In 1994, Dunhill Staffing Systems, the Woodbury, NYbased placement firm for temporary and permanent personnel, decided to restructure and refocus its franchise operations, which are the core of its business. The process would take the 45-year-old company two years to complete. During that time, Dunhill's growth ground almost completely to a halt.

"There was very little emphasis on the sale of franchises," recalls Peter Erbe, Jr., Dunhill's director of new business development. In the 1980s, Erbe had spent eight years at Dunhill as a vice president of operations. In 1996, Daniel Abramson, Dunhill's president, lured Erbe back to the fold and charged him with responsibility for growing the company once again.

"I was excited about the opportunity," he says. "In the past, Dunhill has marketed its franchises through advertising and direct mail. I wanted to get our 150 franchises actively involved in providing me with referrals--prospects they might not be able to place but who, in their estimation, were qualified to become franchisees."

Dunhill offers two types of franchise operations: Dunhill Professional Search, an executive recruiting franchise that places individuals making between $40,000 and $125,000 with companies on a contingency basis; and Dunhill Temporary Systems, which places clerical, office personnel, and light-industrial staff on a temporary basis. Erbe was responsible for selling both.

Erbe's program, which Dunhill christened "Partners in Growth," was a multilevel program of primarily individual travel awards. "I want the franchisees to do something unusual that they wouldn't doin the normal course of events," says Erbe. "I don't want to give them money. Money pays the rent. Travel excites people."

How it Works The program begins when a franchise owner calls with a referral. That individual is then contacted by Erbe or Joanne Naccarato, his sales associate. "That referral enables me to call a prospect I don't know and say, 'I represent Dunhill, and one of our franchisees suggested that I give you a call. He feels that you have the background and qualifications that might warrant your taking a look at buying a franchise,'" says Erbe. "That's a warm call. I'm able to gain credibility immediately because someone has recommended this person to become a member of Dunhill."

Of course, not every prospect is a bona fide candidate. "The person may or may not have a serious interest," concedes Erbe. "If the individual is vice president of operations for a company and has been very successful, he may say, 'I've never thought of a franchise, but it might be something I'd be interested in.' Then it's my responsibility to qualify him."

If the prospect meets Dunhill's requirements up front and expresses interest in receiving more information, he or she is sent an information kit. The franchise owner who recommended him then wins one sweepstakes ticket for a drawing at the company's international convention, the next one to be held in Bermuda in 1998. The first and second tickets drawn will earn winners and a guest a trip to Dunhill's next international conference, including airfare and four nights of accommodations for the five-day event. The holder of the third ticket drawn wins the grand prize--a six-day trip to Maui or London.

There are other opportunities to win sweepstakes tickets. When the prospective franchisee fills out an application, he is invited to Dunhill headquarters for a "Discovery Day." This visit alone generates three additional sweepstakes tickets for the person who made the referral.

Then, if the referral buys a franchise after his visit, the franchise owner who selected him wins a Level One trip: three nights at one of several destinations, such as New Orleans, with accommodations at well-known hotels, admission to famous attractions, and dinner at a top restaurant.

If a franchisee makes a second referral that turns into another franchise sale, the award is a Level Two trip. Among the choices are a four-night stay in Aruba, a seven-day adventure to San Francisco and Nevada, or a six-day tour of Montreal and Quebec.

Winners are not limited to the offerings in the travel booklet they're sent; those are merely sample tours. There is also the flexibility to design one's own itinerary. "Say the winner decides instead that he'd like to take a cruise to Alaska," says Erbe. "If it's within the dollar limit, I'll tailor a trip for two."

Winners who feel they're on a roll can also defer their awards while they go after additional prospects. "If I sell two franchises as a result of a franchisee's efforts, I'll also allow the person to batch the Level One and Two trips and take a Level Four one instead," explains Erbe.

At that level, the winner has some spectacular options, such as the Arizona Adventure, a 13-night tour that starts out in Phoenix and proceeds through valleys and canyons by helicopter, bike, boat, and train.

If an owner makes a third referral who also purchases a franchise, he gets a Level Three award--for example, a four-night adventure in Idaho or a tour of Disney World in Orlando. The three-time winner can also choose to forgo the Level One, Two, and Three trips and batch them into a Level Five tour, the creme de la creme of the awards. "A couple of winners are cruising from Spain to Italy to France in 12 nights on the Royal Caribbean's Splendor of the Seas or taking a fully escorted tour of China, including a five-night cruise on the Yangtze River," says Erbe. Again, the winners can work with Dunhill's travel agent to customize their trips.

The Program's a Winner Partners in Growth has been a resounding success so far. "I've developed something that sensitizes our franchisees," says Erbe. "Before this, they weren't even making referrals."

So far, Erbe reports, Dunhill has had five referrals that have turned into franchises. "We're doing it again this year because it's producing results."

Dunhill continues to shape the program in innovative ways. The company has designated 29 target cities and regions this year that are key to its growth, including Albuquerque, NM; the San Francisco Bay area; Northern Virginia; the Portland, OR/ Seattle area; and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Franchisees who make referrals in one of those locations win two sweepstakes tickets for the drawing.

Erbe maintains interest in the program through mailings. "We advertise initially by sending all franchisees a brochure," he says. "Then we follow up with updates on winners via a monthly mailing. We keep beating the drum on the phone as well. The program makes it easier for me to call a franchisee I haven't heard from and say, 'You haven't given me any referrals so I can't send you on a trip.'"

The program also has been a strong competitive tool. "I don't know anybody else in this field who is doing this right now," he says. "But one way or another, a franchiser wants his franchisees to give him referrals. I just use this program as a way to make it fun."