December 2014

The Top 5 Most Innovative Franchises of 2014

If you want a franchise experience that is a bit outside of the box, try one of the unique franchises.

  1. Baby Bodyguards. Baby Bodyguards understands that being a new parent can be, well, pretty stressful. To help parents tackle things, Baby Bodyguards offers a range of different “baby-prep” services, including CPR instruction, car-seat installation, and baby-proofing advice. The franchise currently only has one location but is in the process of expanding. Soon, parents all over the world will be able to rest easy knowing that their offspring are safe.
  2. Chocolate Works. If you think Chocolate Works is a candy shop, think again. This innovative franchise sells the entire chocolate experience. The franchise offers parties and workshops where aspiring chocolatiers can learn everything there is to know about chocolate making. Chocolate Works currently only has 10 locations, but expansion plans are in the works.
  3. Welcyon, Fitness After 50. This gym franchise looks to make the fitness process a bit more baby boomer friendly. The facility offers members guidance from coaches and dieticians, air-driven equipment that’s easier on joints than traditional weight machines, and smart cards that track their workouts. There are also workshops on a number of different health-related topics.
  4. Tutor Doctor. Tutor Doctor is a tutoring service — but it isn’t just for kids who need after-school help. This tutoring service will pretty much tutor anyone in anything anywhere. One client was tutored in English, as well as American traffic laws, customs, and culture, after he received a job transfer and was forced to move from his native France to the U.S. A 62-year-old man learned basic computer skills so he could get back into the workforce after he was laid off, while an elderly woman was taught to use the Internet so she could stay in touch with her faraway son. The Ontario-based company was founded in 2000 and began franchising in 2003. Today, the franchise has 233 U.S. units, 98 Canadian units, and 62 international units.
  5. Visiting Angels. This nonmedical home-care franchise helps seniors stay connected to loved ones across the globe. Its unique Silver Surfers programs teach seniors a range of technological skills, from surfing the net to using FaceTime to sending text messages. The franchise also provides a range of more traditional in-home care services, including hygiene assistance, meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands and shopping, and companionship services. Founded in 1992, Visiting Angels began franchising in 1998 and now has roughly 485 locations.



Article by Jason Duncan, CEO/Founder of ManagerComplete is an online software application that helps multi-unit franchises manage operations effectively. Follow him onTwitter for latest updates.

From Big League Baseball to Big League Business: Corey Koskie’s Winning Game Plan

Leaders in Franchise Operations Management Series


When I first spoke with Corey Koskie I wasn’t aware that he was a professional baseball player that had recently retired from the Minnesota Twins.  But within just a few minutes of our conversation, I could tell that he was a different breed of business owner with advanced coaching and people skills.

The Importance of Feedback

What caught my attention was his awareness and focus on constant feedback about his business. Koskie remarked, “In sports it’s often times difficult to self-assess your true weaknesses or vulnerabilities.  It may seem that your batting swing or stance is perfect, but a quick look at the video replay tells a completely different story.  Same goes with business.”

When Corey Koskie first opened his two Planet Fitness gyms in Minneapolis, Minnesota he had no way to easily tell what people thought about his gym operations.  Were clients happy?  Would they refer their friends and family?  So he set out on a mission to discover what clients did think about his business.  After months of experimentation, he eventually came to NPS (Net Promoter Score) surveys.

An NPS survey is basically a questionnaire that targets a customer’s loyalty to your business.  Typically it can be answered in one question, but it’s a very revealing question about a customer’s frame of mind.  Such as “How likely are you to refer us to a friend?”

Having exact feedback from clients helps Koskie and his staff reach out to in various ways to respondents for follow-up.  Most important, NPS helps you have an honest of assessment of your customer’s true loyalty.

Coaching to Success

We also talked a lot about what motivates staff members and how to keep them engaged; regardless of position or salary.  One of the biggest challenges these days is keeping staff turnover low.  But how do you do that?

At first, Koskie took the same strategy to running his business that he had with his baseball career. Corey would focus on the weaknesses. He had incredibly high expectations and made it a point to call out each and every mistake made by employees. “I would try to coach every mistake, and try to fix everything now,” he explained. “I had high expectations. I would overload them with data, and I would try to coach all the discrepancies. Needless to say, this micromanaging produced a fearful, untrusting environment.”

Initially, in his Planet Fitness gyms the unintentional message he was sending to his employees was “you are not smart enough to figure anything out, so I have to tell you how to do everything!”  This type of management style is very common and is often a primary reason for high turnover.

So it was a surprise when one of his most profound insights came from coaching his son’s a little league baseball team. “Because I knew how hard it was to play the game, my expectations of the kids were very low. Since my expectations were so low, I celebrated every accomplishment the players and team made. I did not try to teach the kids every component of the game; I provided a safe environment for them to explore and learn in the context of the game,” he said, adding that this fostered growth and free thinking in a game environment.

It became apparent to Corey that his employee issues were his own fault.  After all, he was the business “coach” and was responsible for leading the team to victory.  In in order to fix things, he had to cultivate a safe environment for the employees to explore and learn in the context of the game of business.

Koskie realized that he had to change his business strategy, and that he had to do it quickly. After a lot of research, and countless hours reading about leadership, motivation, habits, and management, he came to the realization that he needed to get to his employees heart and there are two primary reasons that employees perform poorly: 1) They do not know what they are supposed to do, and 2) They do not know how to do it.

“This was a game changer for me in my coaching, parenting, and leadership life, because it is evident that the reason for the underachievement of 98 percent of the people under me was me,” Koskie insisted.

Powerful Positive Impact

Instead of focusing on eliminating or mitigating undesirable behavior, Koskie now focuses on increasing desirable behavior. It isn’t about motivating people necessarily, but rather about figuring out how to put people in a healthy and positive environment where they can successfully motivate themselves.

He credits his business success to an approach he developed himself known as PPI or Power Positive Impact.  PPI can best be described as giving people attention in the moment. A genuine engagement that gives people the time they want. You never know what is going on in people’s life or what they are dealing with. To understand that caring about a person and having an authentic engagement can save a person’s life. It is looking for opportunities to make a positive impact on a person’s day

The PPI concept first came to Corey when he heard a story from a man that that was getting help from a local charity that Corey works with.

Through some very tragic events this man turned to alcohol to numb his pain.  He got to a place of extreme loneliness, hopelessness and become very depressed. He made the decision to take his own life. On his way home he decided to stop at a local coffee shop for a final cup of coffee.  The barista remembered him from a couple days ago smiled and took his order.  She then told him that she is looking forward to seeing him tomorrow and asked him to come back.  Although it may not sound like much, the fact that someone remembered his name and set an expectation to see him again made all the difference. This realization left a resounding impression on Corey — what was such a seemingly small gesture saved this person’s life.

It became very clear to Koskie that with all the traffic in and out of his Planet Fitness gyms, his team had the ability to make powerful positive impacts on people and maybe even save lives.

A short while after implementing the PPI concept, members started noticing the change in the staff.  The staff had completely embraced PPI.  Corey soon began to hear story after story of how these simple staff gestures were lifting the spirits of gym members.  It has been 4 years since he has implemented PPI.  Not only does it help keep clients happy and feeling welcome, but it helps staff members feel like they are truly making a difference.

So PPI means more than just doing your job, it means looking for opportunities to positively impact the lives of others.  It means having a fulfilling job in any position at any salary.  The hope is that Corey’s gyms have a ripple effect on the communities they serve, and that people move on to make their own PPI’s wherever they go.

All in all, Koskie has been able to effectively leverage his baseball skills in order to become a truly successful business owner. In addition, Koskie attributes his success to his constant search for feedback. He loves making people feel like they are part of a team, and he is always searching for suggestions from employees and customers in order to improve his business game.  From big league baseball to big league business, Corey Koskie has hit a home run with his two Planet Fitness gyms in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

For more details, you can follow Corey Koskie on Twitter.

Article by Jason Duncan, CEO/Founder of ManagerComplete is an online software application that helps multi-unit franchises manage operations effectively. Follow him on Twitter for latest updates.

California Rules That Franchisors Aren’t Employers in Sexual Misconduct Case

Last Thursday, the California Supreme Court ruled that pizza franchise Domino’s could not be held liable as a franchisor in a former employee’s sexual harassment lawsuit. The decision means that franchisors aren’t considered employers, at least not under California state law.

The case has proved to be a contentious one and has dragged on for over five years now. It centers on a 2008 incident in which Taylor Patterson, a teenaged Domino’s employee, was allegedly sexually harassed by manager Renee Miranda. Patterson claims that she brought the alleged harassment to the attention of the Domino’s franchisee of the location where she worked, Sui Juris, LLC. However, Patterson contends that Sui Juris’ owner, Daniel Poff, failed to adequately respond to the allegations, forcing her to quit her job. In 2009, Patterson filed a lawsuit against her alleged harasser, the franchisee, and Domino’s corporate.

Poff argued that he felt obligated to comply with the instructions of Claudia Lee, his Domino’s area leader, on the case. Poff argued that Domino’s was essentially controlling the reaction to Patterson’s claims of sexual harassment, meaning that he wasn’t responsible. Domino’s, however, argued that Poff and his company, Sui Juris, was an independent franchisee and an independent employer of Patterson, claiming that franchisees bear sole responsibility for managerial and employment issues. In other words, it bore no responsibility for Poff’s reaction to the sexual harassment (or lack thereof).

A lower court had initially ruled that the franchisee, Sui Juris, LLC, was not acting as an independent contractor and that, therefore, Domino’s could be held responsible in court, igniting a five-year debate. The ruling of the California Supreme Court reverses this earlier decision, siding with Domino’s.

“Poff acted with the obvious understanding that the decision whether and how to discipline Miranda was his alone to make,” the court’s decision reads. “No reasonable inference can be drawn that Domino’s, through Lee, retained or assumed the traditional right of general control an ‘employer’ or ‘principal’ has over factors such as hiring, direction, supervision, discipline, discharge, and relevant day-to-day aspects of the workplace behavior of the franchisee’s employees.”

Still, the court was careful not to mitigate the seriousness of the sexual harassment accusations nor downplay Domino’s responsibility in dealing with the accusations. “Nothing we say herein is intended to minimize the seriousness of sexual harassment in the workplace … Nor do we mean to imply that franchisors, including those of immense size, can never be held accountable for sexual harassment at a franchised location,” the decision explained. With its ruling, the court simply meant to establish that a franchisor can be held liable only if it assumes general control over a franchised location’s day-to-day operations. In the case of Poff, Domino’s hadn’t established such control and, therefore, could not legally be held liable.

The responsibility of the franchisor has been subject to much debate recently, especially in the courtroom, from California’s 7-Eleven franchisee suit (in which 7-Eleven franchisees claims that the franchisor’s excessive control has essentially rendered them employees) to Oregon’s recent ruling that FedEx drivers have been misclassified as independent contractors, as FedEx’s excessive control actually renders them employees.  All in all, the line between employer and franchisor is a hotly contested one. And while this particular ruling might clear up a bit of confusion, it doesn’t look like the debate will slow down anytime soon.



Article by Jason Duncan, CEO/Founder of ManagerComplete is an online software application that helps multi-unit franchises manage operations effectively. Follow him on Twitter for latest updates.

Will McDonald’s Expand to Cuba?

The U.S. has resumed diplomatic relations with Cuba after half a century of chilly relations, and there is one thing everyone wants to know: When will McDonald’s be making an appearance on the Caribbean island? Within the hours following President Obama’s announcement, the Twittersphere evidently exploded. Topsy’s social analytics counted more than 800 tweets with the words “McDonald’s” and “Cuba.”

“Great news that McDonald’s will be opening 500 restaurants in Cuba,” one user chimed sarcastically. Many lamented that they wanted to visit the island before it become overrun with American brands and franchises. “All I can say is my goal was to see Cuba before Taco Bell and McDonald’s littered Havana,” one user said. But is that even really a feasible possibility?

It is true that for many major brands (and franchises), Cuba is one of the last untapped markets. For example, Cuba is one of only two countries that Coca-Cola doesn’t do business in (the other being North Korea). So, will we see Golden Arches popping up on Havana street corners anytime soon? It seems unlikely for the time being, and many are skeptical. “For a company like McDonald’s, the Cuban government is going to ask, ‘How does McDonald’s coming in and selling hamburgers help the economy of Cuba?’” explained Kirby Jones, the founder of Alamar Associates, an advisory group that has advised companies from all sectors on doing business in Cuba since 1972. “It’s just not going to be like other regions where you see a McDonald’s on every corner.”

Ultimately, most experts say that the Cuban government won’t be indiscriminately welcoming new companies into the country. Unless a company’s product somehow enhances Cuba’s domestic market portfolio, the company will likely get the cold shoulder. In all likelihood, we won’t be seeing McDonald’s dotting Cuba anytime soon.


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Article by Jason Duncan, CEO/Founder of ManagerComplete is an online software application that helps multi-unit franchises manage operations effectively. Follow him on Twitter for latest updates.