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Looking for heart Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2009

Dan Stanowick faced two challenges: He was trying to establish a presence for Robeks Fruit Smoothies & Healthy Eats in Northeast Ohio, but before he could do that, he had to make sure this potential market knew what a smoothie was.

“To a lot of people, smoothies were those slushy drinks you could buy at Wal-Mart or K-Mart,” Stanowick says. “So we had to educate people about our product and about Robeks and what we’re all about.”

But whether you’re trying to sell smoothies or snow shovels, the key to making a good name for yourself is delivering your product in a professional manner, says Stanowick, the company’s regional director for its 12 locations in Northeast Ohio.

“The best way to grow any business is through referral and word-of-mouth,” Stanowick says. “You have to make sure every customer that comes through your door has a great experience. Then they’ll go and tell their friends and co-workers.”

In the franchising business, that begins with making sure you have picked the right person to run your store.

“I always tell my franchisees that they have to be actively involved in the business,” Stanowick says. “That doesn’t mean they have to be behind the register 24 hours a day, but they have to be actively engaged with employees and customers. It’s showing exactly how they want customers to be treated when they come through the door. It’s empowering employees so they don’t have to wonder if they have to check with management before they deal with a customer situation to make it right.”

It clearly takes time to find the people that can do this effectively.

“We’re looking for individuals who ask good questions,” Stanowick says. “If I run into a candidate who is not serious about doing due diligence and asking me some tough questions about the business and what the business has to offer and what support the business is going to provide, then I’m a little concerned. We’re looking for people who aren’t afraid but, in fact, are enthusiastic about immersing themselves in the business and learning everything there is to know about it.”

Invite the candidate to spend time at an existing location and try to gauge their comfort level with being there.

“We spend a lot of time qualifying that individual and learning about their interest,” Stanowick says. “Not just their financial or business qualifications but their overall personality.”

Ask questions about past experiences that the candidate has had and see how he or she dealt with those situations.

“We’re looking for people who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and who demonstrated through their prior work experience that they’re not afraid to do the little things,” Stanowick says. “They’re not going to just hire people to run the business for them.”

This is a key issue to resolve with a franchisee that you are considering because the success of the brand you are trying to establish depends on it.

“You can’t look at a business like this the way you look at a vending machine where you go periodically and take money out of it,” Stanowick says. “You have to be actively involved. You have to be growing the business. You have to be setting examples and setting standards and making sure everybody knows what your expectations are.”

Achieving success in business is really not that complicated on the surface.

“It’s about the fundamentals,” Stanowick says. “It’s having a product that meets people’s needs and delivering it at a good price and delivering a good overall experience.”

How to reach: Robeks Fruit Smoothies & Healthy Eats, (330) 865-9552 or www.robeks-neohio.com

Finding the right blend

One of things that best appeals to franchisees is the opportunity to be a leader, says Dan Stanowick.

“When people look into a franchise, in their heart of hearts, they are entrepreneurs,” Stanowick says. “They want to be in business for themselves, and they want to control their own destiny.”

The catch is that as a franchisee, you are part of a bigger organization and do not have free rein to do whatever you like, says Stanowick, regional director for Robeks Fruit Smoothies & Healthy Eats.

Fortunately, says Stanowick, there is a happy medium to blend creativity with brand consistency.

“We know that we don’t have a monopoly on all of the great ideas and all of the great systems and procedures,” Stanowick says. “We’re still attracting entrepreneurs, people who do want to be in business on their own and who have their own ideas and have their own ways of wanting to do things. Frankly, Robeks encourages that.”

As summer began in Northeast Ohio, Robeks had 12 locations with additional stores scheduled to open this year. One of the best ways to ensure this meshing of uniformity and imagination is to get the franchisees together.

“We have gotten together on a regular basis to share experiences,” Stanowick says. “It makes sense to get together, not only to talk about operational issues and HR-type issues, but we’ve pooled our resources and we’re doing some regional marketing now so our individual stores don’t have to reinvent the wheel. In turn, that makes other potential franchisees aware of us and interested in us, and that’s how the system continues to grow.” <<