Sunday, December 30, 2007

ESR Conference Common Themes

Shortly after the ESR Conference (Nov. 8-9) I moved cross country and in the mayhem left a number of posts covering the conference unfinished. So, these next couple posts are no longer 'late-breaking' stories but the principles and reports are still valid and, practically speaking, up-to-date. Quick refresh: there were five organizations that presented: Scojo (eyeglasses), Academy Creating Enterprise-ACE (business training school franchising graduates' businesses), Freedom from Hunger-FFH-Healthkeepers (preventative health), ONEroof (telecommunications), and Community Enterprise Solutions-CES (have a handful of microenterprises they help replicate). Taking that step back and looking at the picture as a whole I noticed a few common themes among the practitioners:

1. Experimentation

There was a common sense of humility, an acknowledgment of not knowing all the answers. They did not come in with a model and try to impose it, they put something out there and allowed it to evolve according to the needs of the people. In the process OneRoof's pilot programs in Mexico and India turned out a bit different from one another. ACE has experimentation built into their system, they allow their graduates to go out and experiment and wait for that business to surface that lends itself for franchise replication. FFH is experimenting with different products and allowing their pilot testers a lot of flexibility viewing them as collaborators in refining the business model.

2. Use of Technology

Mobile phones and the internet are facilitating communication to help practitioners overcome the distance and isolation challenges of working in rural areas. ACE requires their franchisees to send in simple sales reports via text message every day. OneRoof “relies heavily on Skype,” their representative said, to stay in contact with their stores.

3. Willingness to Partner

Each of the organizations had an eye towards partnership. They were not possessively protective of their idea or model; they were willing to collaborate and partner. Even within the group Scojo has trained FFH and CES and allows them to implement the program on the ground. ACE wants to start a fleet of bicycle vendors selling baked goods but instead of launching their own bakery they are trying to partner with a larger retail bakery, Julie's Bakeshops.

4. Company Ownership in early stages

All the practioners started in a phase in which they shouldered the financial risk and operation of the franchise. ACE has formulated this into a model they call the BOOT Model (Build Own Operate Transfer) in which they as the franchisor build and own the first couple stores which they essentially run as training centers for future franchisee operators. At the time of the conference OneRoof owned all of their stores. CES uses a Microconsignment model in which they gradually transfer ownership to the franchisee.

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