What does it take to lead an international franchise brand through a year filled with unprecedented challenges? Catherine Monson, CEO of FASTSIGNS® and chairwoman of the IFA, was recently invited to be a guest on the Global Franchise Podcast and share insights from her experience doing just that. Thanks to her strong and passionate leadership, Catherine has guided our brand and our franchisees through the storm, and we’re not only surviving but thriving.
During the 30-minute conversation, Catherine shares a plethora of solid advice for anyone who strives to be a leader at any level, as well as the specific actions we took as a brand before and during the pandemic to ensure the best chance of success for our franchisees.
The podcast episode is packed full of useful information and is available to listen to here, but below we share some of the highlights.
Lessons Learned from a Trailblazing Career
Catherine credits much of her success as a leader to the lessons she learned from her own leader and mentor Don Lowe, with whom she worked for much of her early career. He taught her, she says, that to have a successful franchise brand, these four concepts are key:
- The franchisor must always focus on franchisees’ profitability
- The brand’s business model must have strong economic viability
- The franchisor should seek to build a strong relationship between itself and its franchisees
- The franchisor must possess high moral character and act in the interest of the franchisees
Leading a Brand from the Frontline
As concerns of the pandemic grew early in the year, our focus was on making sure our franchise owners had what they needed to adapt and pivot as the situation demanded. Catherine recalls following the news and early reports of COVID-19 as early as January and February, before many in the U.S. were concerned. She pushed to put together training materials, resources, and procedures for the possibility of working remotely—“Better to be early and wrong than late and right,” she explains—which meant we were able to act quickly when shutdown mandates began.
During the shutdown, Catherine maintained active communication with franchisees, recording a weekly video called “Connect with Catherine” to pass along vital information, advice, and encouragement and preparing other communication streams including an exclusive website full of resources and an email address for franchise owners to send in success stories and ideas for business opportunities.
One of the biggest challenges our brand faced was ensuring our franchisees’ businesses were deemed essential. Catherine and the leadership team worked to put together guidance on how prepare for a government audit of the necessity of the business. Thanks to quick thinking and creative problem-solving, our franchisees were able to pivot to producing safety signage, protective equipment, and other items essential to public health and safety.
How FASTSIGNS® Has Persevered during the Pandemic
Catherine notes that when comparing the numbers from July and August to the same period last year, business was better this year, in spite of everything going on. Franchisees were able to keep their businesses viable and in many cases thriving, to the point where FASTSIGNS® experienced just two closures out of more than 700 locations this year. We believe that’s due in large part to the confidence our franchise owners have in our leadership, which starts at the top with Catherine.
Does this sound like brand leadership you’d like in your corner? If you’re interested in being a part of our sign and graphics franchise, complete our online contact form now to get started!