Advocating collaboration and creativity across your franchise network can not only produce results but a more productive environment among your organization
Traditionally, franchise development and franchise operations had a certain degree of separation between them. There was a permeable wall between the two, ensuring that they could both do business without getting in each other’s way.
However, more and more people demand transparency when buying things, including those purchasing businesses. Prospective franchisees are looking to reviews as a more credible source of information rather than relying on the information that brands claim on their websites or printed materials.
A recent survey commissioned by the franchisor Canadian Tire shows that online ratings and reviews influence 80 per cent of Canadians’ purchasing decisions. 80 per cent are looking for truthful product reviews written by real people and 70 per cent of respondents noted that they have confidence and belief in such reviews.
As a result, franchisors are looking to enhance the franchisee experience as a way of aiding franchise development. The benefits of this include the following:
• Stronger validation process: As an important step before awarding a franchise, the more authentic positive stories you can create the better since it can make or break a final decision after a long runway.
• More powerful informal validations: The informal validation process of potential franchisees reaching out to locals nearby has been a reality for decades. If your average franchisee is happy, then this informal process will be an asset, not a liability.
• Franchisee case studies: Franchise marketing has become more grassroots, with franchisors featuring stories in local media as a way to grow a brand within a region. Having great relationships paves the way to make this happen.
• Enriched community of franchisees: Does your convention feel like a family reunion? Do your franchisees spend their vacation time together? A prospective franchisee would see that enriched community as a major plus – and current owners would be more open to inviting friends and family into the fold.
In the world of instant global communications, prospective franchisees are investigating franchise systems before investing in them. A prospective franchisee will quickly become aware of any significant discord, and its presence may raise serious doubts about the desirability of joining that system.
Some things in life will surprise you. While skills, dedication and a lot of “sweat equity” can get you promoted, the further you move up the hierarchy in business, the more EI matters. This is true in all business contexts and is well documented in management literature.
But in franchising, it is not possible to succeed without outstanding EI skills, including communication, active listening and the ability to “read the room”.
“Great communication is key in every franchisee and franchisor relationship,” explains Darcy Curtis, director of operations at Tommy Gun’s Barbershop, a system of 70 franchised locations across Canada.
“Bringing value to franchisees in every interaction is vital to building and maintaining a strong relationship. Franchisees need to trust that the franchisor has their best interests in mind at all times and that the franchisor’s system is truly the best and most profitable in the industry.”
As part of that communication, Tommy Gun’s has a franchisee scorecard where individual units can see their performance on reviews, wait-times and financial measures, bench-marked against the system as a whole. Other franchisors in Canada are seeing a difference when it comes to reporting.
“Online ratings and reviews influence 80% of Canadians’ purchasing decisions”
“With technology, we have streamlined our reporting,” explains Pino Di Iola, CEO of Beavertails, an iconic Canadian snack brand with 100 locations coast-to-coast. “Now our reporting is engaging instead of confrontational. Franchisees are now bench-marked, not low-marked!”
Beavertails leverages reporting in an open yet fair way. Bench-marking franchisees against the system as a whole means that gaps in performance can be conversation starters. This helps prevent confrontation in terms of “I think this” vs “you think that”. Instead, a number shown in black and white is an obstacle for you to overcome together.
Co-creating projects with franchisees is the single best way to build genuine collaboration. Not only is it possible for you to roll out your
“Online ratings and reviews influence 80% of Canadians’ purchasing decisions” projects more successfully, but when skillfully done, it will also help you build stronger and more effective relationships.
Creative franchisors have been involving franchisees in traditional pain points. For example, having a convention committee, run by franchisees to ensure that convention content is relevant to the network at large.
Having members of the franchise development team connect with your franchisees can be a great first step towards creating a more collaborative atmosphere. Directors from the franchise development team sharing their expertise in the format of a convention can be of great benefit. For example, a session on succession plans or exit plans for the business in terms of preparing it for resale will build upon expertise while benefiting the franchisee.
The franchise consultant role is evolving beyond simply being a “cop” who maintains standards. It is also a “coach” who helps the franchisee achieve their goals. As a result, audit questionnaires at the heart of the franchise audit reflect this change. Having a “coaching” section in the audit is a fantastic first step towards creating a coaching culture.
Franchisors create consistent operations on their audits, where a coach runs a high-tech checklist of compliance items such as food safety, quality, service and more. In the spirit of collaboration, the brands have a two-way action plan after the audit, creating the solution together with the franchisee.
This method embraces the best of both worlds. An audit is necessary for legislative requirements. However, when working collaboratively to build solutions, it can create that “next-level” relationship. Powerful franchisee relationships are not only a business case for franchise development, but they also foster a stronger glue that holds the company together. This glue can go beyond work and can build across generations.
Stefania Sigurdson Forbes is senior marketing director at Canada-based FranchiseBlast. She is an award-winning marketing professional who has been recognized by Google in terms of best practices for franchisor marketing
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