Soccer Shots Coach with kids
Published March 10, 2021

Why Soccer Shots Asked Franchisees for Feedback During the Pandemic Shut Down

How the survey results reflected franchisees’ appreciation for the support and resilience of the Soccer Shots team during COVID-19

As a business deemed non-essential, Soccer Shots was forced to shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, it was a difficult time for the brand and their franchisees. As part of our ongoing series talking with leaders from the top franchises in North America, FBR’s president Michelle Rowan sat down with Justin Bredeman, CEO of Soccer Shots, to find out why they were committed to surveying franchisees during such a challenging time, how they used the survey data to identify areas for improvement and measure performance, and the post-pandemic outlook.

Watch the video now:

 

Michelle Rowan: Today I have the pleasure of talking with Justin from Soccer Shots. He’s the CEO of Soccer Shots, and we have been working with the team since March 2012. We’ve known each other for a very long time.

Thank you so much for jumping on with us today. I very much appreciate it.

Justin Bredeman: It’s my pleasure. I’ve loved FBR and the team for all the years that we’ve been with you, so I’m glad to be here.

Michelle: You consistently have great feedback from your franchisees. They are very much satisfied in their business with you and with the team. I wanted to talk a little bit about last year. We’re now out of 2020, and still working through all of the impact.

Everybody was impacted differently. What we saw was that some franchisors still took the opportunity to do the formal evaluation and get feedback from their franchisees, and some didn’t.

Soccer Shots’ business model runs on working with children and was not an essential business, so it had to shut down. Why was it that you decided you still wanted to get feedback from your franchisees during that time, and what did you learn from that experience or from that data set?

Justin: As you said, we’ve been with FBR and have offered the survey up to our franchise community since 2012. We felt it was important to maintain that continuity. It’s one of the values we’ve seen throughout the years to identify trends, identify where we’ve done well in certain areas, and where we haven’t.

It’s a snapshot in a moment of time, but also being able to look back and see, how are we doing, how are we trending in a particular area? While 2020 clearly was a crazy, atypical year for us and everyone else, we thought it was still important to ask those same consistent questions.

We did the COVID portion as well so that we could peg, how are we doing in the eight general areas, and then the specific points among those areas? It’s crazy. 2019 for us was, on the franchise relations portion, a difficult year, because we went through a number of changes:  tech platform changes, we had an apparel change, and some other things.

There was some tension there between we, the franchisor, and the franchise community. It was reflected in that 2019 FBR survey. 2020 hit, and everybody knows what hit. For us, it was pretty drastic. From March till June, we had most of our programs closed down.

We had to rally in providing some alternative programming. To get the FBR survey results from 2020, it reflected the appreciation the franchise community showed towards us, as being resilient in providing certain support during this difficult time as well as feedback around, “Hey, here are things that we should do more of, or less of, coming out of COVID.”

We’ve used this as an important KPI for us as a franchisor, and something that we spend quite a bit of time as a leadership team, reviewing and analyzing to inform the planning for the coming year.

Michelle: That’s great. An important thing we look at is how you’re using the data. It’s important to get feedback from your franchisees, but to do it and stick it in a drawer, and then do it again in a year…it needs to be something more. It is a conversation with your executive team.

How can you align everybody on your team with their different initiatives and goals, and create those KPIs so that everyone is focused on the same thing? That’s a great takeaway from it. I’m curious, because now we’re going back eight, almost nine years, do you remember why you decided to first do the survey with us? 

I know some brands, and you can be completely honest, do it just to see if they can get that award. Some do it for something else. Just curious if you remember what triggered you to move forward and do it?

Justin: You know a little bit of my background. I cut my teeth in franchising with Auntie Anne’s. They had used a satisfaction survey. I knew it was needed when I came to Soccer Shots. Yes, phone calls are important and everybody maybe has a gut sense, but we needed that data point and surveying franchisees to get feedback.

We did some research and we identified FBR as the gold standard. There’s great value, not only of what I spoke of, like comparing from year to year, so you’re comparing yourself to your own performance, but benchmarking. You’ve got a wide net that you cast to a lot of other franchisors.

We did some research and we identified FBR as the gold standard. There’s great value, not only of what I spoke of, like comparing from year to year, so you’re comparing yourself to your own performance, but benchmarking. You’ve got a wide net that you cast to a lot of other franchisors.

That’s important for us to understand – where we stand relative to other franchise systems. Then, you develop the top 25 and the top 10 percent, and something that we aspire to be in someday.

Michelle: You mentioned you create KPIs from it. Is your team looking at just your overall scores for each section? You mentioned looking at the data year over year, so you’re looking at where things are trending up or down for the questions that you ask and the benchmarking. What kind of KPIs are you creating out of the data that we collect for you?

Justin: The scores are important. It’s a starting point. It’s a way to peg where you are putting a quantifiable number. Then, there’s a means of determining the levers you’re pulling. The input is actually affecting that numerical quantifiable data point.

What we’ve learned is that it requires – and this is what we did this year – our leadership team to pore over the comments to understand, “OK, what is it that is being said by that number that’s being given? Where is it that we find trends in comments?”

Each one of our LT members was responsible for their respective vertical within the survey. We spent time reviewing our own and then presenting to the leadership team. We used our Franchise Advisory Council to report back the results. We also did this to the community.

Then, we called the town hall and said, “Hey, here’s our interpretation of what we think we heard you say. Is this really what you said?” We got some good counsel from your team on how to do that. We broke up into groups using Zoom. We were able to break up into small groups and ask some key questions to get further conversation with those who attended.

Then, we followed up and made phone calls to each of the individuals brave enough to put their names to the survey and then got more input. It was really great, Michelle. What it did is allow us to then zero in on the few major initiatives that we have the resources to dedicate towards.

Yes, coming out of COVID, the resources are a little less. Everybody’s limited. It doesn’t matter how big you are, you’re limited in resources. We did a couple of things. We did more extensive follow up this year than we ever have.

Franchisees definitely want to feel heard. That’s a question on the FBR survey. We were like, “How do we ensure that’s happening?” Let’s make every effort we can coming off of a survey to demonstrate that they’ve been heard. Let them speak into more. Let’s have a plan that it’s obvious that voice was inserted into the plan.

This year, we’re focused on doing some research on a new apparel company for us. We’ve got rocks or KPIs around that. We’re exploring a new operations system – something that’s a pain point for a franchise system – so we’ve developed a plan around that.

There’s also something that came out as interesting, like I referenced FAC, communication and franchisee input, and still lacking in that in a way that we’d like to improve and identify that that representative group needs higher visibility.

The franchise community needs to know that those five pure elected individuals are their voice, and so we develop the communication plan around that, which elevates the visibility and also ensures more standard communication with the community. That came directly out of the FBR survey this past year.

We thought we were doing well, but through the comments, we realized, “Oh, we were not.” We need to improve upon that. Those are some of the initiatives that have come from that survey.

Michelle: You touched on something too, in that: The trajectory of the franchisee/franchisor relationship is not a straight line. Your job is growing.

Justin: It’s a hockey stick.

Michelle: Or even like it has a little mountain-ness to it because, like you said, you have to make changes to your operating systems, to your technology, to your apparel. It’s bound to happen. I think some people fear asking those questions when they know they’ve dropped the ball or haven’t done the best job they could.

There’re so many learnings on how you can make the next time better or where to take your lumps: “We hear you. Guess what guys? We could’ve done it better, and here’s how we’re planning to do it better next time.” That constant conversation and not being afraid to get the feedback that’s going to help drive you forward is important for leaders to hear.

Justin: You hit the nail on the head. We, as leaders and as a franchisor…you’re going to get the critique, so why don’t you invite it? Why don’t you give a platform where it could be constructive? Also, conditioning your team to invite it.

This is good. I’d much rather them have critique and explain their position to us openly than to have those conversations independent of us, where it ferments and causes problems. Let’s be constructive about it. 

I’d much rather them have critique and explain their position to us openly than to have those conversations independent of us, where it ferments and causes problems. Let’s be constructive about it. 

Michelle: That’s what I was going to say… constructive feedback versus the complaining. It’s happening, and whether you tune into it or not, it’s your choice. 

I have friends in the franchise space, suppliers and franchisors who will tell me, “Michelle, I do not like feedback.” I say, “There’s nothing you can do better for yourself than hear the feedback, because even if it’s not your intention, it’s how you’re perceived, so you have an opportunity to shift that.

If you don’t ask the question, you don’t know how you’re being read. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so that’s great. You guys have great data and, of course, there are things that you’re scoring well in each year. There are opportunities for you to get stronger in different areas. How about on the candidate side?

Before we go to the candidate side, you mentioned the leadership team, you mentioned the FAC. Are you sharing your results from the survey each year with your whole community, and your franchisee community?

Justin: We are. My stance on surveys is, if I’m going to survey somebody, I should be able to give the results of that survey. That’s how we are with our team, our employees, and to our franchise community. It’s like, “Hey, they participated at one point. It’s good for them to then see the results.”

With the FBR survey results, compliments once again for tips given from your team, working with Nicole [Dudley], making sure that those survey results are out as soon as possible. Maybe we haven’t digested them all but there’s value in some recency; being able to say, “Hey, we took it. Here’s the results. We’re going to get back to you on our analysis of it. Stay tuned in two weeks or whatever.” That’s what we did. That allowed us to not only publish the results but also then, give color commentary and invite conversation in the town halls, the breakouts, and the one-to-ones.

Michelle: I like that. You don’t have to have all of your ideas, and solutions, and execution planned out. Just keeping that whole process transparent with them and putting their feelings in context, too, like you’re doing with our benchmarking. They can see, “Am I off the mark in how I’m feeling about the brand compared to the rest of the group?” I think that can help quiet down the naysayers if it’s a smaller portion of them, so that’s nice. Now, candidates. Are you sharing the FBR survey data with people who are interested in becoming a Soccer Shots franchisee?

Justin: We are. It augments one-to-one validation very well. Typically, on the upfront, there’s some information we give as it relates to FBR survey results, but when they’re really interested in talking with people or understand what is a franchisee’s perspective on things, that’s when we’re able to provide the results of the FBR survey.

If they ask for a full report, we give it to them. There’s nothing for us to hide. There should be as few surprises as possible if someone’s going to partner with us and we with them. Do as much dating as necessary. I feel like the FBR survey is what a lot of people want to know.

It’s like, “Would you do it over again? What are the strengths? What are the areas in need of improvement?” It gives them the grounds for us to talk about those things, and do what you’ve said and also say, “Hey, we think we’re pretty good at these things. There’s some things we’re working on. It’s good we’re not ignorant to them, and here’s our plan for addressing them.”

Michelle: That’s great. It allows you to frame it before they hear it on a validation call. That’s smart use of it. On the development side, you are a Franchisee Satisfaction Award winner and I know that you guys are using our lead generation program.

I’m curious, are you meeting great candidates through the leads that we’re bringing you? Do you have a good contact rate with them, or any feedback you have as far as the people that we’re connecting you with that are interested in franchising?

Justin: What we find is the leads that are coming through the FBR listing, they’re typically people who are interested in buying or at least investigating a franchise. Even if they’re cold to it, they may not wrap their head around exactly what the FBR survey is or the meaning of it, but clearly, if you are among the winners, or being recognized in some way, shape, or form, it prompts a conversation with a lead that has done a little bit of homework and is interested. Absolutely, we’ve seen value in being on that list and having leads course through FBR.

These days, we still find it a bit of a challenge…our pipeline certainly is building. Because of some of the challenges that we faced in 2020, there’re still those that are on the sidelines. They believe in it, but they’re not quite ready to make the leap.

In 2020, we were only able to accomplish half our fran dev goal, but we sold 10 and we’re looking to increase that by about 30 percent this year.

Michelle: You bring up a good point, and that’s what we’re seeing. The interest in franchising hasn’t dwindled but that people are nervous to take that leap into it; they’re looking for something else that helps them feel like they’ve done all they can in their due diligence to move forward.

“Don’t give up on those people.” That’s what we’re hearing from other people, and this data might help them, nudge them along without being super salesy.

Justin: Thankfully, for us, our model is such that it allowed our franchise partners to respond quickly to yes, weather the storm, but have the flexibility to come back out. Youth sports, youth enrichments, they’re not going anywhere. In fact, a lot of families and parents, having done their fair share of virtual and video, are ready to get outside and get some exercise.

Michelle: I get it. How about in general? Any ideas on where your best leads are coming from? Are you getting a lot of referrals or anything you want to share with other people of what works for you as far as finding good candidates?

Justin: For us, our business model’s a little unique, in that you don’t get in a line and see people buying these things and it quickly clicks, “Oh, that’s a business.” Even if you have a young daughter who’s in one of our programs, they’re with eight other friends, you see that happen. You might not know there’s dozens of those going around in childcare service places.

Our story is a unique one to tell. Of course, word of mouth and coaches becoming franchisees is a common story. We do well with franchise lists like FBR, Entrepreneur, Forbes.

Michelle: You just need that visibility of the brand.

Justin: Facebook ads are big, but we don’t do work through brokers. A big part of it is through word of mouth and social media. Social media’s a huge, huge point of emphasis for us.

Michelle: That’s working for a lot of people in your investment range. I would say, if you don’t have your team doing it, taking your data points and creating infographics as your social media that drives them to your report or to talk with you is something that’s working well for some of our other clients.

Do you have any wrap-up words of wisdom or tips that you want to share? 

Justin: No, it’s been a pleasure. I’ve talked to a number of business owners and leaders, and you may have said this in the beginning, it’s like those that have strong bones – meaning the organizations that have a good cultural foundation, a business model that works – they’re weathering the storm and they’re learning how to come back stronger, and that’s encouraging.

I’ve seen that. I’ve seen resilience in my franchise owners, and my own team who have had to hunker down and be resourceful. Relationships have been strengthened because we’re in this common foxhole of survival.

I’m excited about where this is going to take us. This survey has been a great foundation for us for conversations with our franchise partners, an impetus for improving. It’s also been something that we’ve been able to celebrate. To have scores better in 2020 than in 2019 was great encouragement for my team.

I’m excited about where this is going to take us. This survey has been a great foundation for us for conversations with our franchise partners, an impetus for improving. It’s also been something that we’ve been able to celebrate. To have scores better in 2020 than in 2019 was great encouragement for my team.

It was also an attaboy from the franchise community to us. Coming out of 2020 where this survey and the use of it, even though at a moment’s note of time, we’re like maybe we should eliminate it to save the cost. I’m so glad we didn’t. It actually is more important in 2020 than it had been in the previous years.

Michelle:  That’s a great.

Justin:  Thanks to you and your team for everything you do for us.

Michelle: We love working with brands that care so much about their people. I appreciate you taking the time to help us convince other people to start asking for feedback. Don’t be scared. 


Top Franchise AwardDon’t Miss Your Chance to Be Named a Top Franchise!

Franchise Business Review’s annual Franchisee Satisfaction Awards is North America’s only awards program honoring franchise brands for excellence in achieving franchisee satisfaction. Find out  your franchise can be named an award-winning brand by Franchise Business Review.

Learn More

About the Author: Ali Forman

Avatar
As the Marketing Director, Ali’s role is to educate franchise companies about and inspire them to participate in FBR’s research in order to grow and improve their brands. Ali lives in Maine with her husband and two sons.
Like Us? Share Us!