Tackling the Hot Topics From the IFA-Franchisee Forum

Welcome to another episode of Atlanta Franchise Today with host Leslie Kuban, expert franchise consultant and owner of FranNet Atlanta. Let’s take a closer look at the rapidly growing medspa industry and a franchise brand born right here in Atlanta, Georgia. Today Leslie is joined by Indi Nandhra, Co-owner of Mathnasium of West Marietta and SCORE Mentor North Metro Atlanta. Nandhra has over 20 years of experience in franchising with a focus on education services for multi-units across different brands.

Transcription:

Leslie Kuban:
Today, we’re talking about a growing resource for franchise owners, the IFA Franchisee Forum. Indi Nandhra owns multiple franchises in the education sector herself here in Atlanta, and is very active with the Franchisee Forum, and she’s going to tell us all about it. Indi, welcome to the show.

Indi Nandhra:
Thank you, Leslie. It’s so great to be here today.

Leslie Kuban:
Yes, I’m excited. This is a wonderful new and growing resource for franchisees, so I’m excited to unpack it, but let’s talk about you a little bit first. Tell us about your journey from corporate into the franchise businesses that you have owned.

Indi Nandhra:
Well, Leslie, it started a long time ago. I was going to say probably in 1998, I was in the corporate world, but it just didn’t do anything for me. So, I really needed to do something that I had a passion about, and I wanted to go into education. Growing up, I wanted to go into my bachelor’s in education, but my mom said to me, she goes, “Listen, you’ve got to get into something that’ll get you a job.” Back then, it was computers, so computer science it was. I did that for about 10 years, and then 10 years later, I had a three-year-old and an 11-month-old, and I just couldn’t drop them off at a daycare. I had landed into a franchise, the Goddard Schools, and that was the beginning of my journey, and it’s been a great story since then.

Leslie Kuban:
It’s not the only education franchise-

Indi Nandhra:
No.

Leslie Kuban:
… that you’ve gotten involved with.

Indi Nandhra:
Thank you because that lasted all the way through for about 18 years. And then, my son, who is now 27 today, happy birthday, decided to get into franchising as well. He said, “Mom, what are we going to do?” And that’s when we looked into the Mathnasium franchises. It was in 2017, we signed our first territory in West Marietta. And then, after that, we got into two more, but today, we sit at two with the second one in North Alpharetta. That also has been a great journey as well, and I know we’re going to talk more about that.

Leslie Kuban:
That’s fantastic. I remember when we were chatting before the show, you had said to me that if I had had a resource like the Franchisee Forum when I first got started in my franchise, I might have been a lot further along sooner. So, let’s start to dig into what is the IFA Franchisee Forum and what is the mission of the organization.

Indi Nandhra:
IFA is International Franchise Association. They’re out of Washington DC, and they came in to exist in about 1980, I believe, if not sooner. And their primary purpose at that point was to create an association where franchisors could get together and work towards building the franchise business models within their own brands. But then, over time, it was very well known that the franchisee played a big role in the franchise business model. So, that is when the Franchisee Forum came into existence within the IFA.
More importantly, there are now three forums that sit together, and it’s the Franchisee Forum, the Supplier Forum, which is also another big piece of franchising, and then of course, the Franchisor Forum. Today, there is probably about a hundred members on the Franchisee Forum, and they’re all franchisees from different brands, different industries, so that is a big value to any franchisees that are looking to grow.

Leslie Kuban:
Let’s talk more about that, the benefits. I’m a busy franchisee. I’m wearing a million hats, all these plates, different spinning. Getting involved in another organization is another time commitment, and people do that if there’s good benefit to it. So, what does a franchisee benefit from starting to participate in the forum?

Indi Nandhra:
The biggest benefit I can think about and what I didn’t have when I was a franchisee back in the early 2000s is specifically branching it out to networking with people outside your own brand. I mean, that is priceless, where franchising, regardless of what industry you’re in or what brand you’re with, the business model is essentially the same. We’re all going through the same growing pains, successes, all of that together, but if you have a platform where people from different backgrounds come together with the same focus in hand, it really, really serves a strong purpose.
One of the things that I also see happening in the Franchisee Forum as I attend is I could be sitting next to my biggest competitor, and if you have an opportunity to just roll up your sleeves, sit down, and talk about current issues and problem-solve together, you become a little bit more innovative and creative, and those relationships go a long way. So, that is something that… I mean, I really appreciated my opportunity for annual conferences in my brand, whether it’s the Goddard School, Mathnasium, or Hand and Stone, all of those, but it’s always good to take what you learn there and now go into another space and say, “Okay, how does that fit into the big picture?” That was something that I really, really appreciated having gotten to know what the IFA was and what the Franchisee Forum offered.

Leslie Kuban:
I love what you said about you might be sitting next to your biggest competitor, but you didn’t say enemy. There’s a big… Sometimes people think that the competition is the opposition, they’re the enemy, but it’s a big world and there’s a lot of business out there. So, actually learning from people who are in the same space and maybe after the same customer, but if you have the mentality of the pie is big enough and the pie is growing, it just makes all the sense in the world.

Indi Nandhra:
Yeah. Over the last 30 years, I love my competition. I embrace it. That’s something I learnt over time is that, that’s an opportunity for you to shine. So, if you’re intimidated by your competition, then that’s what’s in the forefront of your mind, “Oh, my gosh, they’re moving in,” or, “They’re going to do better than me.” But if you rephrase that and say, “Listen, this is what they do, but I know what I do is really good, so I have to step up to my plate and make it the best,” it keeps me honest to the brand and the best practices, and the brand standards, so I love competition.

Leslie Kuban:
I think this is so important for prospective franchisees to hear this from someone who’s in business in a pretty competitive space, the education space, that it’s something that I hear people fear quite a bit is, “Wow, that franchise industry must be saturated because I see it all over the place,” and it’s really not a productive way to look at it. On top of that, good competition only makes you stronger like when I played tennis in high school, the coach was like, “Make sure that you’re playing with people who are better than you. That’s the only way you’re going to grow and learn.”

Indi Nandhra:
Yes. Leslie, we’ve had this conversation before as well. Franchising as a franchise owner, I’m part of a community, so I’m building my relationships within my community. And then, taking it back to the Franchisee Forum, that’s where I’m learning these techniques in how to apply them in my community, and that’s where I’m building my relationships. I don’t even want to use the word clients because it’s really not that. It’s people in my community that need my services. So, there really isn’t any fear of competition because that’s what my big biggest effort is, and that’s what the franchise business model gives you the opportunity to do.

Leslie Kuban:
A better mousetrap.

Indi Nandhra:
Yes, yes, yes.

Leslie Kuban:
We were chatting a little bit about how some of the hot topics in the Franchisee Forum are unit economics, and franchisees having a seat at the table with franchisors, around big decisions that impact the brand as a whole and the franchisees running their businesses. So, would you say a little bit more about those-

Indi Nandhra:
Oh, my gosh.

Leslie Kuban:
… topics?

Indi Nandhra:
I couldn’t say enough about that, especially in today’s climate, and I think this all kind of came to life during COVID. I was on a number of conversations and calls with IFA and I was shocked to see who was on those calls. That’s when the franchisee membership grew, IFA actually grew in the thousands. That was coming to the table, and that was trying to come up with solutions that we were faced with and had to deal with. And then, that’s when it grew into, “Hey, we are now focused on the same struggles across the board.” And one of the biggest struggles is the labor issues. You can talk to any small business. You can talk to any restaurant, any type of industry. That’s the struggle, so how do we respond to that?
That, coupled with labor shortages, the focus for materials and supplies, we can’t get those, so franchise brands are now redirecting their attention to looking at unit economics, looking at the locations and see how they’re doing, and why they’re not doing very well if they’re not, and where’s the opportunities for them. So, the focus has strayed from new development and it’s now more into, “Let’s see what’s in our portfolios, and see how we can improve those.”
The word unit economics comes up in so many different ways, but it’s looking at your current business, looking at your current best practices, the best standards that you have, and saying, “Okay, how can I leverage from what I have?” Those are conversations that they’re going to franchisees to get solutions to, so if anybody out there that is a multi-unit, single-unit franchisee, take that opportunity to go back to your brand and say, “Hey, listen, this is what’s working for me. This is not. Can we sit down and have that seat at the table?”
We talk about that seat at the table, and it is so important today more than ever for those reasons. That’s when I originally mentioned to you that we have three different forums. What we do at the Franchisee Forum level, we will have open and candid conversations on a monthly basis, on a quarterly basis, and then bring these issues and concerns to the Franchisor Forum and the Supplier, and collectively, that is then brought to the executive boards. The converse is true as well. It goes both ways. They’ll come down and give us their current issues or problems that they’re trying to solve, and we come up with creative solutions. That is the seat at the table that we never really had in the past.

Leslie Kuban:
In a collective, larger formalized way because a lot of individual franchise systems will have their FACs, their franchisee advisory committees, and that’s the relationship between a body of franchisees and their franchisor, but that’s all within one brand. But this is now multiple franchisees in different brands communicating, collaborating with multiple brands, multiple industries, friendly competitors in a much larger way. This is really the beauty of franchising, this collaborative effort. I think sometimes people have this misperception that all the growth, all the ideas is coming down from the big ivory tower at the franchisor, and that’s not true at all. It is very much franchisor, franchisees, and now multiple franchisors, multiple franchisees working together to improve their businesses and franchising as a whole. What an exciting growing resource.

Indi Nandhra:
Oh, my goodness, it is. One other thing I wanted to share also is one of the other initiatives that IFA has had is Open for Opportunity. They’ll go to different markets and get all the franchisees that are there together for opportunities to just work together on pushing out their brand, pushing out who they are, and working with local representatives to help them better understand what franchising is. So, this is another opportunity for networking if you are part of the IFA as well.

Leslie Kuban:
Indi, a lot of our viewers are not yet franchise owners, but they may want to be, and they’re watching and doing their research, collecting information, prospective franchisees. Does the Franchisee Forum with… Is that a benefit to that audience of people in any way?

Indi Nandhra:
Yeah. I’m glad you asked because I always forget these two most important reasons why. I believe in investing in myself, and as I look in to going into a franchise business, getting as much knowledge from people that have already done it, it can open up your perspective. And if you’re looking at a certain brand, you have an opportunity to now look into other opportunities as well, when you’re meeting with these people at a roundtable or you’re having a meeting, or even if it’s informal. So, investing in that time I think is really important. Also, learning more about what the franchise model is. There’s a lot of opportunity. There’s a lot of workshops that’ll help explain what the franchisee best practices are or how those work into the brand standards. You will also have opportunities to sit down and look at marketing. You mentioned the multiple hats that we wear, meeting up with people, and how they’re solving the marketing opportunities.
One thing I was never good at was selling and I had to learn that, so if I was able to communicate with people that were good at it, that would’ve accelerated my learning curve as well. So, investing in myself as I go into a business, I think that IFA and the Franchisee Forum give you opportunity. The second part of it is more aligned with being in a space that gives you information in a different manner. In other words, meeting up with people that our multi-unit owners, if you’re growing your business. So, as a franchisee, if I’m growing my business from a single unit to multiple units, I’m going to need to rub shoulders with somebody who may have a portfolio. For those that already have a portfolio, you might be looking to expand in a different brand, so you are now getting an opportunity to talk to people on how to do that. As a multi-unit owner, I can tell you, as a single owner, my life changed as I became a multi-unit owner and I didn’t know that. Again, if I had that opportunity, my portfolio could look totally different today.

Leslie Kuban:
Indi, how do people get in touch and learn about the Franchisee Forum? What are the costs if you can share? How can people get involved?

Indi Nandhra:
Well, franchise.org is the website, and you can fill out an application and submit it. The process is very simple. The cost is really nominal, if you look at the opportunity to be at the conferences, attend workshops. There’s webinars that are available to you. And if your brand is already part of the IFA, then the cost decrease even more, which is really a neat situation to be in because you’re actually there with them, and learning, and moving forward together.

Leslie Kuban:
Indi, thank you so much for coming and sharing about a little known resource. It sounds like it’s new and it’s growing, but it’s growing a lot, so it’s just another way that really the IFA does so much for franchising, so much for franchisors, franchisees, and this is just another great example. So, thank you so much for sharing with our audience about it.

Indi Nandhra:
Thank you, Leslie, for giving me the opportunity.

Leslie Kuban:
Folks, thank you so much for joining me on another episode of Atlanta Franchise Today. I’m Leslie Kuban, and I look forward to seeing you again next week.


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