In our continuing series spotlighting our 2021 Best In Category Franchisee Satisfaction Award Winners, Payroll Vault’s President & CEO, Sean Manning sits down with Nicole Dudley, Franchise Business Review’s Director of Client Relations. Payroll Vault has worked with FBR, surveying their franchisees, since 2014, two years after they started franchising. They are consistently an FBR Franchisee Satisfaction award-winner with high franchisee satisfaction ratings.
Here are some highlights from that conversation.
Nicole: Sean Manning is here with us from Payroll Vault, and we’re going to talk a little bit about the brand as well as your time with us as an FBR client.
I know that you’ve been franchising since 2012, and you guys started working with us in 2014. We’ve been working consistently together over the last few years.
I was looking back, and it’s been seven years of being a top franchise part of our Top 200 list, which we release each year and then obviously, featured on additional special lists that we do throughout the year, like Top Franchises for Women and LowCost Franchises, and even our newest one for brand culture.
That was pretty exciting to see you guys part of that as well, especially during 2020, which was [laughs] an interesting year. We’ll get to that a little later. Through your experience with our different services and products that we offer, like our validation program, our lead generation, tell me about how that is for you guys to expand past the data part of the survey.
Sean: It’s always good to have resources behind that. How do you get the message out about our brand? How do people engage once they become interested in who we are and what we do? Having those additional resources blended right in, lead generation, validation, videos like this where they can see us talk about our brand and learn more are important.
It’s not the one piece. There’s a cohesive piece to FBR that brings it all together for us and allows us to focus on our business model and everything we’re trying to accomplish, knowing those other things are being taken care of already automatically. We don’t have to think too hard about all the resources we use with FBR.
Nicole: Because of last year, because of 2020 and the changes you had to make, not only to how you communicate and stay in touch with your franchisees. In general, how did that, the whole pandemic, impact your business?
Did you make additional changes to the marketing and recruitment strategies that you had in place because of it as well?
Sean: We did. First of all, being so organized with, obviously, the information we were getting from FBR, working that into our framework, we knew specifically what our goals were going to be last year. We didn’t hesitate by continuing that process, even though we had what I call hyper transformation in business. Business completely changed.
Even though we were doing many of the things that we’re doing now, previously…99 percent of all of our training is done through virtual meetings. It’s been that way for five years, so we didn’t have to shift much. What we had to do is open communication and bring in that higher-level leadership that we can get through this together.
We were supposed to have our Owners Exchange in May, and that immediately got canceled. What we did is we took speakers and we had speakers in April and May. Our conference was going to be in August. Obviously, we couldn’t do our conference, so we shortened it and had speakers in June, July, and August to bring that motivational impact throughout the year to help everybody along.
Last year was obviously a challenging year, because of the transformation component. For us, it was very manageable, because we were already using many of the resources that we’re using today, or businesses are using more effectively today, essentially. It was just about managing through the year.
It seemed like every week, we were thrown another curveball. It was managing those curveballs, and then being prepared for the next week to see what’s happened. Over time, it worked out. It’s probably the best way to describe it. It wasn’t a super, super year. It wasn’t a really, really difficult year.
It worked out, which is how this year’s shaping up to be a little bit. Hopefully, the latter half of the year will be a lot easier to manage from a business and personal standpoint.
Nicole: Any specific success story that came out of last year?
Sean: Yeah. You know what? We had our owners meeting earlier this month. It’s the first week of the month every year. We had about 10 new franchisees in 2019, and we had about 8 or 9 at the end of 2020. What I thought was extremely motivating for me and almost inspirational was their dedication.
In 2019, you just start a business and you have no idea this is going to happen. They managed very well. They worked hard, harder than you would normally do the first year owning a franchise. I let them know thank you and how inspirational they were.
Then, we got to our 2020 franchises that came on late in the year. They came out at a time that there’s not only uncertainty but obviously opportunity with business far into the future. I let them know that they were pretty inspirational also.
My response to them is because of that inspiration and their dedication, I’m going to be right there with them. As hard as they’re going to work, our team’s going to be working right beside them just as hard until we can get to a place where we can be more relaxed.
You never want to slow down with business when things are going well, but be a little bit more relaxed and focused on the day-to-day in the long term. It was an interesting year, but I also think there’s a feel-good effect coming out of the year, with the inspiration of our franchisees.
Nicole: You talked about some of the new owners that came on board in 2020 and 2019. What do you think the biggest reason is that candidates come to you?
Sean: Number one is there is some great recognition out there from a lot of different places, so it’s easy to find us, it’s easy to validate us. If you want to research before you have a conversation with us, you can pretty much get a good feel of who we are as an organization. Behind that, you have to perform.
When you talk to Marilyn on our development side, and when we schedule a CEO call with me when you meet the team at your discovery day, there has to be a consistent pattern there too, “This is fun. This is going to be exciting. I want to be with these people.”
I wish we could have them all back in Denver for our conferences. It’s like we tell them, “You’re coming home to be with us.” We love that, seeing them, and we’ll be again soon. We try and treat everybody like a family and support them, and being upfront, and supportive, and living behind your core values.
We have a document called Our Brand Identity. It’s about six pages long. We don’t reference it on a daily basis, but it’s there to remind us all that we’re here to work together and collaborate, and be successful under some core values. Kind of that culture component that everybody talks about.
Nicole: Yeah, which might be one of the reasons why we saw you on our culture list last year. Hopefully, we’ll see you again later this year, too. We’re going to focus on them again later this year.
To wrap things up, I wanted to know, from your years of working with us and being a part of everything that we try to offer to franchise brands from their data to bring the right candidates to you, how have we changed the way that you do business, if at all?
Sean: I had a friend tell me once, “In business, you have your business, and your employees, and your team. You have your vendor partners and you have your customers and clients. Those are all unique components of every business.”
It was interesting, it was about 15 years ago when I was sitting at the table with him. He goes, “You know what? I can manage my business and my team, I can go get clients, and I always just trust my vendor partners are here to support me.” He brought it up because he had a couple of vendor partners that were difficult to work with.
It’s a little bit shocking that you want to pay people money and work with somebody and it becomes difficult. I will have to say, working with FBR, it’s the complete opposite. You almost feel like you surprise us. You bring the right resources.
We have an opportunity to have great conversations like this so that we can work together at a higher level that maybe goes over our expectations. We talk a little bit about that in our business. That company essence, the voluntary things that you do to help others be successful. Or, just, “Please, thank you, you’re welcome.” The little things that you do to appreciate others.
I’ll have to say thank you to Colter and everybody at the FBR team. I love working with you, because I feel like you surprise me quite often, and that’s good to have.
Nicole: Good. I’ll try to remember that and keep that going [laughs] for this year, too. Thanks, Sean, I appreciate it. Have a great rest of the beginning of this year. February’s coming up quicker [laughs] than we think, but we’ll be in touch. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Sean: You bet. Thanks a lot, Nicole.
Nicole: Of course.