Corporate responsibility: how do you know what’s right for your brand?

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Inside Franchise Business: Laurie Lawrence and Poolwerx founder John O'BrienMany franchise systems support causes and many more say they feel they should but in franchising, it comes with certain sensitivities.

A CEO or marketing manager in conventional commerce can choose a pet charity or cause, allocate funds, and then humbly accept the accolades. A small businessperson can pay for a hockey team’s uniforms and be toast of a country town. These are very different situations, but in each case, no one is particularly accountable.

In franchising it’s a little trickier. The cost of an act of ‘corporate responsibility’ is typically drawn from the national marketing fund. So, much more consideration is required to balance the feel good element along with the marketing purpose.   

Over time we’ve learned in our business that by sticking to certain principles, we can put together a community support event that franchise partners support and that makes them and our Poolwerx support centre team genuinely feel that we’re contributing meaningfully.

Here are our pointers to successfully navigating corporate responsibility.

5 steps for first class franchise corporate responsibility

1. Align with your values

Three of our Poolwerx values relate to putting people first, finding the better way, and creating energy.

So when we sought out our corporate cause, we looked for something that was not only people-focused, but also enabled us to use our own initiative and network to find ways to enhance what we were going to become involved in.  

This initially led to our relationship with Lawrie Lawrence and his Kids Alive, Do The Five program. It is a perfect fit, not only with a cause, but also with our core values and company culture.

To further our support of the safety messages we worked to create initiatives of Learn2Swim Week and April Pools Day that provided an opportunity to truly give back to the community through free swimming lessons and CPR courses.

Alignment of a cause with your values will authenticate the relationship.

2. Have clarity about your corporate vision

At Poolwerx, we often get approached for donations, sponsorships and other forms of support, some from amazing people with excellent causes. We turn them away gently with the news that all our efforts are aligned to prevention of children’s death by drowning, where we’re in a position to contribute not only money, but also time and expertise. This ensures we stay committed to our vision and the dissipation of resources.

Consolidate your effort, know how to say no, and have clarity of vision as to where you want to place your efforts.

3. Make it relevant to your product

It’s sometimes easy to take a personal view of a cause that is sometimes not necessarily the best fit for your corporate vision.  I personally have a number of charities, not-for-profit organisations and community activities that I support and am passionate about, most of which have nothing to do with our business or the products or services it provides.

Double-check yourself, to ensure that the greater good of both the business and the cause, is the epicentre of the reason to be involved in that cause or charity. Working to align your corporate responsibility with your business will also ensure your franchisee network connect easier to the purpose and are more willing to support it locally.

4. Match to your network location

The cumulative impact of your entire network being involved in the cause is the key to depth of the impact in the market.

One of our main causes, the annual Learn2Swim week involves swimming schools offering free lessons, and we very actively promote it across the country. As a result, we get great media exposure for our brand, the swim schools get repeat customers, both parties get community gratitude and fewer children drown. So everyone wins.

If we were geographically selective in how we promoted the program the entire network would not benefit and the community activation would be minimal and not a true act of social responsibility.

5. Don’t forget your own back yard

At Poolwerx we have a Family Welfare Fund, voluntarily supported by franchise partners. When a franchise partner suffers a setback, the fund assists with meaningful contributions in a time of need to help alleviate any financial hardship. This initiative is extremely popular within our network and makes for a great culture of ‘giving back’, while letting those franchise partners know that everyone is thinking of them.

What better way to launch a corporate responsibility program in your business than to start with your business?

While the essence of corporate responsibility is about giving back to the community, the benefits to brands that conduct this type of activity is a major advantage. However, it’s also naive to think that the general public can’t see through a lack of authenticity in the causes you either create or support if your heart is not in it, or your company culture does not live and breathe it.

As a group, we are incredibly proud of the things we’ve been able to achieve with our programs, it shows in the smiles on our franchise partners faces and the extra time and energy they put into supporting the initiatives and helping educate the community about water safety issues. And we’d like to think that somewhere, someone might also have a smile for us doing our small part to save another life.

In 2018 Poolwerx was awarded the Franchise Council of the Year Franchisor Social Responsibility title for its support of child pool safety initiatives throughout Australia.

John O'Brien

John O'Brien is the founder and CEO of PoolWerx Corporation, a business established in 1992. View More...
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