I went to visit a franchisee one day and when I got there, everyone was happy to see me. The store was Immaculate, and I mean immaculate. I could have eaten off the floors. I mean it was extraordinary. They knew that I, the CEO, was coming and they had obviously gone miles out of their way to prepare.


It was perfect, except for one thing. There were spider webs on the awning over the front door. And I’m not talking about one or two. I’m talking about an accumulation of cobwebs that must have built up over years and years. It was unbelievable. How could everyone – the franchisee, the employees – have simply missed them? Again, the awning was over the entrance door of the business – the only way employees could come and go. 

How could everyone have missed the cobwebs? The answer to that question is that there are things we don’t see, maybe because we just don’t expect to see them or because they have fallen off our radar. Maybe the problem is something we miss because it started small. Three years ago there was a little one-inch cobweb that we didn’t notice but then the next day there was a three-inch cobweb and then it grew into a six-inch cobweb. And although it became a very big cobweb, we just don’t see it now because it has become something we are accustomed to overlook. 

This tendency to miss things that are right before our eyes is not limited to our businesses. Just the other day I was on a road that I have driven probably a million times and I suddenly noticed a business that I must have passed nearly every day, yet I never noticed it. It had become a cobweb, and I just never saw it. 

Another Story  . . . the Tree that Disappeared

On a different occasion, I visited another franchise location. The owner had a beautiful store in a strong, well-trafficked location. But the business was down – I mean way down – and the owner didn’t know why. He told me, “I just don’t know what is going on. I have a great reputation and up until recently business was good. But I have noticed that year after year, new customers are no longer coming in. All my business seems to be repeat and referral customers.”

I remembered that when I drove there, I had a hard time finding his business. In fact, I had driven back and forth and back and forth looking for it, even though it was located on a highway that should have afforded great visibility. But after we talked, I went outside to take a fresh look and I saw right away that a big tree was blocking his sign. It must have started out as a pretty little tree but over years, it grew up and was now blocking his sign completely. And like those cobwebs, he just didn’t see it anymore, and neither did his employees.

So he cut down the tree and new customers were able to see his sign and business climbed steadily upward again. 

Where Are Your Cobwebs?

How can you see where your cobwebs are? By definition it is difficult, because the cobwebs I am writing about are things that you just cannot see anymore. But here are some ways I can suggest.

For Customer-Facing Issues You Are No Longer Seeing 

    • What aren’t you seeing in your location? Invite a friend, or maybe another franchisee, to visit your location to take a fresh look at everything. You can also ask your employees to go through everything with the proverbial “fine tooth comb” and report back to you. 
    • How do you handle the phones? Pretend you are a customer and call your business on the phone or have a friend call. Does anyone answer? If you have to leave a voicemail, does anyone call you back? How does your message sound?
  • Are you missing problems on your website? Put fresh eyes on it. Just like when you are reviewing your location, ask some people to look at your website. Fill out the response forms and see what happens. Believe it or not, I noticed that on a franchisee’s website that they had provided the wrong highway exit number for their location. The exit numbers had changed three years ago, but they didn’t update their website

For Operational Cobwebs 

These can be even harder to perceive than cobwebs we can see. They too have grown up over time. They could be the things we have “always done” in our business, or more recent practices that have become habitual and routine. You no longer see them, but they could be . . . 

  • Do you go on and on using the same vendors? Why not interview some newcomers to engage in competitive bidding for your business?
  • Do you have toxic employees? It’s easy for this to happen, but they can destroy culture and businesses. Who do you need to replace?
  • Have you developed habitual, repetitive ways of selling, marketing, advertising, displaying products, and doing business?  Even though there could be better ways? 
  • Has it been a long time since you reviewed your franchise operations manual?  Maybe you used it in the first month you were doing business, and then you put it down.  Take it out, and review. 

In Summary . . . 

I have cobwebs, and I am sure you do too. They are part of the human condition. But instead of living with the limitations they impose on us, we can invest the effort to examine everything we do and improve. 

So no more cobwebs and no more trees! Let’s move those things out of the way and get back on the path to success.

About Evan Hackel

Evan Hackel is a 35-year franchising veteran as both a franchisor and franchisee. He is CEO of Tortal Training, a leading training development company, and principal of Ingage Consulting. He is a speaker, hosts “Training Unleashed,” a podcast covering training for business, and author of Ingaging Leadership. To hire Evan as a speaker, visit evanspeaksfranchising.com. Follow @ehackel or call 781-820-7609. Why not have Evan Hackel address your group about franchising success?