Designing graphics to fit properly and capture audience attention will be up to you.

  3. Getting your audience to like and follow your pages will be up to you.

  4. Developing and posting consistent, creative content will be up to you.

  5. Paying for relevant social promotions will be up to you.

  6. Providing customer service will be up to you.

  7. Responding to comments and other interaction will be up to you.

  8. Doing all this while you do everything else involved in running and growing your franchise will be up to you.

  9. And if you don't do it, your audience may not find you and your customer base may not grow.

Now I'm not advocating that you should buy into a franchise where you have zero input regarding your social media communication...unless that is what you want.

I'm simply asking that you consider the impact of having a franchisor that leaves social media entirely up to you because "it's your business."

As a franchisee, you are buying into a franchise because it has a duplicatable, working system that you can put into place.

It's a well-oiled machine with the training and support you need in order to implement it in your local market.

Shouldn't there be a system for social media as well?

You decide. It's up to you.

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For the next week, we are putting a big focus on thinking about the Retail Industry given our Retail 150 Local Marketing Report Card research.  

When watching 60 Minutes, you might think that in a couple of years most retail sales would all occur online and be delivered by airborne drone.  

Instead, the industry data paints a much different picture.

1) 91% of retail is still local



2) The eCommerce growth rate is slowing down.


3) Amazon is the key winner and quickly outmaneuvering search engines like Google with value added customer services like Amazon Prime and ratings and reviews.


4) But online is more important than ever - but to in-store retail sales.  About half of in-store sales is influenced online and that percentage is growing every year.



5) And, retailers are doing a poor job of using local online marketing to drive in-store sales.

This creates a mandate for most retailers to effectively use local online marketing to drive in-store sales.  

Gartner released research that showed that large, multi-location retailers that integrate local marketing processes will increase revenue 10-15% by 2015.  That's a billion opportunity for many of them.  

Sadly, most large retailers are failing in the 4 Pillars of Local Marketing according to our recent Retail 150 Annual Local Marketing Report Card.  

The average grade was just 3.58 out of 10 and local social ... well, no one is really doing it well.




So retail is still local, but the web is actually much more important than retailers realize - not to eCommerce revenues but in-store revenues.  

Given the failings of the industry to adapt to leverage local online marketing, now is actually the time to leap frog the competition and quickly drive differentiation and top line revenue with a high degree of ROI.


Download the Retail 150 Local Marketing Report Card




Wired Flare recently conducted a study of franchises in the greater Toronto area to help us get a better grasp on the existing needs in the franchise industry for social media support.

The findings were rather surprising.

We analyzed 89 franchises in the GTA. These are the questions as part of the analysis process:

1. On what platforms does the franchise have corporate brand pages setup (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram, other, all or none)?

2. On what platforms does the franchise have local franchisee pages setup (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram, other, all or none)?

3. If the franchise has franchisee pages, are their pages for all franchisees or only some?

4. Are the brand images (logos, banners, headers, etc.) good quality, reflective of the brand and consistent across all channels?

5. What is the frequency of posting to each setup social network?

6. What is the consistency of posting to each social network?

7. What types of content are being posted to each social network (promotional, product-related, inspirational, informative, etc.)?

8. What is the level of audience engagement on each social channel?

9. How many online reviews have been published for each franchise on each applicable platform?

10. Do Google Plus listings come up in local map results for every location?

After compiling the answers to each of those questions for the franchises in the study, here are our findings:

Only 28% - Strong Corporate Presence, Inconsistent Franchisee Presence

28% of the franchises were found to have a solid corporate presence on social media. They had setup at least two brand pages on social media channels, were posting consistent content and were actively engaging and responding to their audience.

And none of those 28% of franchises had a solid, identifiable plan for their franchisees. Some of the franchisees had set up their own social media pages, some had not. Some were posting a lot, some not at all. Images were often varied, and in some cases customer questions remained unanswered.

54% - Poor Brand Presence, Poor Franchisee Presence

54% of the franchises had social media profiles setup but did not have a solid corporate presence on those channels. Posting was inconsistent, infrequent, and did not elicit response from fans or followers. In many cases there were customer posts that not been responded to. In every case there was also no identifiable plan for franchisees. As with the above findings, some local pages posted a lot, some not at all. Branding and customer service were inconsistent across the board.

18% - Not Found on Social Media

18% of the franchises had no social media profiles that could be found on any social networks. That is hard to believe...but true.

The noticeable statistic that does not appear is one that would represent the franchises with a strong brand presence and strong, consistent franchisee presence. Not one of the franchises we analyzed fit into that category.

Clearly our findings indicate that many franchisors still do not understand the importance of social media. Therefore most franchises do not have a solid social media program in place that benefits all their franchisees.

This is a huge missed opportunities for franchises, and it's one that they can't afford to keep missing.

If you're a franchisor that fits into one of the above categories and is in need of support to implement a social media program that works for you and your us now. We're here to help.

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Social media communication can actually be a great indicator as to how a franchise system supports its franchisees.

Once you've narrowed down your potential franchise choices, take some time to look at their social media and consider the following things.

Is There a Social Media Presence?

First, determine whether the franchise has a social media presence at all. For example, does it have links to Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus on its corporate website? If not, this is likely an indication that the franchisor has not prioritized social communication.

However, don't stop there; look for them on your own. Search Facebook and Twitter to see if there is any franchise presence. If not, this should be a huge flag for you. With 91% of consumers today making purchasing decisions based on online experiences, social media is absolutely necessary for business growth.

Is Social Presence Corporate Only or Local?

The second step, assuming the franchise passed the test in step 1, is to determine the level of presence it has. Are social profiles only representative of the corporate franchise? For example, when doing your searches do you only find one Facebook page and one Twitter profile, both of which represent the corporate franchise?

If this is the case, it may indicate that the franchisor has a very strict policy about local pages and prohibits franchisees to have their own social media presence. Depending on the products and services the franchise offers, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is something you need to know and understand up front.

Is Branding and Customer Service Consistent?

If you do find many local pages, you'll likely encounter one of two scenarios:

1)      All the pages are branded similarly, have some of the same types of content, and are active; or

2)      The pages all look different and have different photos and content; some are updated regularly and some haven't had anything posted for months or longer.

If you find #1 to be true, this likely indicates that there is an overall social media strategy in place. This is great for you as a franchisee because you can feel confident that the corporate team will provide support in getting your social presence off the ground. They may even manage it for you, which can be fantastic if the franchisor also empowers and trains franchisees to be involved if and when they want to be.

If you find situation #2 to be true, which is very often the case, this likely means that when it comes to social're on your own.

Up to this point, the franchisor likely has not provided any support or guidance for franchisee social profiles, which can be good and bad. The upside is that you would have freedom to engage as you choose to do so. The downside is that you'd be on your own for creating and distributing content, managing social platforms, providing customer service and building relationships with your audience. This can be a very time-consuming task.

Is Your Social Media Audience Engaging with the Franchise Online?

Finally, whether the franchise has one social profile or many, it's important to take a look at the types of conversations that are happening. Is the content dull and/or pushy, or are the posts ones that get the audience really excited about the franchise and prompt audience engagement? Are people liking, sharing and retweeting franchise posts?

If you find a lot of engagement, that's a fantastic indication that social media audiences already enjoy following the franchise online. For you that means that if you choose to be a franchisee, you'd have an audience that already knows about the franchise and will likely be excited to have a local profile to engage with on social networks.

Whatever you find when you investigate the franchise's social media presence, it's crucial to open a dialogue with your potential franchisor and ask them what, if any, corporate support is given to a franchisee's social media management. Of course this isn't the only factor in your decision to purchase a franchise, but it should definitely be one of them.

Among many other things it can do, social media is a powerful tool for brand communication and marketing.

One would think this might go without saying, but many businesses still aren't quite sure how it fits into their traditional marketing plan.

First, it's important to understand that brand isn't what you say it's what your audience says it is. You can only shape their definitions by the way that you communicate with them, and social media can be a huge part of that process.

Second, a key element to understand is that brand communication and marketing through social media is most effective when it is focused on the audience first and foremost.

Social media provides a way of communicating to your audience at a deeper level what your company truly is and everything it stands for: mission, values, products, passions, community involvement, character, the people behind the company, and more.

It's a way of telling your story so that it resonates with your audience and reveals the deeper side of why your company is here and why it provides the products or services that it does.

It's about being real.

Social media is an extension of everything else you do to shape your brand - website, print collateral, signage, business cards.

All of that works together to shape how your audience sees you and to tell your story,  so as you craft your brand communication plan, it is important to develop an overall strategy (and budget) that involves all the pieces working together.

Conclusion:  Social media also allows your organization to gain exposure to a large audience (thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands) at a very low cast. Five years ago it would have cost you tens of thousands of dollars to reach those kinds of numbers .

With social media you have the opportunity to spread the word about your company to anyone and everyone online, and when your communication plan is audience-focused, over time they start doing your marketing for you. One person comments on your post, their friends see it, they like your page, they comment, their friends see it, they like your page, they comment, their friends see it...and over time they start buying.

That same type of exponential audience-led brand exposure doesn't happen with billboards or magazine ads. That doesn't necessarily mean you don't need billboards or magazines, but it does mean you need social media as part of your overall plan.

An ad provides one message. It offers one solution to solve one problem.

The messages you can send out on social media are endless. As your company grows, so can its social media change and adapt with it. It's thousands of messages, each one giving just a bit more of a glimpse into what you are, what you do, and why you're the best at it.

Social media is so powerful because it allows you to build relationships and foster loyalty and trust with your audience. You can't buy those relationships - you have to develop them over time by communicating in an audience-focused way.

And the best part of it all is that when you use social media effectively as part of your marketing process, the value you bring to your audience goes far beyond the products and services you can provide for them.

Most franchisors have robust franchise marketing plans in place for the franchise that revolve around advertising. The marketing programs are usually mandatory and pool funds from all of the franchisees within the franchise.

The national marketing plan typically includes advertising campaigns, email marketing, television and radio commercials, Internet advertising, social media around the central brand, public relations, and direct mail campaigns - all assets that aren't at the core owned local media channels.

National marketing campaigns that are funded through franchisee fees are great for producing high quality marketing collateral that normally wouldn't be financially feasible for a business owner generating less than several million dollars per year in profit and they ensure brand consistency.

1. Local Franchise Marketing

Many times franchisees are also permitted to execute local marketing campaigns that meet the franchisors parameters and guidelines. In most cases approval from the franchisor is required prior to moving forward with the local marketing plan - creating additional overhead and requiring local marketing sophistication for the franchisee.

More often than not, franchisees need to address local marketing, as the franchisor is focusing on promoting the company on a national level. Currently, well more than half of franchisees are not happy with the marketing support they receive from the franchisor.

Below are some interesting facts that summarize the franchisor and franchisee marketing gap:

  • 64% of franchisees are dissatisfied with the marketing support they receive.

  • 53% of marketing executives at franchise firms believe marketing is critical to the franchise's success

  • 88% of franchisees see locally synchronized national campaigns as a competitive advantage

  • National brands miss 86% of the feedback on social media channels

Potbelly Sandwich Works has managed to build their marketing plan around local marketing. Potbelly offers local organizations and charities the ability to use their locations to host events, as well as a stage for local musicians. The company also does an excellent job managing their social media profiles.

As you can see from the Tweet below, Potbelly is responding on behalf of the company, but is representing the Burlington, MA location. Tweets like this build loyalty.


Potbelly recently retweeted a Thrilliest Chicago post that highlights their secret menu. Not only does it promote the Chicago locations, but also builds excitement around their secret menu.


2. Integrating Franchise Marketing with Local Marketing is Key

In summary, it's crucial to localize the marketing message wherever possible, and to empower local specific messaging at a regional or single location.

A successful franchise marketing budget should allocate a portion of the budget to focus on local online marketing, and not just advertising within a region (as less than 2% of local businesses think pay per click advertising is effective).

The messaging needs to be tailored to the region, while considering the area's demographics and culture, and fit into the dynamics of franchise brand control and local franchisee enablement - no small feat.

For a path to a successful local franchise marketing strategy, check out our most recent franchise whitepaper, Who Owns Local Marketing? Examining the Franchisor/Franchisee Gap.

The white paper explores how multi-unit enterprises and franchises can monetize local Internet marketing and how to narrow the growing gap between corporate HQ and their local retail locations.

The post Successful Franchise Marketing Starts with a Local Marketing Strategy That Aligns the Franchisee with the Franchisor [Whitepaper Included] appeared first on LocalVox.

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

Okay, I'm taking a brief break from franchising to talk about my other passion in life -- movies. If you see me at the International Franchise Association's annual conference this month, be warned - if you get me started talking about movies, you may not be able to get me to stop.

You may have had a chance to read my article in this month's issue of Franchise Times. This is the promised continuation of my annual "top 10" list. In 2013, I saw more than 200 films. In anticipation of the upcoming 86th annual Academy Awards, I thought I would share my favorites of 2013 with the franchise community.

10. We're The Millers

One of the hazards of seeing 200+ movies a year is that you see a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of previews. And you see them over... and over... and over again. Some previews you get absolutely sick of (I'm talking to you, "Grudge Match" and "Out of the Furnace"); others are a joy to watch every single time.

Paradoxically, when it comes to comedies, the trailers that make me most wary are the ones that are really funny - the ones that I don't mind seeing several times. You know the type: the jokes come fast and furious, and leave the audience members guffawing. Why am I so circumspect about those previews? Because, in my experience, the funniness level of the trailer is inversely proportional to the humor in the actual movie. Most of the really funny stuff is spoiled in the trailer, foisting upon the eager moviegoer the leftovers: a series of limp, tired jokes that don't live up to the promise of this preview.

Happily, "We're The Millers" was an exception to this rule. The preview, which was one of the few that I enjoyed seeing multiple times, didn't spoil most of the great jokes in the movie. My favorite comedy of the year, "We're The Millers" had all the elements of a great comedy: likeable characters, an engaging plot, and actors (particularly Jason Sudeikis) that have that perfect mixture of timing and delivery that give the lines comedic impact.

Listen, recommending comedies is difficult because so much depends on the viewer's sense of humor, which is completely subjective. What I find funny may not be what you find funny. So don't be angry with me if you watch this movie and don't laugh. Also, be warned - this movie is a hard "R." If you're easily offended, avoid this one.  

9. Rush

"Rush" tells the story of a vicious rivalry between two Formula One racers in 1970s Europe: the handsome ladies' man James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and the homely Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). These men, matched on the racetrack, could not be more different in personality. James is reckless and a risk-taker in life, while Niki plays it safe; but it is James's charisma and appeal that leads, indirectly to an accident on the track that nearly costs Niki his life.

A glimpse into a world I know nothing about, "Rush" is less about Formula One racing than it is about sportsmanship and respect between rivals. Director Ron Howard is working at the top of his game, balancing the stories of these men and their lives off the track with heart-pounding recreations of the races that defined their careers. While it was not successful at the box office, "Rush" is destined to join the pantheon of great sports movies.

8. The Kings of Summer

Joe is a teenager living with his recently-widowed father, a gruff man who uses his biting wit as a defense mechanism to cope with his own loneliness. Joe and his two friends, each of whom are dealing with their own problems at home, decide one summer to run away from home and live in a ramshackle house they build in the woods near their hometown. Enjoying their newfound freedom, the boys live the summer happily in the house until a girl enters the picture, when jealousy and pettiness threatens to destroy their friendship.

My favorite movie of Sundance 2013, "The Kings of Summer" is a coming-of-age film that is both incredibly funny and poignant in a way that feels authentic and natural. It's a fun an easy watch, perfect for movie night at home (but it's not for young kids or pre-teens).

7. The Sapphires

"The Sapphires" is another retread of that well-known story: four Aboriginal girls, facing massive racial discrimination in 1960s Australia, form a Motown-inspired girl group and tour war-torn Vietnam playing to U.S. servicemen. What, you say you've never heard that story before? Neither had I. I love it when I learn something new from a movie; it's even better when the movie is as entertaining and infectious as this one.

Often, movies that deal with difficult subjects have an atmosphere of emotional gravitas that can leave the viewer drained. It is exceedingly rare for an inspiring film about overcoming adversity to also be infectiously optimistic and fun to watch. Somehow, "The Sapphires" manages exactly that. 

Roger Ebert once said "no good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough." While that is true of almost all of the films on my top 10 list, "The Sapphires" was the 2013 movie that most surprised me when the credits started rolling - the 103 minute running time flew by, driven by charismatic performances wrapped around delightful musical performances that left me wanting more.

6. All Is Lost

Robert Redford plays a man alone on a yacht in the middle of the ocean, left to battle a chance accident and the elements using only his wits and the few supplies he has on hand.

Being a frequent moviegoer, one of my principal frustrations when watching a movie is when the filmmaker treats me like an idiot. Instead of leaving me, as an audience member, to do the work and figure things out for myself, the director decides to spell it all out for me and make it crystal-clear. I don't like to be patronized or played down to. "All Is Lost" does none of that.

What I loved about this movie is that you learn almost nothing through dialogue. You, the viewer, are forced to watch actively for clues to decide why the man is out there alone. You question his actions, and are forced to consider how you would respond to the challenges thrown his way. As a result, every viewer's understanding of the movie is guided by his or her own experiences.

>5. Nebraska

A cantankerous elderly man (Bruce Dern) receives a come-on solicitation in the mail from a marketing company informing him that he "may have won $1 million," and he immediately starts hitchhiking to the company's head office in Nebraska to claim his prize. After first trying unsuccessfully to talk his dad out of the misguided mission, his son (Will Forte) decides to drive him there, hoping that he can use the trip to bond with his father. The road trip takes the pair to the father's home town, where he crosses swords with his family, friends, and former business partner.

"Nebraska," a film that looks both lovely and stark in black-and-white, is another home run by director Alexander Payne ("Sideways" and "The Descendants"). The cast is memorable, featuring a number of unknown, first-time actors that add to the authenticity of the movie; everyone has someone like "Uncle Ray" or "Aunt Betty" in their own family, and their living room feels like our own. Like many of the other movies on my list this year, "Nebraska" is about loyalty, family, and the bonds that tie us together.

4. Starbuck

Did you see trailers for that Vince Vaughn movie, "Delivery Man?" It was actually a remake of "Starbuck," a little-known gem of a film from Canada (in French, with subtitles). "Starbuck" tells the story of David Wozniak (Patrick Huard), a ne'er-do-well fortysomething with a good heart. David discovers, due to a mix-up at a fertility center to which he donated when he was a young man, that he has over 500 biological children. The children sue the center to learn his identity (which has been kept secret), while David learns more about them and acts as a "guardian angel" to each of his kids.

"Starbuck" is a comedy about what it means to be human: it's about connection, love, loyalty, friendship, belonging, and, most of all, family. While it's touching and heartfelt, it's also easily one of the funniest movies of the year. I challenge you to watch this movie and not get choked up by the ending, which is profoundly sweet without being artificial or cloying.

3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

One of the troubling side effects of the Internet's omnipresence is that we are now so accustomed to receiving our news instantly that much of what engages us on a daily basis has begun to feel disposable. In fact, one might argue that much of modern pop culture has been reduced to daily memes or soundbites that light social media ablaze today, but are forgotten tomorrow. There have been many casualties of this instantaneous culture, including countless hard-copy magazines that have died off in the wake of the Internet revolution.

Connecting with the world and with other people has never been easier, or harder, than it is today. When we can "visit" another country or meet people with the click of a mouse, it is all too easy to stop trying to personally connect with people or places. But there is no substitute for reality; there is no better way to feel part of this world than traveling and experiencing it for yourself. This is the lesson of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."

Bearing little resemblance to the short story by James Thurber, the Walter Mitty in this movie has lived inside his own head for most of his life, but circumstances force him to leave his comfort zone and experience Life for himself. During his travels, Walter learns a great deal more than books, magazines, or his computer can tell him - an experience that resonates with anyone who considers him/herself a traveler. Ultimately, this movie is about the value of personal connection and experience in a world that makes it possible for us to avoid those things.

2. Before Midnight

In "Before Midnight," we catch up with Jesse and Céline (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy), the two lovers that met first on a train outside of Paris in 1995's "Before Sunrise" and then crossed paths again in 2004's "Before Sunset." We learn that, in the time since the last movie, Jesse left his wife and moved to Europe to be with Céline.

In the first two movies, Jesse and Céline - who were not yet together -- were still idealizing one another. In this movie, they are facing the reality of living together and feeling the pull of conflicting priorities. Loving someone from afar is easy; sharing your life with them is hard. And, because we've grown with them over the past two decades, their pain hurts us, too. "Before Midnight" is the rare film that feels so real that it aches.

1. American Hustle

The film begins with a statement: "Some of this actually happened." With that opening salvo, we begin a rollicking journey of crime, con men, politicians, government agents, lies, and betrayal that explores the blurred lines between right and wrong.

Based on the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s, "American Hustle" tells the story of con artists Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) who are used by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) to lure elected officials into accepting bribes - so that the Bureau could capture it all on videotape. A string of politicians are ensnared by the trap and convicted, but the film asks the question: in a game of deceit, who is the real villain?

Easily my favorite movie of 2013, "American Hustle" is an example of first-class filmmaking. The ensemble cast (rounded out by Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner) inhabits the characters and breathes life into the history. The story is well-constructed and laced with observations about loyalty, relationships and the human condition that are both wry and apt, leading to some of the best comedic scenes of any film this year.

Runners up: Disconnect, The Great Gatsby, Man of Steel, Thanks for Sharing, Girl Most Likely, New World, The To Do List, Side Effects, Wadjda, Filly Brown, World War Z

So, what do YOU think? Do you agree or disagree with any of my choices? What were your favorite movies of 2013?

A brand name and tagline are among the most critical marketing mix elements for any small business, including franchises. They can go a long way to making up for a small budget, and they work forever once you get them right.

Finding the right tagline

Most of the time, the name is already set, but there is either no tagline or the old tagline simply isn't working as hard as it could, so the search for a new one begins in earnest.

What a smart marketer quickly realizes is that "cute and catchy" taglines are useless.

What you need is a tagline that, in conjunction with the name, tells your target audience what you do, what unique and important benefit you deliver, and how you're different from, and better than, competition. 

That big idea is what customers will remember.

Forget "cute and catchy."

The dynamic duo

The dynamic duo - name and tagline - are really just an expression of the Positioning Statement, and most small businesses don't have a Positioning Statement either.

What they need is a clear and direct statement of the core benefit they provide for their customers, and the basis for that promise (often called the "reason-why"). 

There is a set of seven positioning principles that have proven effective over time, and they serve as a kind of checklist for positioning projects.

These seven positioning principles can then be extended into 3 levels, or hierarchies of benefits for the target audience. The whole positioning process provides a strong and valuable foundation for not only the name/tagline, but for the entire marketing effort. It's remarkably practical that way. 

Positioning for small business

Small business owners who have been through the positioning process always remark that they don't understand why they waited so long to think through their core positioning benefit ... or why they didn't question their tagline sooner. We have a tagline positioning checklist too!

This gives us even more confidence that we can do for you what we've done for them. Just let us know when you're ready, and we'll help you come up with a tagline that will promote your business every time someone sees - or even thinks about - your company name.

Michael Goodman is a senior marketing and management consultant with experience that spans the spectrum from micro-businesses and start-ups to the Fortune 25. He learned marketing at corporate giants Procter & Gamble, Frito-Lay and Playtex.

He has consulted with clients in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer; local, regional, national and international markets; and industries ranging from industrial chemicals and consumer packaged goods to financial services and healthcare.

Michael can be reached by email: [email protected]

When it comes to online brand management, franchises often have much more to consider than traditional businesses. Why? Because they must manage the brand online not only for the franchise as a whole but for each franchise location.

This can become a daunting task, and if it is not handled properly it can lead to disaster.

Managing your franchise brand successfully online will result in:

●Brand consistency in all local markets
●#1 Rankings in all markets
●Prompt and effective online customer care in all markets
●Prompt and consistent damage control in all local markets
●Consistent engagement and participation on social networks in all local markets

For some that may seem like a tall order, especially when considering the size of many franchise systems today.

How do you do this? The basic answer is relatively simple: you need a solid online strategy that works for both franchisor and franchisees.

There are essentially four primary components to creating a franchise-wide online strategy.

Part 1: Internet Marketing Model

This is the foundation of your online strategy and it answers three primary questions: How, Who and Where.


●How will the Internet be used to ensure the franchise website lands on Page 1 for relevant searches in all of its local markets?
●How will the website be used? (Brand page vs. local pages, for example)
●How will social networking be utilized? (Will there be Brand pages and/or local pages, and which social networks will you use?)


●Who will ensure that the page 1 Google rankings are achieved...franchisor or franchisee?
●Who will manage the website?
●Who is responsible for setting up and maintaining social networks and delivering social care?


Where will funding come from to cover the cost of these initiatives?

Click here for more information about creating an effective Internet Marketing Model.

Part 2: Internet Usage Policy

This will define how and franchisees and their employees (as well as corporate employees) can use the Internet.

This is your protection. It outlines what can and cannot be done online, and it is absolutely crucial. Without this you leave yourself open to the potential of many negative outcomes, including lawsuits, breaches of confidentiality and more.

It is also an opportunity to empower your franchisees to engage online in the proper ways.

Consider these questions:

●What are your expectations for online communication?
●Are franchisees and/or employees allowed to comment on or answer questions about the company?
●How will you monitor franchisee and employee engagement?
●How will you enforce policies?

Click here to find out more about creating an effective internet usage policy.

Part 3: Social Care Policy

Good social care means good customer service delivered through online platforms. It's crucial today because more people are turning to places like Facebook and Twitter to get their customer service issues resolved than using the phone or web help forums.

For franchises, this means that you have to be there...not only for your franchises as a whole, but if anyone in any location has a customer service issue related to one of your franchises, you have to have a system in place to deal with this.

Delivering good social care is relatively simple. It is the process of the following three things:

●Respond positively in each given situation

You need to have your policy in place so that you and your franchisees know exactly what to do and who is doing it.

Click here to find out more about developing a social care policy for your franchise.

Part 4: Communication and Engagement Plan

This is an ever-evolving plan for engaging with your audience online. Among other things, it will identify:

●the types of content you'll create
●where and how that content will be distributed
●how to engage proactively with your audience for online growth.

Of course...this is all just the beginning of successful online brand management. It requires consistency, dedication and adaptation in order to keep your franchise on top.

Connect with me on LinkedIn, when you need to know more about how to effectively manage your brand online.

Okay, I have to admit it, I am now a recovering Olympics junkie. If there were 18 hours of coverage a day, I may not have seen all of it, but I sure got my fair share.

The Olympics for me is far more than the glory of sport.

With multi-millionaire tennis players, cyclists and basketball players competing, it really is more about marketing and brand awareness than it is about anything else. As I mentioned in a tweet the other day “if MacDonalds and Coca Cola did not care about the Olympics. . . would we?”

It is not only about the corporate brands, but the personal ones as well.  Christine Sinclair‘s Bronze Medal in Olympic Soccer will be marketed far more than we will market Canada’s only Gold Medal, Rosie MacLennan in trampoline.     For that matter, Sinclair will be marketed far more than the person who actually scored the winning goal, getting Canada the Bronze Medal in soccer, Diana Matheson.

Is this fair, no not really, it is marketing.   Sinclair was built up as a hero by the media and probably her own consultants, long before she arrived in London.   She was the focus of the Canadian team and she will get the glory of something that was truly a team effort.

However, the biggest winner in terms of Olympic Marketing was not even an official sponsor.  

Nike was everywhere.

It did not matter the sport, or the team, the unmistakable Nike Swoosh was visible throughout the games.  That is brand awareness and marketing at it’s finest.    The word Nike did not have to appear anywhere, the swoosh said it all.

So all of this leads me to the question of greatness.   Who is truly great and why?    Does it take a medal around your neck or a billion dollar advertising budget?  

I say no.  

Greatness is the ability to achieve goals set by you and be comfortable in knowing that success is measured over a lifetime, not in a moment in time.   Let us help define your greatness and Get YOU Noticed!

The other day I was introduced to a new potential client. We met for coffee in the afternoon and he spent about half an hour laying out his vision to expand his business and build a franchise system. He had very grand and aggressive plans and did realize that there was already a large player in the space he wanted to get into.

So my first series of questions probed him to think about how committed he was to developing and marketing a brand. Very quickly it was discovered that he wanted to be different and unique and build something that people would relate to but he had neither the financial ability nor the mental will to see the vision through.

Brand development and marketing is not an easy, nor is it an inexpensive task. The development of a brand requires development of identity, voice, values and strategy. All of these need to happen long before your company makes its first dollar or can be taken to the next level. Marketing of that brand can be even more time consuming and expensive depending on the market you are trying to either break into or own. To own a space takes vision and hard work. One of the two will not do it.

The larger the organization, the harder it is, because you have to transfer that vision to staff so they can champion your brand. Very quickly people will notice if your marketing says one thing and your brand is truly something else and abandon it. Regaining trust after people have brand disillusionment is even more expensive and much harder to achieve than building brand loyalty in the beginning.

In short you need to be truly committed to building your brand. Take the time to understand who you are, what you do, why you do it and the unique value you bring to the market place. Take the time to share that vision and build champions both internally and externally.

The time and money that it takes will be well worth it and will truly Get YOU Noticed!

One of the most challenging things about developing a name for your product, service or organization is finding one that can be owned.

Registered as a trademark and then protected from use by others, in other words. It is always essential in your process to have more than one name you can live with, because some monikers on your shortlist will already be owned, or will not be "distinctive" in legal terms - meaning that because they're in sufficiently wide usage, no one person or organization can validly claim ownership.


But how will Charlie Sheen fare in his recently announced attempt to register 22 catchphrases, including "duh, winning," "the Vatican assassin" and "tiger blood"?

As was the case for his publicity-lusting celebrity brethren, the distinctiveness test will prove decisive.

Of the above three phrases, "duh, winning" could be the most difficult challenge, because those words just don't have the ring of distinctiveness. On the other hand, he could be successful if he establishes that enough of the public associates "duh, winning" with him.

As for "the Vatican assassin" and "tiger blood," they have the ring of Charlie's drug-addled brain alone. Which could provide at least tenuous support for his assertion, another of the trademarks he seeks: "I'm not bi-polar, I'm bi-winning."

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