Q&A with Ziebart SVP & Chief Growth Officer Larisa Walega
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Q&A with Ziebart SVP & Chief Growth Officer Larisa Walega

Q&A with Ziebart SVP & Chief Growth Officer Larisa Walega

Ziebart has been a successful and growing franchise for decades. This year, SVP & Chief Growth Officer Larisa Walega is not only leading the development of Ziebart, but also driving growth in the franchising industry as the incoming chair of the IFA Women’s Franchise Committee. We asked her about where she sees her franchise and the industry growing this year.

What excites you most about your franchise development efforts in 2024?

Walega: Strategically, it would be the addition and utilization of broker firms to our franchise growth plan. We are adding brokers as a way to increase our connection with multi-unit owners.

As the leader of the 2024 IFA Women’s Franchise Committee, what are your plans for the committee this year?

Walega: The committee is in strategic planning mode as we speak. Our goal is to make sure we are aligned with the committee’s mission statement through updated and relevant support that works to increase the roles of women in franchising. It is a true honor to be leading this committee beginning in March, with some of the hardest working women in franchising.

What challenges do you think will be present in franchise development this year?

Walega: Property acquisition is the single largest obstacle to franchise development. The lack of inventory coupled with inflationary pricing, driven by the lack of the inventory. This drives value, or square foot price, beyond reasonable value for B and C rated properties, causing profitability to be in jeopardy.

Right behind property is access to capital. High interest rates have given pause to many new entrepreneurs.

How does Ziebart ensure alignment between marketing, franchise development, and overall brand strategy?

Walega: This alignment strategically started two years ago when I was given the opportunity to lead marketing for all verticals of the company. Understanding each customer’s needs and goals let us create brand positioning strategies for consumer and franchise development that clearly align with our brand’s mission statement. In my new role, I’m excited to continue this work across the entire customer journey for both consumer and franchise development. Both franchise development and consumer marketing strategy fall underneath our brand strategy. With so many new branding programs rolling out in 2024, I’m excited to see how that strategy unpacks for both growth channels of the company.

What kind of backgrounds do your franchise owners have?

Walega: We have two types of owners. There are the single store owners, individuals who are looking to start a business and have sales, marketing, upper management, or automotive backgrounds. They enter the system with visions of single location ownership.  

Then there are the multi-unit owners, who already own several different types of franchises. Typically, this individual is looking to diversify their portfolio to reduce risk and increase capital growth. If we have all learned one thing from the great shutdown, diversification of cash flow and different channels of trade are essential in today's business environment.

What key channels have been most effective in attracting new franchisees?

Walega: In the past, our approach was traditional. We used expos such as IFE, Multi-Unit Franchising Conference, and regionalized trade shows for exposure, and portals that allowed us to reach those online looking for their new journey. However, in the past year we’ve used traditional, as well as deployed a broader and a more highly targeted strategy. We delivered our message in specific markets using CTV, digital banner ads, PPC, targeted landing pages, text follow ups, improved SEO of our own franchise site, and PR to name a few. For 2024, we are adding broker firms to our growth strategy and we are very excited about this new direction.

What innovations or trends in marketing and franchise development do you foresee?

Walega: Our brand will be celebrating its 65th anniversary with so many new partnerships and opportunities to broaden our reach to drivers around the world. These plans will naturally positively affect franchise development interest. We can’t wait to share these plans in March. For franchise development specifically, we see continuous growth in connecting with prospects virtually. This helps us reach the prospects’ goals more efficiently, speeding up the lead to close windows and getting our new owners’ stores opened faster.

Published: January 3rd, 2024

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