Those who want to go into business for themselves soon come to a fork in the road.

Do you start from scratch or, more commonly, acquire an independent business that’s for sale by a retiring owner? Or, do you go the franchise route?

With the independent option, you’ll sidestep the up-front franchise cost. You will also avoid ongoing royalties and other potential fees which are usually assessed at a small percentage of sales.

Of course, if you go it alone you’ll go without the support of a franchising organization. The best ones offer initial and ongoing training. They assist with systems and technology. In addition, they develop marketing initiatives to drive business your way.

As recent events have demonstrated, there’s one more potential plus to owning a franchise and, for many, it’s a game-changer — gaining network support during a crisis like the COVID-19 Pandemic.

We can’t address the efforts of other organizations, but we can describe the measures that Alliance Franchise Brands (AFB) implemented to assist Allegra Marketing Print Mail business owners of late.

Helping franchise owners obtain government funding

Quickly recognizing that getting cash would be key to Allegra center owners, we reached out to a team of leading accountants, attorneys and bankers.

In all likelihood, our organization’s size (over 600 franchises) helped us gain fast access to top professionals who would not be as responsive to a sole proprietor.

We also capitalized on our memberships in the International Franchise Association (IFA) and Canadian Franchise Association (CFA). They represent the industry in Washington, D.C. and Ottawa, Ontario respectively and stay abreast of all legislation affecting franchise businesses.

Drawing on these resources at the outset of the crisis, we delivered a comprehensive Franchise Member Liquidity Resource Guide to Allegra center owners. It was created to help them find sources of cash and apply to government programs to weather the crisis.

Did it work? Yes, and by two measures.

Early on, we compared our data with a survey released by the International Franchise Association. We found that businesses affiliated with AFB obtained federal government funding at a 63% success rate. In contrast, IFA franchises across multiple industries gained approval only 36% of the time.

Then there’s the anecdotal evidence from our franchise owners.

“The home office’s help with our liquidity was tremendous,” said Jim Elder, owner of Allegra St. Louis. “The guidance they provided made it easy for us to understand the process of applying for assistance. With this information, we were able to obtain funding in the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and receive an emergency advance through the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.”

Assisting Allegra centers to regain sales

As maintaining liquidity became less of an issue as the crisis went on, we ramped up our efforts to help AFB-affiliated franchise businesses recover sales revenue.

Our Get Back To Business webinar kicked off the effort. It was followed by a steady stream of marketing support materials. A series of industry-specific safety item checklists established Allegra centers as a go-to local source for reopening expertise. Other communications targeted the most promising sectors for the products and services offered by our franchise members.

“It was fantastic. We appreciated the many get-back-to-business tools,” said Adam Wodka, owner of Allegra South Bay – Manhattan Beach, California. “These included industry-specific sales sheets, timely marketing material templates and Ready, Get Set, Go! checklists. All helped us transition to regaining sales as restrictions lifted.”

Short of creating marketing strategies and materials “in-house” or seeking the help of an advertising agency, it’s not likely many individual businesses would benefit from the kind of all-encompassing assistance that Alliance Franchise Brands furnished.

Providing many other intangibles

While liquidity guides and back-to-business marketing programs are easy to point to, other support provided by AFB to our franchise members was more subtle but no less important.

Throughout the crisis, our leadership team and regional directors were available day and night to field calls and offer expertise. Many have decades of experience in the business. And, all have a vested interest in the success of our franchise operators.

The initiative of Regional Director Bill Parks offers a prime example. Some Allegra centers were not having much luck selling traditional products during the COVID-19 Pandemic. But he noted that a location in Arizona was achieving success in offering personal protection equipment (PPE).

Bill spread this good news to franchise members throughout his western region. It wasn’t long before they, too, began to profit from this opportunity. Allegra Billings, Montana recently sold 50,000 face masks to a nearby hospital as part of an order totaling $27,000. Other orders for PPE are also on their horizon.

Allegra business owners also benefited from membership in the network’s community of fellow franchise members.
“During it all, it was reassuring to be able to call other Allegra center owners,” said Wodka. “We don’t share territories, so they’re not competitors. But, we do share challenges, so they’re willing collaborators. We talk about issues and how to apply solutions.”