Franchising: Time to Get Lean

What can franchise companies learn from car manufacturing? Turns out, quite a lot. Shifting to a "lean" mindset can drive out inefficiency, reduce cost, and improve productivity.


By Mike Morton

Lean manufacturing, an idea credited originally by automaker Toyota, refers to a management philosophy that systematically trims the ‘fat’ in a system while adding greater focus on customer value. At WD, we like to say it helps a company get from point A to point B as fast as possible. And lately, we’ve been using the lean concept to help our franchise clients do more, faster, with less.

Especially when a brand’s franchising effort is new. In the last issue of WayfinD, we described the reasons why franchising can be a strategy for fast and solid growth. With the question “why?” answered, the natural follow up question is, “how?”

We believe that outsourcing significant parts of franchise development is the most lean method possible — activities such as architecture, engineering and construction project management. It allows the franchisor to keep their focus on primary operations by engaging true specialists, and — just like Toyota — raise productivity without waste. Here are five reasons we believe WD is a smart option for franchisors looking to grow quickly and efficiently.

  1. Simplicity and lower cost

    We’ve worked with some of the fastest-growing franchise brands on earth, from McDonald’s to Tim Hortons, and above all else we’ve learned that financing expansion is always a challenge. As tempting as it may be to hire full-time resources for research, architecture, engineering, and other key roles, outsourcing is more convenient — it’s also more affordable. WD is designed to plug into an organization’s development arm and assimilate into its culture. We have created tools that enable an efficient, value-focused ramp up with our partners.

    This allows you to avoid national searches for talent, salary negotiations, onboarding, and all the other challenges of managing human resources. With WD, you add experienced, senior-level practitioners instantly. We assume the burden of finding the right mix of talent for your needs, and when the program’s completed, the franchisor remains focused on its core products and services, not short-term construction needs.

  2. Increased speed to market

    Ideally, a single outsource partner is the most efficient and aligned way to take on activity as complex as franchise expansion. The reason: when channels of communication are simplified, things happen faster — much faster. Eliminating hand offs and converting tacit knowledge to systemized processes is key in our approach. A streamlined process and experienced teams result in quicker development with more deadlines and budgets being met.

    WD is, essentially, a one-stop shop for franchise expansion services, whether for food or retail concepts. Offering end-to-end expertise, from consumer insights to A&E design and documentation, has long been a differentiator for our clients. But it’s the results we’ve achieved through an enhanced focus on value-driven delivery that have been most significant to our franchisor partners.

  3. Instant expertise

    For nearly half a century, WD has been a leader in retail and restaurant multi-unit development, with a professionally-trained project management force of over 20-credentialed PMI professionals. The team involved in managing our clients’ high-volume programs is experienced in agile team integration, delivering results in a lean and seamless manner.

  4. Improved processes

    According to lean management experts, many business processes contain 30% or more waste. As Toyota has taught us, this waste appears in the forms of, among other things, defects, overproduction, waiting, inventory, over-processing and under-utilized employee talent. Any of these challenges can delay franchise planning and development and impede your ability to focus on what you’re best at: offering products to your customers and realizing a return on your investment. WD lowers all these risks because we are, by nature, a lean organization.

    WD champions improve process through the development of a “playbook” that captures the key value-added steps in development while focusing on elimination or redirection of the non-value and non-core related business activities that slow the system down. Through joint management sessions focusing on flow and yielding a proprietary playbook as the output, our partners are finding and implementing ways in which they too can move more quickly from concept to cash.

  5. Objectivity

    Perhaps the greatest value of a WD partnership is the presence of an objective third party. By taking a step back to review and respond to strategies and concepts developed by the franchisor’s internal resources, we can provide a neutral point-of-view. This is true across the various stages of an expansion effort.

We’ve seen success (and missed opportunities) in so many franchise categories, and have developed a sound sense of right and wrong, for opportunities and pitfalls. We perform due diligence through every phase, and never shy away from presenting alternatives or options that help reduce risk and heighten potential reward.

Mike Morton
Mike Morton
Executive Vice President, Program Management Services
WD Partners

Mike is EVP of Program Management Services, and is directly responsible for the highly complex oversight of WD’s client programs. With years of experience working with franchisees and corporate retailers Mike is able to provide expert guidance for keeping programs moving forward while adhering to the project scope, scheduled timeline, and program budget and ensuring the alignment of resources across all levels of the organization.


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