When You’re Green You’re Growing

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


When you’re green you’re growing. When you’re ripe you rot. – Ray Kroc

When owners talk about sales not being what they used to be, the quick question to ask is whether they are doing the same things that they used to in order to drive sales. It’s a simple question. If you are still doing what you have always done to drive sales and your profits aren’t what they used to be, then we need to find out what changed. It’s one of three things: Marketing Driver, Customer Tastes, or Message.


Marketing Driver

If you are “old school” and still using mailers to drive sales, the post office and the printing industry love you. Your customers are ignoring you since they read about sales at their favorite stores on their phones. The way you market didn’t change but your customer’s focus did. I still see people agonizing over whether to use TV and radio to get the word out about their brand. Why? Commercials are deleted with the tap of a button or ignored by changing the channel. You have to go where your customers are and they have a whole new home. Pewresearch.org states that 30% of the general population get their news from Facebook. That’s 30% of everyone!! Are you now getting the idea that a coupon postcard isn’t going to cut it?


Customer Tastes

If you have been in business for more than five years, then you have noticed that some of your best sellers when you opened are not selling nearly as well. Why? It’s because your customers are evolving. Do you speak with your customers or do you just sell to them? If you aren’t regularly asking your customers for their input on what they like, you are already in the process of going out of business. When you started, you were interested in what was driving your customers to buy from you and you wanted to give them what they were asking to buy. Somewhere along the timeline, you got lazy. What do you know about your customers? Are you doing tests with new products for good customers? Do you even know who your good customers are? Tracking sales from each customer is going to be more vital as you grow your business. Everything gets tracked online. Why aren’t you tracking things offline as well? Ask, learn, change and grow your business.



What does your message say about your business? There are great big businesses that fall down on message. Billion-dollar brands lose customers all the time because they aren’t connecting their message to what their customers want to hear, read, or see. The story you want to tell about your products or services is up to you to get across to customers. the tricky part is making the message relevant to the people you want giving you money. Is your message old, sloppy, or does it really explain why you want them as customers? Does it connect your product or service with the customer’s life? Is it an invitation to buy? Everyone wants to know they are invited to the party. Is that what your message does? Does your message have a call to action? I see marketing every day that is missing the call to action. What is it that you want people to do?

When you are green you’re growing. Are you green? Do you still actively look for customers or do you keep doing the same thing and expect the same results? Change happens with your input or without you. Embrace the change!


Bob Griffin
Chief Bulldog-in-Charge
Business Bulldog, LLC



I have been watching the downfall of many great fast food and retail companies because they forgot to mention the only thing that matters in business to the employees (all of the employees). Even internet companies are starting to tick me off with their lack of laser focus on this one thing that will mean the end of the business. How is this possible??

Many of my reads have been in business for a long time and have been very, very successful. So, it hurts me to watch them drop the ball on training, reminding, and making SPEED OF SERVICE the number one thing everyone is talking about. When you think of what customers want in an experience, speed of service is one of the top two or three items on the list.

Must you have great products? Yes.

Is a clean, inviting environment to sell in required? Yes.

So, why don’t you also have fast, pleasant service? Customers don’t want to spend all day in your store. Even Starbucks gets the fact that customers may lounge in the chairs but when a customer asks for coffee, they move fast. Customers want what they want and want to leave once they get it. (My English teacher would kill me for that last sentence…oh well, I’m moving to fast to care)

Make the first thing you talk about every day speed of service. Even if you are the only employee. Speed of service can handle a lot of problems.

Speaking of problems, let’s talk about planning. Being prepared for the day’s sales is one thing. Being prepared for the bad things that happen every day is another. If you aren’t talking with managers on how to remove problems, then you are the problem. Start with a list of what has gone wrong this year at the store level. Make it a good long list. Write everything that didn’t help sell another widget or whatever it is you sell. Now, start planning on how to remove the problems. Speed bump removal is an art form.

I bet you fired a dynamic staff that can tell you how they removed problems from the sales floor nicely and with customers still smiling. Ask them what worked. You will be surprised at the answers. Remember to listen, not judge. Many of the answers will be wrong but in the heat of the moment, and without you giving them directions, they did what they needed to keep the sales moving.

I will write another article on how to remove SOS Bumps. Right now, I need to get working!

Enjoy your day and drop me a line on what is working to keep thing moving for you.


The Stupid Little Things in Business

If you waste time on things that don't help grow your business you won't have time for the things that do.

If you waste time on things that don’t help grow your business you won’t have time for the things that do.


The Wall Street Journal had a story this week that McDonald’s has decided to remove Heinz ketchup from its stores since Burger King will now use Heinz in its stores. This is the dumbest argument I have heard in awhile. How about spending time and energy to have better service at McDonald’s? Training employees to serve the customers better is way more complicated than getting press for a war over ketchup.

You can read the WSJ article here.

There are far too many things that you can distract yourself with as a business owner or, in the case of McDonald’s, as the executive team at a major brand. I listen to business owners talk about the problem with one thing or another all the time. I have plenty of stories of owners fretting about stupid little things that do not add customers, profits, or loyalty to a brand.

For instance, I visited a franchisee in an ice cream store brand who was screaming about how a vendor was cheating him because the box said whole pecans and some of pecans were broken. I don’t think you could get me to raise my voice over pecans. I have never heard another complaint about pecans since and that was years ago. Sigh.

Another story is the restauranteur who told me he was saving tons of money by only giving two napkins to a customer. I can count on one hand how many restaurants went under because of napkin theft. One. That guy. He spent so much time worrying about napkins that he lost all his customers and closed. Stupid little things can eat your time and profits.

So what filter should you use when you want to spend the energy to improve your business? It is the same one I use when I consult with owners,

  1. Do any of your concerns interrupt daily business?
  2. Would making a change delay helping customers?
  3. What is it going to cost to make a change?
  4. If you waited a week or a month to make a change would it negatively impact your profits, products, or service?
  5. Does anyone else have the same concern?

I have more questions to help filter the problem into one of two piles, one of which is in the trash can, but any one of these questions leads to more topics and that is the point. Think it through before you spent anything.

If McDonald’s had looked at ketchup the way that customers look at ketchup (we don’t care), then they would have left Heinz where it was. If this is a publicity stunt, they just lost me as a customer. If this is a real problem, they have too much money and need to be taken down a notch. I, for one, am going to pack my lunch.

What stupid little thing have you worried about? I am at the age when I can let many stupid little things fall away. I used to worry about the owners that I couldn’t save. Now, I give them the advice and let them act on it. If they fail because they didn’t listen, I move on. I don’t control their ears.

What filters do you use? Is it a list of questions or is it a person (like me) who you can bounce concerns off to get a better perspective? If you don’t, the stupid little thing in business is YOU.

Franchise Even-handedness

Opened Book In Hand Stock Image  By phanlop88, published on 15 March 2013 Stock Image - image ID: 100147306

Franchise Even-handedness


In the world of franchising, there is no more damaging action than a side deal or special perks for a long-time franchisee from an executive in the franchise.  Every franchisor is thankful for the people who looked at the franchise and jumped in feet first on the recommendation of the founders and did well.

Thankfulness is one thing.  Being blind to putting that franchisee high up on a pedestal and not enforcing the rules evenhandedly is when real damage is done.

I could tell a million stories about deals that hit franchises hard because the founders wanted to show deference to a franchisee who has been in the system since the beginning or even just years longer than other franchisees.  I could also tell you stories, great stories, about franchisees who have been in a system for decades and still listen, learn, and help new franchisees out when they can.  Business is a choice.  How you treat your business is the split in the road.

Bulldog Rule for Business #9 You may not be the best person for the job goes right to the center of the problem.  You, as the leader of the franchise, may be the wrong person to be in charge because you are too close to the situation and can’t or won’t see the damage that you are causing to newer franchisees by being best buddies with the ones who helped start the brand.  We are all that way in some part of our lives.  As a leader, you affect more than just the relationship between yourself and franchisee.

  • If you can’t take bad news or even critical news about a franchisee you have known for a long time and deal with it like you would a new franchisee, then you are the problem.
  • If you “shoot the messengers” for the problems of the franchisees, then you are the problem.
  • If can’t see all franchisees as part of the chain and that they all need to follow the system the same way, then you are the problem.
  • If you can’t act the same with a franchisee who just joined as you do with a franchisee who has been in the system for a decade or more, then you are the problem.
  • If you would be sued for giving special treatment to a franchisee, then you are a BIG problem.

I have personally listened to franchise CEO’s give speeches about firing themselves if they were seen as the problem.  Funny thing about that is that they won’t step down and they won’t change their ways because they don’t see themselves as the problem.  So, the problem persists and the chain suffers.  If you have great employees leaving often, then you need to take a good hard look at things.

If I was interested in a franchise to invest in, I would spend my due diligence calling the newest franchisees, franchisees who have been in the system for a year, and a couple who have been in the chain for five or more years.  If I can’t get enough franchisees to call from the franchisor, then I wouldn’t buy in.

Questions to ask a franchisee who is new to a system would be:

  • Did you get what you were promised when you started?  Training, help with real estate, a person to call with questions, and more get promised by the development manager.  All of those items are needed to make you successful.  If you don’t get at least that much help, then sell fast and walk away from the franchise.  It is indicative of bigger problems that will grow over time.
  • A few months after opening, were you connected with a franchisee who has been in the system for years who can be a mentor?  Finding someone who has already been in the system and lived through the rough patch of starting out can make a big difference.
  • Is the mentor they paired you with someone who would remember what it was like when they started?  Build a business from scratch is a lot different than a business that has regular customers and strong base who know the brand.  I see this mistake more often than I like.  It is the “Big Brush Off” from the franchisor.  They figure that a franchisee who has been in the system for a while has the time and the desire to help other franchisees.  In fact, they may want to knock a new franchisee down to limit any competition.
  • Can you give feedback that gets a response?  I listen to franchisees.  It is how I am most effective in getting results.  If they don’t feel like anything is getting done to make changes to build the brand, franchisees become disgruntled and cause problems in order to be heard.  One way or another, franchisees will be heard.

I want to say that I have personally witnessed changes at the top of a franchise that have made the culture in the franchise grow.  But, I can’t.  There are so few times when changes to the way franchisees are treated that I have not seen it work or work well.  It happens but it usually takes a complete gutting of the executive team.  It doesn’t need to happen that way, but the power structure of a franchise is what makes it tough.  Why would a CEO change how he/she treats franchisees if it didn’t personally affect him/ her?  No one under the CEO will tell, so nothing changes for the better.

Step back, look at things as if you weren’t in charge, and give yourself the advice you would give someone who is sledding down a slippery slope thinking its a fun ride.  Rides end.  Being at the bottom is a tough climb back to the top when you could have stepped back sooner and made things right.

Bob Griffin – Chief Bulldog-in-Charge

Saving the Yogurt Industry

By digitalart, published on 02 May 2011 Stock Image - image ID: 10039925

Saving the Yogurt Industry

It occurred to me that we let a lot of industries die out because we label them a fad and let the customers walk away. Frozen yogurt has been a treat for decades and saw a renewal over the last five to eight years. Now, it is steadily declining in sales and I thought I would take a few moments and throw some ideas on the table to get things moving again. It may be my desire to tackle a challenge or my enjoyment in eating frozen yogurt, but I am going to give the industry a kick in the pants.

If you want to get your customers back, ask them to come back. Too simple? Yeah, it is. That’s why you need to do it.

Just letting the customers go or trying to send out more coupons is not the best solution. If you weren’t great at getting customer information, then start right now and invite what customers you do have back soon. For customers you lost, get them back with a big sign and a postcard you can mail to homes that says in clear terms, “I Want You Back! The same wonderful treat is still here and we are ready to do what it takes to bring you back.” It is a little bit of begging, but it also true. And, truth is the defining characteristic that will separate you from the competition.

Start a DAILY marketing plan. I see retail shops that only do visual marketing when they are slow or when they feel like they will get the most customers into the store. That is boring and, if you haven’t looked around, every other shop is doing the same thing.Yogurt, like many retail items, is not a necessity. You have to stay in front of the customers to get them to even think about coming in to your store.

Daily marketing also means that you have to be creative and consistent. Signs are relatively cheap and can be put up and taken down fast. If you can get away with signs near the street, put up something that customers can read as they drive by at 55 miles per hour. Big, colorful letters on a plain background works best. If you can’t have signs because of local laws, then decorate your own car with advertising. Coupons on your car is not destructive and it is not a sign at the street. It is funny and eye catching. Park your car near your store, but not in front. Make customers stop and look. Do this every day of the week and then change your game for the following week.

Create a challenge. There is no one more creative than everyone. Use the power of the people to bring sales back to your store. What is the next flavor you want to taste? Are you the ultimate frozen yogurt lover? Can you name every flavor? Can you name every flavor by just tasting it? Who can eat the most before getting an “ice cream headache”? What’s the best dance moves to get rid of an “ice cream headache”?

You see, the number of things you can do to be creative is unending. What will the yogurt industry do? Stay tuned…they may just listen and act.

Lose Business – Eat BBQ!

I managed a dry cleaners during college to help pay the bills. It wasn’t an enviable job, but finding a decent job when there are thousands of other students looking for work isn’t easy. I considered myself lucky just to have the job.

It was a back-to-basics customer service kind of work. There were six or seven other dry cleaners on the same road, so being the service leader was vital to staying in business (and keeping my job). I would get to know each customer and have their clothes ready when they pulled up.

One night I was called by the owner. He told me there had been a fire and the entire store burned down. This was a real nightmare. You only bring your best clothes to the dry cleaners and now they were burned or smoke damaged – definitely not very clean.

The owner, not being the brave one, gave me the job of calling all of the customers and letting them know we lost their good clothes to a fire. I had to get the price they paid for the clothes to give to the insurance company and other information so they could be paid for their loss. On top of that, I had to sit outside the burned ruins of the business and talk with the customers who drove to the store to talk. This was a perfect time to use some of those crisis management skills I had learned.

Overall, customers were supportive. I had spent the prior year getting to know them, their families, and the story behind a lot of the stains on their clothes. I had a ready question about their family, work, or vacation when they visited to drop off or pick up clothes, so letting them know how sorry I was that we burned their nice clothes was easier because they also knew me.

There were customers who were not so nice. I still vividly recall those people in my mind. The screams of, “How dare you burn my clothes!” and “What are you going to do about this!” were ringing in my ears for weeks after the accident.

Once the insurance company paid the claim, things really got moving rebuilding the store and the brand.

Think about that for a second. We were going to get back into the same business where just months earlier we had lost all of our customer’s clothes. This was a business that was out of business and sent customers to our competitors. How in the world was I going to attract customers back and keep them after an accident like this?

I gave them BBQ!

Bulldog Rule # 7 – Remember to dream about where your business can go and then make it happen

When it came time to reopen the store, I wanted to take some of mystery out of dry cleaning. After all, how do you clean something without getting it wet? I also gave the customers a chance to look around the sparkling clean, new store. I sent invitations to our “Re-Grand Opening” and made it look like a party. We had music playing, toys for the kids, and BBQ sandwiches to eat. I decorated the outside of the store with balloons and streamers and made a sign to hold at the street.

Now, I want to mention the BBQ sandwiches again. This was my moment of genius. Since customers are always worried that stains on their clothes would not come out, I made sure to feed them something that was guaranteed to cause stains. Once they dripped that tasty BBQ sauce on their shirt, I would bring them back to the new machines that would remove the stains and show them how it worked. If it was possible, I would use some of the cleaning fluid and remove the stain while they were still wearing the shirt. On top of that, I gave them a coupon with a steep discount to use on their next visit.

Customers came back because they could see how nice the store was and that we truly wanted them to come back. I re-instituted the customer service that we were known for and customers even brought new customers.

In the end, a fire made things look overwhelmingly dire, but taking advantage of the good customer service I had provided along with a plan to transparent business model gave us a chance to come back stronger than before. A year later, other dry cleaners on that same street started to close. We had taken too many of their customers to keep them going.

If you think like a Business Bulldog, there is always a chance to bring your best efforts. You just have to want it, plan for it, and make it happen.

Bob Griffin – CEO and Chief Bulldog-in-Charge

Do You Speak Employeese?

We talk with employees every day. We need them to complete tasks for their job and they need to tell us about the job they do. Seems simple enough, but why is it that there are still employees that we cannot get through to and have one team all working in the same direction? Maybe it is because you are not speaking the same language.

 It is not the phrasing or the words, but rather the lens they see your business through BEFORE you start talking that trips up a good conversation. Before you start a conversation with your employees, you need to understand what biases your employees bring to the table and how they are going to see what you have to say through that point of view. You are, after all, living in two different worlds and may never meet in the middle.

 You think about your business like a prize fighter does a big fight. You plan and train for the day and know that everything you do brings you closer to your goals. From the paperwork, the inventory you account for, and even the taxes you pay – both financially and physically, you are your work. It is something more than pride that keeps you going and you expect the best from everyone you meet. It is the lens that you see your business and your life through. Often you cannot see a reason not to work as hard as you do or why anyone would live any differently.

 Your employees, on the other hand, think about when they need to work and when they get to clock out. Their lens shows them how much money they bring in to the company (your company) and how much of that they get to keep. They see things in black and white. Black is the money that is coming in and white is the amount they get to keep after working hard all day long. They see other workers and calculate that you are rich off their hard work and they just get a small cut. They work – you get paid. They see when you drive up that you are in a nice car and that you have nice clothes. They know you take good care of your family and that, as your own boss, you have the time to spend with your family. They work and do not have as much to go home to. Their lens, to them, is clear since they see things this way every day.

 Recently, I was speaking with an owner of a successful company and he stated he could not get his employees to get extra training and was adamant that they would call in sick, just not show, or have one of a hundred excuses to keep them from showing up. My knee-jerk response was, “You pay them don’t you? Just tell them it is mandatory.” This advice was poorly given and received.

 What I should have done is find out more about the employees and why they did not want to show up. Once I asked the right question, I found out that they wasted their time in a training class in years past and did not want to repeat this. Simple. To them, they wanted to know more about the training before committing to the time required to go. Once we wrote an agenda and had a conversation about how it would help them, they all agreed to show up.

 What else do you want your employees to do that they approach halfheartedly or not at all? The job never end, it just takes on new challenges.

 Find the lens that they see things through by asking questions and removing your own biases and you will get the job done. Follow a few standard questions to help you see things more clearly.

  1. Is there resistance because of time, money, or education/ training issues?

  2. Is there prior experiences that keep them from committing?

  3. Does the message need to come from someone else?

  4. Have you had success discussing this issue before? What is different now?

Stop before you talk and think things through by looking at it as an employee would. Talk with them…not at them. You will find that they return the favor and explain things in terms you will understand too.

Bob Griffin

CEO – Business Bulldog

Business Bulldog

Top 10 Myths of Franchising

Every workday I am struck by the number of people who fight against the system (franchise) they bought. It’s like balling up all the money you worked so hard to earn and rolling it down the street. If you did roll it down the street, you’d at least be able to know you weren’t on the hook for thousands more because of all the contracts you sign when you buy a franchise. On second thought, forget rolling your money down the street. Tie it to fireworks and blow it up. It’s more spectacular and your crummy neighbors won’t be bothering you for more money.

The ability to lose common sense when it comes to making money is amazingly fast. From the time you sign the Franchise Agreement to the time when you want to change things breaks the sound barrier. Why buy something you want to tear apart and not use correctly? It’s like buying a car and then taking it apart to make a skateboard. Just following the system that made you want to buy in the first place.

Here are is my top 10 myths of franchising that I have seen in my years as a consultant. If the guy selling you a franchise mentions more than one of these, even in passing, he is probably an OK guy to buy from. The best franchises try to discourage you a little from buying.

Top 10 Myths about Franchising

  1. I can buy a franchise and let it make money.
  2. Hiring a manager will take care of most of the work.
  3. I manage people in my day job.I can handle a few hourly/contract workers.
  4. I have a Masters/ PHD/ Doctorate in Accounting, Marketing, Management, etc. This will be easy.
  5. I can teach the franchisor a thing or two with all my knowledge and skills.
  6. I can buy a poorly run store and turn it around for a profit.
  7. I can jump in and sell out fast.
  8. I can buy a franchise for my wife, son, daughter, etc to give them a career.
  9. No one can teach me anything I don’t already know about business.
  10. I like the product so I will be the best marketing person for my franchise.

Do any of these myths sound familiar? We all want to see the best in the things we do. It is human nature. It is also human nature not to want to fail, but we seem to set that fear aside in the “knuckle-headed view” that you can buy a franchise, open the doors, and make huge amounts of money without doing any heavy lifting. You have to work at whatever business you buy.

Hard work, building on success, building a business for yourself first, and many more lessons are hard learned when you get in business the right way. Why start out on the wrong path?

I ask the classes that I guest lecture what kind of businesses they want to buy. Not one, so far, has said they want to buy into an existing franchise. Some of them have mentioned wanting to start a franchise but none want to buy a business with a track record and a reputation. Absolutely none of them have mentioned the work that goes into being a business owner.

Ask anyone how much money they think they will earn in the first year in business and they will gush with profit margins that would make Bill Gates blush. The misunderstanding about the cost of doing business – more than money – is where most people fail to be honest in business.

Take my list my happy franchise friends! Pass it around to anyone interested and especially those who are blind with new business bliss. Don’t follow the myths.

Bob Griffin – CEO

Twitter: @BusinessBulldog
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