Whether it’s attending the annual International Franchise Association (IFA) conference or talking with our franchise partners and customers, Hireology is constantly looking to understand the latest trends within the franchise industry. One partner we’ve been lucky enough to connect with has been Mary Ann O’Connell, CFE and President of FranWise®.
Mary Ann is an active member of the IFA and has over 30 years of franchising experience. Her career includes time spent as a franchisee owner/operator and a consultant for various franchisors looking to improve their businesses. Mary Ann works with “major brands as well as new concepts and the top professionals in the world of franchising,” according to her biography. Needless to say, she knows more than a thing or two about franchising.
To get to know her a little better, Mary Ann was nice enough to answer some questions and share her knowledge of the franchising world. Here’s what she had to say:
Q & A with Mary Ann O’Connell
Hireology: Where are you originally from and how did you get into the franchise industry?
Mary Ann O’Connell: I was born and raised in NY, but moved to CA after college. The man I was dating and I were working in commercial real estate when we had a market contraction in 1979. By luck, my “fella’s” friend, Kris Friedrich was starting a new brand - Money Mailer and asked us to be franchisees. We were open to something new; it was sales, so we jumped in. We were the first franchisees and never had a moment’s regret.
Now that you’re with a consulting firm, what made you switch into a role that is more about helping others succeed?
It has always been about helping others succeed. As franchisees we sold ads to local businesses so they could grow and succeed. It was very rewarding to be part of that success. Then, when I left the franchise to work for franchisors, it was all about helping franchisees succeed - every day! My next goal was to help franchisors succeed because without that, the franchisees’ financial well being was always in jeopardy. So for me, the evolution has been logical and seamless.
What are some top concerns and challenges some of your customers are facing when they first decide to start their own franchise business?
Franchisors have two major hurdles: Adequate capitalization and adapting to their new role as a franchisor rather than a founder or operator. The goals, products and responsibilities are dramatically different and they need to be prepared for that. With that comes the need for enough capital to hire the right people to handle the functions that the franchisor does not do well.
How do you see franchises using both technology, as well as their employees, to overcome some of these challenges you’ve outlined?
The franchisors have so much great technology that allows them to grow without the veritable armies of personnel from the past. They can easily track the units’ performance and so better plan their assistance and their cash flow. They can accomplish a lot more with fewer, better people because information and contact is at their fingertips.
If the franchisor invests in a good back-end software and/or POS, the franchisees will have a tremendous amount of data available for making decisions. There are now reports that can easily direct franchisees to make the right financial decisions. They can also track their employees’ performance and output more closely and objectively making coaching, discipline and tenure decisions more easily.
A franchisor who invests in a good intra/extranet system can boost franchisees’ performance by giving them 24/7 access to the most current information. If they also have an online LMS - then the franchisees can train the employees more effectively. Most of us don’t know how to do that, but with the right tools, the employees get better information; have a clear sense of purpose and expectation and can perform better. That should lead to less turnover and that is a huge financial gain for every franchisee.
When you’re not in the office or consulting with your clients, what are you doing for fun?
Fun? Well, I am a bit of a geek: I love live theater and go as often as I can. History and geology fascinate me, so I am often exploring the deserts and mountains of CA, looking for clues to our “natural” history. I also dabble in photography (the desert is so beautiful) and cooking. I am a student of Tai Chi and am head over heels about my goofy cat, Melvyn Chang.
Stay tuned for more franchise insights and advice from Mary Ann later this month, as we’ll be continuing this conversation soon.
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