Smoothie King franchisee Brian Ziegler thrives on embracing challenges. Although he has run a successful civil engineering firm for years, Brian was ready for more – so, he invested in a Smoothie King franchise.
Since opening his Smoothie King in Marion, Illinois, Brian has now run his two businesses simultaneously for the past year.
Here are three lessons he learned in his first year as a Smoothie King franchisee:
1. Invest in a Concept that Fits Your Purpose
Whatever your passion and goals, Brian says it’s most important to invest in a concept that aligns well with your individual purpose and mission in business. Smoothie King was the perfect opportunity for him to break into a completely new segment while pursuing his passion for health and wellness.
“An interest in businesses and how they run is really what prompted me to open a Smoothie King franchise,” Brian said. “I like taking on a challenge, and I decided that I wanted to try my hand at running a completely new business.”
Not only was the challenge of a completely new business model and concept appealing to Brian, but he was also excited to have the opportunity to open a restaurant franchise on the ground floor of evolving health and nutrition trends.
“The health aspect of Smoothie King, and how the brand works to help guests achieve their health and fitness goals, really appealed to me about the concept,” Brian said. “It’s not just another food or beverage brand – the smoothies are an integral part of guests’ nutrition and wellness regimens. That’s increasingly where the food and beverage space is moving, and I liked to see that the brand was already ahead of that trend.”
Managing a civil engineering firm was undoubtedly different from a restaurant franchise, but there was some crossover between the two businesses. Brian actually owned the building that would become his Smoothie King restaurant, and his civil engineering team designed and oversaw the build-out of his location.
“Smoothie King has incredible site selection support, but it was fun for us to have a more hands-on role in the site development,” Brian said. “Although the two businesses I run are really nothing alike, it was interesting to have that crossover and have a bit more control in our site layout and everything surrounding the location – from the parking lot and sidewalks to different grating plans.”
2. Build a Team, Not Just a Business
Brian believes it’s important to find an opportunity that lets you invest in your team, and help them achieve their goals.
“One of my favorite parts of running my Smoothie King is going in and talking to the team. Most of the team members are in high school, so it’s a very different demographic than the employees I have at the engineering firm, but I approach their professional development the same way.”
Brian regularly meets with his team and encourages them to view their experience as an opportunity to launch their career.
“I really try to instill in them the value of having pride in your work and seeing this as not just an after-school job to make some extra cash,” Brian said. “I always tell them to use this as a platform to hone their skills – guest service, sales, communication – that will come in handy in later careers.”
In addition to preparing his team for future careers, Brian also makes sure to find opportunities to nurture employees within the business and set them on an internal career path when he can. In fact, his store manager used to be a regular team member, until Brian decided that employee would be a good fit for a managerial role.
“Within a couple of days of me looking for a new manager, this particular employee had already gone through the corporate checklist to be a manager,” Brian said. “After seeing him take that initiative, I decided to give him a shot at the manager position, and it’s been great. It’s really important to invest in your team and give them those opportunities – it really helps your business run smoothly and motivates your staff.”
3. Bolster Brand Awareness with Local Outreach
Throughout his first year in business, Brian partnered with other local businesses and organizations to garner greater brand awareness – another best practice he says was one of his keys to success.
“In my local market, there was relatively little brand awareness, so that first year in business was really about getting our name and mission out there, so people knew what we were all about,” Brian said. “We partnered with local gyms and rec centers, and we made sure to get involved in 5K runs and other fundraisers and charities that aligned with our health-oriented business.”
Brian also leveraged Facebook ads and regularly pushed his business’ social media presence, in order to target local consumers and generate broader local awareness.
“The corporate team at Smoothie King has made a big push, particularly in the last few months, with national advertising to give viewers a glimpse into our brand and mission,” Brian said. “That has helped substantially, but it’s really important to capitalize on that awareness on a local level. For us, that meant a lot of local partnerships and samplings to show locals firsthand what we offer and who we are.”
Just one year after opening his first Smoothie King franchise, Brian has plans to open a second location in a neighboring town.
“We’re all very excited for the continued growth, and I am especially looking forward to the compounded effect I think the additional location will have for increasing our local brand recognition,” Brian said.