Why Culture Matters in Franchise Growth

A team of young professionals collaborates on a project.

Any business, whether it’s a three-person team at a marketing startup, an emerging regional franchise brand, or a multi-national Fortune 500 company, has a culture. Some executives may put more or less emphasis on culture than others, but the most successful organizations rely on a strong cultural foundation to work as an adhesive bonding every member at every level of the business through a shared vision and dedication to each individual’s – and the company’s – goals.

Bryon Stephens Knows Culture

Pivotal Growth Partners co-founder Bryon Stephens is a proven business culture guru – while helping lead Marco’s Pizza as Vice President of New Business Development and later as President and COO, his focus on the system’s culture helped launch the brand into a period of unprecedented growth. Under Bryon’s leadership, Marco’s expanded from 114 units to nearly 900 and increased the system’s average unit sales volume by 50% within fewer than ten years.

The award-winning growth and accolades Marco’s Pizza saw during that time were the result of an uncompromising dedication to culture. According to Bryon, the importance of a business’ culture was a lesson he learned early on.

Internal Motivation for Healthy System Growth

Bryon follows the example of one of his early mentors, Ted Hrycak, who offered Bryon a management position at the Holiday Inn he owned in Logansport, Indiana where Byron was working as a dishwasher when he was just 21 years old. He remembers Ted with gratitude, noting that he was a hands-on business owner, involved in every aspect of the business to facilitate success at every level. Ted also recognized the drive and ambition of young, hardworking employees and fostered a culture that helped give those at the bottom of the system the opportunity to rise up and achieve their dreams.

Mentorship, Bryon has said, was already a natural byproduct of the Marco’s culture. But by developing a formal mentorship program, franchisees through the system could help foster a culture that recognizes talent, skill and hard work. Through mentorship, Marco’s encouraged dozens of motivated store-level employees to focus on their work, reach their goals and go on to become multi-unit Marco’s Pizza franchisees themselves.

Accountability, Transparency and Results

For culture to positively influence growth and profitability, it has to permeate the system from the in-store team members to the c-suite executives. Everyone has to be pulling in the direction of a mutually beneficial goal. Whether the goal is to increase AUV or to build more franchise units, every level of the system has a role to play. And establishing a transparent, communicative culture helps keep everyone focused on their role in achieving those goals.

Borrowing the principles established in The Oz Principle, an organizational behavior guide written by Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman, Marco’s Pizza was able to commit its entire system to choose personal accountability as a means to increase drive and productivity and decrease the seemingly inevitable habit of sweeping errors or inefficiencies under the rug. Being clear about a shortcoming or problem enables others to step in, teach, and help each other reach their goals.

When a system’s goals are strategically aligned at all levels, results will come. Everyone in the organization has the power to be part of the commitment to help achieve those results. When store employees are performing to the best of their ability, customers get a great experience and are happy to return. When more and more customers keep coming back, franchisees see increases in sales and profits. When unit-level economics start improving throughout the organization, the system can effectively – and quickly – grow.

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