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Five ways you can support your international franchisees on a local level
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One of the biggest lessons that business owners, whether operating in the franchising industry or not, have taken away from experiences during the last 12 months is prioritizing a feeling of community amongst employees, clients and peers. I would even go as far as to say that ensuring the people within your network feel valued, understood, and respected has never been more important.
This is especially true if, like at Stagecoach Performing Arts, your global network of franchisees is managed from one region or country. The majority of our operations team is – pre-COVID, of course – based out of our U.K. head office in Woking. That means we put significant emphasis on ensuring that, despite some of our franchisees being based 9,000 miles away from Stagecoach HQ, they feel like an integral part of our franchise network.
We call this ‘acting global but thinking local’. This is a strategy that can take a number of years to initiate but, once established, will ensure your franchise opportunity appeals to global investors on a consistent basis.
Here’s how, as a franchisor, you too can act global but think local.
Keep your finger on the pulse
In the franchisor-franchisee relationship, it’s the responsibility of the franchisor to constantly look at the bigger picture. Translating what is going on across the industry on a wider level, such as changes in legislation, economic forecasts and political or social events, is a critical component of your role – and will differ from nation to nation. Importantly, the franchisor must always work to modify and improve the franchise model, while taking into account the global impacts that can alter it.
A franchisor that has its global franchisees at the heart of the operation will confidently communicate the fact that they are constantly keeping abreast of the current situation and acting accordingly.
It’s imperative that, when communicating with franchisees overseas, you take into consideration the cultural observances and events celebrated in that region. If you’re setting up a Zoom call with a franchisee in the U.S., perhaps cut them some slack if they’re not available on the 4th July – or even the day after. And it goes without saying to check time zones before scheduling meetings with franchisees in other countries.
Considering cultural nuances is just as important when it comes to marketing your franchise opportunity and, in fact, your service or product. As a children’s performing arts franchise, it is often the parents we’re hoping to reach with our PR and marketing activity, so we utilize national awareness dates to align our activity. But there’s very little point in putting together a social media campaign for your Canadian market on the day that Mother’s Day is observed in the U.K., when Canada celebrates the day six weeks later.
“As a franchisee, there’s no feeling more ostracizing than running a franchise hundreds of miles away from your closest neighboring franchisee”
Digital face time
We live in a digitally advanced world which means we’re capable of seeing loved ones, friends, and colleagues, even if we’re kept apart by continents and oceans. I count my blessings on an almost daily basis that the pandemic has forced us all to the confines of our own homes during a time of video calling, on-demand movie streaming, and food delivery services.
Thankfully, because of these digital advancements, keeping in regular contact with franchisees is no longer as faceless or impersonal as a monthly voice call or weekly email. Now franchisees around the world can join daily Google Hangouts, Zoom calls or Skype sessions. And hosting regular network-wide calls is something I would wholeheartedly encourage you to embrace. This will make franchisees feel included, celebrated, and part of something bigger.
Bridge the gap
Soon enough, the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020-21 will be a distant memory and communities can begin to reunite for the first time in well over a year. While we still maybe a few months from hosting in-person events again, it’s crucial that your franchisees are offered opportunities to come together with their peers and colleagues on as regular a basis as possible.
Like most franchise brands, up until 2020, Stagecoach had hosted an annual conference and awards ceremony since the early nineties and we can’t wait to host this again in 2022 – this year we will be hosting our event virtually. We extend an invitation to all of our international franchisees and support them with travel arrangements to make the trip as seamless as possible. During the two-day event, we encourage them to work with their U.K. counterparts and build networks with other franchisees from other regions.
Expand in neighboring territories
Another tool for ensuring global franchisees feel valued is to enrich and diversify the regions they operate in by honing your efforts on expanding in neighboring areas. As a franchisee, there’s no feeling more ostracizing than running a franchise hundreds of miles away from your closest neighboring franchisee. While you obviously don’t want to run the risk of encroaching on their agreed territory, it can be extremely valuable for the franchisee if they have an ally within driving distance.
As well as being able to share resources and collaborate on projects, the validity of a brand name is much easier to establish if two locations are within close proximity – especially true for newer franchise brands. This, in turn, will encourage franchisees to expand their own portfolios by investing in neighboring locations themselves, causing a domino effect and bolstering the offering of your brand in key markets.
Five ways to act global, think local
1. Keep abreast of current political, economic, social, and legal progressions
2. Constantly consider the cultures, awareness dates – and time zones! – of each region
3. Make the most of digital communication tools to instill a global open-door policy
4. When possible, encourage all franchisees to attend seminars, exhibitions, and conferences in-person
5. Expand your existing network with all franchisees in mind.
There’s no real science to establishing a feeling of a global network that works to support franchisees on a local level – it’s simply about respecting and including franchisees on an individual basis. But by implementing these steps, you will be well on your way to ensuring your entire network is aligned and, quite simply, working together for the good of each other.
Andy Knights is the chief operating officer of global children’s performing arts franchise, Stagecoach Performing Arts – a role he’s held since 2014. He has over 20 years of experience working in the franchising industry and oversees all aspects of business operations for the Stagecoach brand.
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