If your experience with AI is anything like ours, you’ll soon be wondering why you waited so long to start using it.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing processes for industries of all kinds, but as often happens with significant change, it’s also encountering resistance. Some fear losing their jobs to the “robots,” while others worry that machine-created products will be bland and boring. Both fears are largely unfounded as long as you educate yourself about how to make AI work for you.
An even bigger mistake would be to simply ignore AI, shrugging it off because you don’t think you need it. You could find yourself left behind like the proverbial buggy whip manufacturer who thought cars were just a fad for the super-rich.
AI is a tool—a sophisticated, complex tool, but a tool nonetheless—that can revolutionize your business processes and take the quality of your products and services to the next level. It can help your teams make better decisions, create efficiencies and productivity gains, and improve quality while reducing human error. For us at United Franchise Group, it has enabled our employees to ask more questions and “peel the onion” to get to the heart of an issue.
It does have its drawbacks and should be investigated thoroughly before you start using it, but ignoring it without educating yourself can do more damage than any harm you might imagine it can do.
The marks of an effective business leader are that they have an attitude of constant improvement, seek out lifelong learning, and are always looking for a better way forward. As a leader, I believe you should never stop educating yourself, whether that means earning academic degrees or just reading books and attending lectures on your own. It’s essential to keep up with trends in your industry, and AI is probably one of the most important trends you need to learn about.
In my 39 years in business, I have seen the same story play out many times. New technology is most often resisted and fought. People do not like change and don’t want to learn new ways. And yet, from computers to the internet, from cellphones to social media, the individuals and companies that embrace the change do much better than the ones that fight it.
I understand the hesitancy. I never resisted it when I first learned about AI, but I didn’t see how it differed from Google. Once I dug into it and played with it, I could see the possibilities. We use it in many ways throughout our various companies, more with public relations and bios, but also every day with social media posts.
At UFG, it’s just one of many technologies we embrace. From the consumer side, our front-facing websites utilize the latest enhancements. In our franchise development department, we are always looking for an edge, from auto-calling to texting, from data entry to data analytics.
Although I think they’re largely unfounded, fears of AI are quite real. The employee fears will always be there unless you introduce your team to it, explain that it can only help them, and train them with it. Show your employees that the new technology will only help, and assure them they are not going to lose their jobs because of it. You should also have a history of not laying people off because of new technology.
AI can be successful for you if you embrace it and encourage your teams to do the same and learn how it can help them, just like the internet and social media. Don’t rely on it alone, as it’s not perfect and needs humans to proofread and bring common sense to the table. But if your experience is anything like ours, you’ll soon be wondering why you waited so long.
As more women choose the freedom and independence of owning a franchise business, their success in the industry will be recognized during the second annual Women in Franchising National Appreciation Day on Saturday, October 14. The holiday was established in 2022 by United Franchise Group™ (UFG) to celebrate all women working in the franchising industry, from owners to employees and those behind the scenes.
This year, UFG has partnered with the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), the unified voice of more than 14 million women-owned businesses in the United States. UFG is an affiliate sponsor of NAWBO’s National Women’s Business Conference, October 15-17 in Austin, Texas, and will host an informative and interactive workshop on franchising for attendees.
Their partnership brings the success of women in franchising, whose numbers are growing rapidly, to the forefront. Women own 29 percent of U.S. franchises in 2023, according to Guidant Financial – an increase of almost 25 percent from just last year.
“It’s an honor to collaborate with NAWBO on this special observance day, which we created to celebrate and inspire women working in the franchising industry,” said Ray Titus, Founder and CEO of United Franchise Group. “Franchising empowers women to succeed independently while giving them all the tools and support they need.”
UFG is the global leader for entrepreneurs, offering an international network of resources and expertise to franchise owners in its family of affiliated brands and consultants. Its members have amassed more than four decades of knowledge in the franchise industry.
“We’re happy to partner with United Franchise Group and share their organization’s franchising expertise with our members,” said Jen Earle, CEO of NAWBO. “Women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of the economy, and UFG is working to help more women achieve their dreams through business ownership.”
The holiday falls during National Women’s Small Business Month, as declared by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Women in Franchising National Appreciation Day celebrates women who chose a career in franchising either as a franchise owner or work for a franchise brand while bringing attention to opportunities for women in this flourishing and exciting industry.
A good boss should be more like a coach. Here’s why — and how to coach your team to greatness.
hen my team talks about their favorite times at work, they often bring up United Franchise Group’s World Expo, a conference for employees, executives and franchise owners. It’s three grueling days of workshops, speakers and a trade show; the team is up at 6:00 a.m. each day and usually works at events well past midnight. As their leader, I’m right there with them, and I expect myself to work as hard as they do.
That’s what it takes to be the boss, whether you’re leading other people or managing a team of one (yourself). Whatever you ask of those under you, you have to be willing to do the same. You cannot just stand on the sidelines giving orders. You must get into the arena with the rest of the team.
If that sounds more like being a coach than a boss, it is. A good boss should be more like a coach; it’s a much better mentality than the old-time dictatorial model, especially with the next generation coming up. It shows everyone that you are in it together. The coach is a guide who’s been where the team is now and by sharing their experience and knowledge, gains their respect and leads them to greatness.
I think I accomplish this with a coaching style that is demanding but fair. I expect everyone to give 100%, and in return, I give 100%. But it’s not just a grind; I try to add fun to the work while keeping everyone focused on goals and company achievement. We want a fun, rewarding place that recognizes success often.
Being your own boss is exactly the same, but in smaller businesses, holding yourself accountable can be hard. You still must do it every day — because if you don’t, who will?
Here are 10 rules for coaching your team to greatness.
1. Lead by example in all you do
I learned this from my father, Roy Titus, the best boss I ever had. He had such a high level of loyalty from employees that he earned over a long period of time managing them. He was a great leader of people, leading by example with a strong work ethic and in treating people with respect.
2. Be positive in all circumstances
It always starts with the leader, the boss or the coach showing a positive attitude and then moves to everyone else. Being a positive force for our company, employees and franchisees is what I do every day. Even when challenges arise, the message should always be that we can do it and will do it cheerfully.
3. Be fair in all dealings so everyone will know you’ll be fair with them
If you want to get respect, you have to give it first — and it starts with how you treat the people you’re leading. They must feel valued for what they contribute and rewarded for achievement.
This also means calling people out when they are negative or lagging behind. Make sure your people know they’ll be treated with the same fairness in whatever they do.
4. Be a great listener, and ask questions before giving any directions
Make sure you’re getting all the information you need before starting a project or making a major decision. It’s okay to look like you don’t know everything, but blundering into a situation you haven’t examined carefully will surely give people that impression! Don’t forget the most important question: “Is there anything else I need to know?”
5. Communicate what you want and expect
It would be nice if your team could read your mind and just do what you want without being told, but no team is that good. If you want your wishes to be carried out, people have to know what they are. Be sure people feel free to ask questions if they need more clarity.
6. Be honest in your life
It’s one of those values you can’t expect to see in your team if you don’t practice it yourself, and it goes beyond your leadership in the company. If you are not being honest with your family and your community, your ethics at work will not count.
7. Become a lifelong learner
Education must never stop, whether it’s keeping up with trends in your industry or learning a new language. You don’t have to earn multiple academic degrees; reading books, attending lectures or just showing curiosity in daily life will exercise your intellect.
8. Always look for a better way forward
What works today may not work tomorrow, and “that’s the way we’ve always done it” doesn’t work on any day. Look for ways to improve your products and processes and be open to new ideas — from anyone, anywhere.
9. Embrace change, especially technology
The pace of change in technology can be breathtaking, and resisting it is not only futile but can also be harmful. Stay open to new technology and informed about what’s coming. Your attitude here can be a big factor in how your millennial employees see you.
10. Take one for the team
Lead with the attitude that nothing is ever too small (or big) for you to do, and make sure your team knows it. From helping to pack up your booth after a trade show to making a major presentation at an industry event, show them they can do it because you’ve done it too.
Creating a team culture is something you must work on every day, every week and all year long. Make sure your entire team knows you came here to win, inspire them to score and reward them for every point they make.
A solid mentoring program can be the backbone of any company if it is done right. Here are seven ways to ensure yours is effective.
Amentor is a valuable teacher for a company’s emerging talent, but in four decades of coaching sharp business-minded younger people, I’ve often been surprised at how much they have taught me. You really have to know your stuff when you teach someone. Mentoring has kept my skills sharp, and working so intensively with young team members has helped me keep up with new developments in my industry.
A solid mentoring program can be the backbone of any company if it is done right. It should be a give-and-take relationship that’s about knowledge, not status, with honest feedback that goes both ways. And as I’ve found, it has rewards for both mentor and protégé.
The rewards don’t always come from teaching job or career skills. My most memorable experience as a mentor began when I learned an employee was struggling with a drug and alcohol addiction. I worked with him and his wife to encourage admitting himself into a rehabilitation center for one year. It helped him get back on the right track, and he returned to work better than ever.
I’ve also been mentored by some incredibly talented people. Three in particular come to mind: my father, franchising legend Roy Titus; his long-term employee, Gary Rockwell; and my father-in-law, J.J. Prendamano, who was General Manager at United Franchise Group (UFG) for many years. They all taught me the value of hard work and were unique in their ability to get things done and keep moving forward in good times and bad; I’ve often drawn on their examples.
J.J. left his mark on UFG in many ways, including starting our mentor program over 25 years ago which continues to this day. Here are some lessons we’ve learned in that time.
1. Don’t let status define the mentorship
The mentor is usually more experienced than the protégé, but being higher up in the organization doesn’t automatically make someone an expert in everything. As General Manager, J.J. reported to me, but I welcomed him sharing his extensive knowledge. Everyone can be an expert in something, and protocol should never stop you from sharing it with another.
2. Approach a potential mentor tactfully, respectfully and clearly
Start by expressing your admiration for their work or achievements and sharing how their experience aligns with your aspirations. Then, communicate what you hope to gain from the mentorship, and assure them you can commit the necessary time and energy. Highlight how you can contribute to the objectives, even if it’s just by bringing a fresh perspective.
3. Look for promise and possibility in a protégé
Approach them and tell them your opinion of the opportunities you see. Share insights or experiences that could benefit them and gauge their interest in mentorship. Be mindful of their autonomy, and ensure the mentorship would be welcomed and beneficial from their perspective. People either have thin skin or thick skin, so when sharing constructive criticism, choose your words and tone wisely.
4. Set expectations and rules right from the start
What is each person looking for in this relationship? What career advancement is the protégé looking for, and can they expect to achieve it? Work out each person’s responsibilities to each other and the relationship, and establish clear rules. Don’t assume anything, especially regarding off-limit subjects or behaviors.
5. Have an agenda, but let the meeting go where it needs to go
At UFG, we believe in formal meetings with an agenda and always in a conference room or out for lunch, including when mentors and protégés get together. Know the purpose of your session, and you’ll get more done. Don’t be afraid to deviate; good ideas can pop up at the most unexpected times. Just be sure the unplanned business is relevant and doesn’t derail the planned business.
6. Ask a lot of questions
This is important for both mentor and protégé. The protégé should be filled with questions about the subjects you explore and should never be afraid to ask them. The mentor should ask questions that challenge the protégé’s assumptions and help them approach problems creatively. “Are you sure about that? How do you know? What if the situation changes?”
7. Be willing to share your mistakes
Mentors must be willing to share experiences, even if it makes them look bad (“Learn from my mistakes”), so humility is essential — so is trust. To ensure an open dialogue, agree that “What happens in our mentor meetings stays in our mentor meetings.”
Mentoring really can be the core or backbone of any company if it is done right. Having the more experienced employees pass on great nuggets they’ve learned over the years to the newbies (protégé) is more valuable than anything else you could do.
Not all mentorships work out, and that’s okay. If the mentorship isn’t fulfilling its intended purpose, it’s best to have an open and honest conversation about it. Thank your mentor for their time and guidance, but express that you feel the relationship might not best fit your current needs. This approach should also apply if you’re a mentor who feels the relationship doesn’t benefit your mentee. Maintaining professionalism and respect throughout this process is important, as you never know when your paths may cross again.
Mentoring has enabled me to exercise one of my greatest passions, helping people become successful. I hope I’ll be remembered as a positive force for good in helping others succeed by sharing my experiences and knowledge. Thanks to the rising stars I’ve worked with throughout my career, mentoring has also left its mark on me.
Here are seven things to look for when seeking a potential business partner.
There are numerous benefits of going into business with a partner: increased skills and experience, more capital, greater borrowing options for financing, and potential income-splitting or pass-through tax advantages. It can be extremely rewarding.
I can personally attest to this. My first business partner was my father, Roy Titus. We joined forces in 1986 to open the first Signarama. A franchising icon in his own right, my father’s guidance and support were invaluable to me and helped solidify the foundation of my company, which now spans three generations. I was fortunate to partner with someone I respected greatly and with whom I had shared a lifetime of experiences.
Throughout my years in business, I have formed many other partnerships and have learned a lot from the successes we have had together. To me, choosing the right business partner is arguably just as important as choosing the right life partner—especially when you consider the statistics. Research suggests that up to 70% of partnerships fail to deliver their intended outcomes—a staggering rate that reinforces the importance of choosing your partner wisely.
Here’s what to look for when seeking a potential business partner:
1. SHARED CORE VALUES
The financial benefits of going into business with a partner are undeniably attractive, but it is important to not let that misguide you. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the excitement, the possibilities, and even a person’s expertise.
When choosing a business partner, don’t get too distracted by the superficial. It’s important to assess them thoroughly and do the same kind of due diligence as you would before hiring an employee.
To discern if a potential business partner’s core values align with your own, take time to sit down and define your non-negotiables in business. These can be things like honesty, trustworthiness, transparency, and loyalty.
2. SHARED GOALS
In addition to shared core values, having shared goals is fundamental to the success of any venture between partners. These should be defined and agreed upon before any official agreement is finalized to prevent discrepancies and delays—whether you’re in a startup or growth period. Aligning on goals ensures you and your partner are on the same page and can move forward together as allies.
A piece of advice I’d like to impart is that everyone has a limit to their memories, so it’s always good business to memorialize what’s been agreed to. Goals always need to be written down and kept safe so they can be revisited at any time. Documenting what you agree on can avoid a lot of future misinterpretations and arguments, especially once the business starts taking off.
3. ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE
Just like in any relationship, clear communication in a business partnership is key. Having shared goals is important, but maintaining strong communication with each other is how you achieve them.
When evaluating potential business partners, see how your communication flows—you both should feel comfortable expressing your needs and wants, and you should feel like you’re being understood and listened to.
If you’re feeling apprehensive to speak up or can’t quite seem to land on the same page, don’t ignore the red flags. Consider another partnership.
4. STRONG WORK ETHIC
Another potential benefit of having a business partner is enhanced work-life balance. A good partner can lighten the load, alleviate stress, and allow you to take worry-free time off. However, if you choose the wrong partner, it can easily be the opposite.
Therefore, ensuring your partner has a strong work ethic is vital to a fulfilling and mutually beneficial relationship. If you feel like you must constantly pick up their slack, it can lead to anger and resentment in the relationship. This can have detrimental effects and ultimately tank morale. It’s a domino effect that can be avoided with objective vetting.
5. AGILITY AND ADAPTABILITY
Agility and adaptability are two traits that used to be “nice to have,” but after the past couple of years have landed solidly on the “must-have” list. They are not only important for partners, but for all businesspeople today. The world is changing rapidly, and the faster we embrace change, the better.
It’s important to learn if your potential partner possesses these traits, as well as to measure their willingness to be nimble when necessary. Are you and your partner willing to bend a little to find common ground?
6. PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS
A good partner is always looking forward to a better future. They should be able to identify and take advantage of the silver linings in whatever challenges or circumstances come up. They should always be ready and able to turn lemons into lemonade. Of course, every business and partnership will have its differences—it’s how you get through them that will determine the ultimate success of your partnership. Are you both able to solve problems together, find resolutions to your differences, and keep moving for your business?
7. POSITIVE, FORWARD-THINKING MINDSET
Mindset is huge in business. Countless studies have shown that having a positive mindset and surrounding yourself with those who share the same attitude increases mood and motivation, which can directly play into productivity and morale.
Who doesn’t want a business partner who makes a concerted effort to bring positive energy into work every single day? Being able to rely on each other to bring your best selves to work is a game changer. And by sharing the belief that people should prioritize spending more time on their strengths than on their weaknesses, everyone benefits.
Better yet, if they also share your conviction that you’re collectively working not just for yourself but for the benefit of the next generation, that will guide your business and your partnership into the future.
If you’ve decided to express your entrepreneurial spirit by owning a company, here’s a checklist for managing the process.
Every day, millions of Americans pursue the dream of owning their own business.
Ownership brings the freedom to make the decisions about how a company is run, which can pay off in far greater financial rewards than a regular paycheck. Best of all, there’s a sense of pride that comes from building a legacy that can be passed on to others.
That said, the rewards come with risk. Being the owner of a company is a high-pressure position. A paycheck is steady and reliable, but profits often are not. Making the wrong decisions can leave you with nothing to pass on (or something that no one wants).
Purchasing an existing business can be the ideal strategy to avoid becoming an owner who shuts down their business in the first year. It’s a complex process — the most complicated purchase you may ever undertake. The list of stakeholders and concerns you must address is long — customers, employees, equipment and inventory, to name just a few.
Plan to spend several months shopping for the right business, from researching the market, negotiating with the seller and eventually closing on the purchase itself.
If you’ve decided to buy a company that is already in existence, here’s a checklist for managing the process.
1. Decide what kind of business you want
Do you want an independent business or a franchise? Buying a franchise offers a proven model with plenty of support and a network of resources. With an independent company, you’re free to make decisions on your own — which might suit you better if you prefer to go it alone.
If you’re unsure, decide on what industry you may want to enter. What are you good at? Do you have any expert skills that would be useful in a business? How will you manage your time?
2. Assemble your team
You’ll need a crew of experts to handle the complicated financial and legal issues that are part of the purchasing process. You’ll need an attorney and an accountant, and when buying an independent business, you should also work with a business broker. The broker will help you locate and vet potential buyers. With solid knowledge of the market and the industry you’re getting into, they’re a crucial guide, even for experienced business owners.
No matter how much more your team may know about the purchasing process, never forget that you’re in charge. The team works for you, and while they’ll usually give you good advice, the decisions are yours to make. It’s your name that’ll be going on the door and your money that’s being risked.
3. Search for available businesses
You won’t find a “for sale” sign outside of a business worth buying. Just like the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) that realtors use, there are a number of reliable sources you can turn to when you’re looking to buy a business.
The website BizBuySell is a trusted directory of available companies, you can find expert guidance at Transworld Businesses Advisors, and trade shows are another fertile source of prospects.
4. Secure financing
Don’t listen to anyone who says that plunging your life savings into a business means you’re admirably devoted to its success.
A small business loan or other financing is the smarter way to go, especially for hard assets (equipment, buildout, etc.) If you get funding from investors, be clear on how they will be involved, what their share of revenue and expenses will be and other issues your accountant and attorney will work out with you.
5. Close on the sale
Huddle with your team before closing to make sure everyone understands the sale. Be clear on what you’ll be walking into, like employee and vendor contracts, inventory, accounts receivable and the state of the lease (if there is one).
Is there an opportunity to renegotiate the lease with the property owner? Will the seller stay in the business to help you transition to total management, or do they expect to hand you the keys and wish you luck on their way out the door?
Once again, this is where you’ll be glad you’re working with an accountant and an attorney.
6. Step into your office
Your sale is complete, but the purchase is not done. Your first 30 days in the business should be a time of transitioning into ownership.
You should be getting to know your employees and how they do things, as well as giving them an opportunity to get to know and trust you. Clean the space, interview employees, and listen to what they tell you. Don’t make any quick changes until after the first month.
Don’t forget one of the best parts of the post-closing process: Celebrate! Take time to reflect and enjoy all that you’ve done to make this dream come true.