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ZorForum: the circle of trust for emerging franchisors

ZorForum: the circle of trust for emerging franchisors

Why a peer-to-peer collaborative group for fresh franchisors was formed – and how it’s bearing fruit as a result.

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If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we crave contact. Human connection is in our DNA. Civilizations, after all, weren’t built by the hunters and gatherers. They started when small groups of people started forming big groups; working together to create innovations like farming and fire and the wheel (the internet and the Franchise Disclosure Document came a little later).

I bring this up because after you spend time in any industry, you connect some dots, and you start to realize that you can’t really do anything alone. You may be the creative genius who leads the charge as you create a company, but you still need a team of smart people with whom you share ideas and bring them to fruition.

COVID-19, unfortunately, has complicated that for everyone. That’s especially true when it comes to building the connections and access you need to thrive as an emerging franchisor. “Pivoting” to this “new normal” (a word and phrase I think we all hope to eliminate from the lexicon sooner than later) of canceled conferences and minimal face-to-face contact has made it harder than ever for emerging franchisors to develop the circle of trust they need to fuel their success.

I’ve spent my entire career helping franchisors build brand awareness and grow their franchise systems at 919 Marketing. The most successful clients we support understand franchising is all about synergy, teamwork and connections. My most important job is helping our clients expand their network and build a circle of trust-filled with other franchise CEOs and industry experts who can help them meet and exceed their goals.

This is exactly why I knew ZorForum was special when my good friend, Dave Pazgan, introduced the idea to me earlier this year. Dave started his first forum-style peer group of like-minded emerging franchisor CEOs in 2013 when he was the CEO of 101 Mobility. He surrounded himself with other ambitious entrepreneurs – like ShelfGenie’s Allan Young, College Hunks Hauling Junk’s Omar Soliman, and Tutor Doctor’s Frank Milner – so they could share best practices, connect each other with trusted vendors, and tackle the tough challenges keeping them up at night. Dave’s private group was one of many throughout franchising and so many franchise CEOs credit those groups as the circle of trust primarily responsible for their success.

Collaborate with emerging franchisors

So, as the franchise community was sealed off from the world in the summer of 2020, Dave launched ZorForum: a first-of-its-kind emerging franchisor peer networking community custom-built for the virtual world. The premise behind ZorForum is simple. When you’re a franchisor, you’re part of a very select, elite group of people. Very few people know what you’re going through as a founder or top executive at a franchise. It’s an intoxicating career and experience, with a lot of risk and reward, but because of the risk, there’s a lot of pressure. It’s undoubtedly true “it’s lonely at the top” and Dave was on a mission to scale the forum-style concept – providing all emerging franchisor CEOs with the access and support they need.

To his credit, Dave knew ZorForum wouldn’t reach its potential if he didn’t surround himself with other industry leaders excited to extend ZorForum’s reach and influence throughout franchising. I am honored that Dave asked me to partner with him on this journey, and I know the same is true of Stan Friedman, founder of Sensible Franchising, a consulting practice that serves emerging franchisors and franchise suppliers, president of FRM Solutions, and host of the wildly popular, weekly podcast, Franchise Today. With our powers combined as ZorForum’s founding partners, we know we can help all emerging franchisors build their very own circle of trust and get on the fast track to success.

The key, of course, is recruiting chapter leaders excited to introduce emerging franchisors to the power of ZorForum. Chapter leaders are responsible for building a group of eight-to-10 members and leading a monthly three-hour meeting. The chapter leader moderates these intimate meetings and ensures all group members feel comfortable introducing “explorations” – conversations about key issues they’re struggling to solve that will benefit most, if not all, of the group members.

Collaboration works

All group members, and the chapter leaders themselves, give and receive game-changing information, advice, and encouragement during each meeting. ZorForum also offers all chapter leaders and members access to Slack channels dedicated to each group (and hot topics like “marketing,” “legal,” and “franchise development”) to foster ongoing group and one-on-one conversations between meetings. Further, if for some reason a group member isn’t satisfied, ZorForum offers a “love it or leave it” guarantee on the $495 monthly membership fee where they can opt out at any time.

ZorForum chapter leaders are motivated by the same mission as ZorForum’s founding partners – giving back to the franchising community that supports their own careers. They understand that effective peer-to-peer sharing is pivotal for any franchisor because, quite simply, networking works. If it didn’t, trade shows wouldn’t exist. Chapter leaders are also excited to connect emerging franchisors with industry experts they know because there’s something special about meeting with, and getting to know, people who know exactly what it’s like to run a franchise and recruit franchisees. And chapter leaders are certainly interested in creating new sources of revenue amidst the COVID-19 pandemic – something ZorForum chapter leadership offers.

“Very few people know what you’re going through as a founder or top executive at a franchise”

ZorForum would have been a hit before the pandemic, and I think it’ll be a success afterward, but it is no question an organization built for this weird time. In a time when we’re all being encouraged to stay in our home offices and meet with as few people as possible, meeting with your peers is a way to reconnect, recharge, and rise above. Dave, Stan, and I are excited to join forces with phenomenal chapter leaders to help everyone in franchising feel less alone, together.

FIVE WAYS PEER-TO-PEER MENTORSHIP CAN HELP EMERGING FRANCHISORS

Referrals

Looking for a legal partner or marketing support? Talking to non-competing franchisors who have found great partners can help

Leads

Looking for strong leads in specific territories? Some of your fellow members who have sold out in those territories may be able to help

Encouragement

It’s always helpful to vent, especially when those in the room know exactly what you’re going through

Growth

Trying to figure out how to grow your chain from 30 stores to 300? You can get some advice from the internet – or actually talk to people who have done it

Self-growth

Interested in being a better leader? Mentorship from experienced franchisors and industry leaders can help with that

THE AUTHOR

Graham Chapman is a PR, social media and content marketing professional who has spent more than 10 years helping franchise brands reach, influence and convert qualified customer and franchise sales leads.

Global Franchise Meets.

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