Collaboration with franchisors and employees
As a franchisee, you can often feel caught in the middle. On one hand, you’re reliant on the franchisor and have to follow its rules. On the other hand, your employees rely on you and you set the leadership tone in your individual stores. Collaboration is key to navigating the unique position of being the boss and having to follow the rules. Here are some tips for getting along with both your franchisor and your employees.
Thinking ahead is the hallmark of any successful businessperson. You had to come up with a business plan to launch your franchise. Now you need to follow through with that and update it as you have real numbers to plug in to replace your projections. Just as you have a franchise plan to follow, it’s important to give your managers a coherent plan to carry out so everyone can plug and play. As 12RND Fitness COO Jonah Hales told VENTURE, “We’ve created something that’s incredibly convenient for the customer and is a very simple to execute business for the franchisees. … We have designed systems that can be replicated anywhere using technology that’s growth-oriented and that allows owners to scale to operational efficiency.”
A plan is a great thing to have, but as we all know, not everything goes according to plan all the time. You’re wearing multiple hats as a franchisee, so you already know something about being flexible. Occasionally, franchisors come up with new products in an effort to spur sales across the board. It’s up to you as the franchisee to recognise how the product will go over in your market and offer creative feedback on the marketing strategy. By the same token, your employees are real people, not line items on a budget. If you did a good job of hiring, they’ll have ideas of their own that might improve the business and are worth a listen.
It’s a two-way street. You as the business owner need to make sure everyone from managers on to hourly employees are on the same page in order to execute the business. You also need to be willing to listen to them and not think you always have all the answers. You also need to listen to the franchisor’s reasoning for why certain policies are in place and be comfortable offering constructive feedback.
“Our focus has always been on having an instant productive feedback loop with members, franchisees, and staff members, which allows for continuous improvement of our member offerings,” 12RND’s Hales said. “As franchisees understand the product it alleviates the initial concerns around how to do programs and how to compete, as those elements become really obvious once people have experienced the concept and seen what we do.”
Your fellow franchisees are dealing with these same issues. They can offer advice based on their own experiences, and you can do the same. Take advantage of local or regional meetups and online forums. A franchise advisory council can also be a great way for franchisees to collaborate with the franchisor, rather than addressing concerns or questions on an individual basis, since franchisees have similar experiences. The Franchise Advisory Centre and Franchise Council of Australia can help with organisation.
As a franchisee, you’re investing in a brand. Presumably, it’s a valuable and recognisable one that has built a solid reputation. That’s why you invested in the first place. It’s also why people know and trust the brand. Maintaining brand standards will ingratiate you to the franchisor, which is always looking for model franchisees to uphold the company’s principles. It’s also important to train employees well so they know how best to represent the brand. It’s a winning collaboration formula for all involved.
It’s not just maintaining brand standards that consistency matters. It pertains to your own personal standards, as well. If you play by the rules only sometimes, your employees won’t know what really is important and what isn’t. Your franchisor will look for reasons to terminate your collaboration agreement if it views you as an unreliable partner. On your end, you want the franchisor to be consistent in how it deals with you and other franchisees. This is another area where an advisory council comes into play.
Yes, as a franchisee you have to follow the rules of the franchise agreement you signed, respect the brand, and maintain consistency. But you don’t have to abandon creativity altogether. Without innovation by franchisees, McDonald’s wouldn’t have the Big Mac or Filet-o-Fish. Businesses always need to look to the future, adapt to trends, and stay fresh. As long as you are running a model franchise and taking care of your responsibilities, feel free to pitch ideas to the head office.
“Most good systems don’t want new franchisees to even think about innovations until they learn the existing system inside-out and prove that they can execute it like a star,” Jeff Elgin, CEO of FranChoice Inc., a network of franchise referral consultants, said. “At that point, they have become successful, their base is secure, and they have earned the right to consider innovations.”