When prospective franchisees begin to compare one franchise opportunity with another, one of the items they need to examine closely is the training the system will provide them.
Running any business is a complex undertaking. Besides having to know how to prepare your products or deliver your services to your customers, you need to understand how to manage the business, hire and fire employees, advertise, do the books, make deposits plus a thousand other details. As a franchisee, you’ll also have to do everything in compliance with the consistency standards of the franchisor. But not all franchisors provide the same level of training to their franchisees or prepare their franchisees for success.
When it comes to training, many franchisors look alike. On average, they provide between one and five weeks of training, but what if those five weeks of training consist of no more than working in an existing operation? Who trains your management team and your line staff? What happens when new products are launched or some of your management team quits and you need to replace and train your other personnel?
You should always meet with your future franchisor and plan to spend considerable time with its training department before you sign the contract. Some of the questions you should be concerned with are:
- Where does the training take place? How long is the initial training programme and what, if any, additional training costs must you pay in addition to your franchise fee?
- Who is required to attend training? Are there criteria established for ensuring you’re prepared to operate the business once training is completed? Simply spending time in the franchisor’s training programme may not be sufficient for everyone. The best person to tell you if you’re ready for the challenge of operating the franchise is the franchisor.
- Can you bring your managers and initial staff to training? If they aren’t on board with you yet (which is fairly typical), can they attend training classes after they’re hired? How much will this additional training cost you?
- What’s in the training curriculum? How much of your time will be spent in the franchisor’s classroom training and how much time will be spent in an operating location? What subjects are covered and in what depth? Will you only learn how to make the product or deliver the service, or is the programme comprehensive enough to teach you the financial, marketing and operational aspects of the business? How much management training will you receive?
- Who conducts the training? Are they line personnel brought in for the day or week, or have they been trained to be teachers? Remember, the goal of training is not for you to be impressed by the trainers; the goal is for the trainers to provide you with knowledge. To do this, they must know how to teach. Find out the background of the training team and their qualifications.
- How comprehensive is the training material? If you’ll be expected to train your own staff before your business opens, what tools and training techniques does the franchisor provide so you can accomplish this task?
These are just some of the questions you should focus on when evaluating a franchisor and comparing franchise training programmes. Don’t forget that the business will change over time. New products and services will be added or modified. Is your franchisor prepared to provide you and your team with additional training as the system changes? How will they do it and at what cost to you?
And remember, just because one franchisor has a longer training programme than another doesn’t mean its training is better.
Getting Good Training
You can tell the difference between great franchisors dedicated to your success and the ones only interested in selling you a franchise, by their dedication to training.
Great franchisors make certain that before the first customer comes through your door, not only are you prepared, but so are your manager, assistant managers and your entire staff. Equally important to the great franchisors is that as the system changes and new products and services are added, they make sure you and your team have the new skills required to be a success.
Open For Business
But what happens once the business is ready to open? Franchisors dedicated to training understand there’s a difference between classroom training, working in a training facility and actually operating your own business with your own customers. During the initial days or weeks after your franchise is open, they’ll have a training team working with you and your staff, honing your skills, reminding you of the lessons you learned at franchise headquarters and, most important, teaching you the tricks of the trade they learned in actually operating businesses like yours. It’s an invaluable extension of the initial training programme because there’s nothing more valuable than learning the business in the real world.
Now comes your first crisis. A crew person quits. You have an operating business, and customers coming through the door, and a warm replacement body just won’t do it. How is the new replacement staff going to be trained to the standards you need?
Most franchise systems expect you to train your new staff. But the good ones, in addition to providing you with training techniques to ensure you have the necessary training skills, provide you with training tools.
Training doesn’t end there. It’s continual for you, your management team and your crew. Great franchisors regularly hold advanced training programmes for management, giving them skills that can only be learned once they have real world experience. They provide regional and system-wide training programmes when new products or services are introduced. They expect their field consultants to observe your staff during their periodic visits to your location and help you assess the quality of your employees and, when necessary, help you improve their performance.
Training is the hallmark of great franchise systems. It’s ongoing, thorough and measured. Hopefully, as a franchisee, you found a system that dedicates its resources to training. But as a franchisee, it’s also your responsibility to take advantage of the training provided by the franchisor, look for training programmes outside of the system that will benefit you and, most important, make sure your staff is trained, too.
Most franchisors today require that everyone involved in managing the business – the franchisee and his or her manager – attend and complete the initial training classes. The really good ones also invite you to bring additional staff to training so they’re also prepared. Better still, if you own multiple locations, the franchisor has a training programme for all your general managers and other support personnel. If you think about it, when the franchisor provides training to your entire staff, they reduce their costs in providing support services later on because your staff, once trained, has less need to continually ask questions that were covered during the initial training.
Your initial training programme should be geared to teach you more than simply how to prepare products or deliver services. Expect to cover:
- Real estate selection and site development
- Standards and procedures contained in the system’s operating manuals
- Technical information on products and services you’ll provide under the brand
- Food safety and CPR (for food franchisors)
- Leadership and business management
- Problem solving
- Training the trainer-techniques for ensuring your staff is trained
- Managing the customer experience and brand positioning
- Marketing, advertising and communications
- Merchandising and pricing methods
- Safety, security, cleaning and maintenance
- Labour management (recruiting, hiring, firing, supervision and motivation)
- Supplier relations (purchasing, receiving, stocking and inventory management)
- Financial management and the use of the company’s point-of-sale and management information systems.
The goal isn’t only to provide you with information on how to run your business to the system’s standards but to provide you with an understanding of the system’s philosophy so you’ll intuitively know what’s right and what’s wrong.
Most systems will provide you with classroom and hands-on training. However, simply watching others do it isn’t sufficient. Franchisors dedicated to training have personnel who aren’t only proficient in operating skills but are also skilled in teaching you what they know.