Your franchisees weren’t chosen on the basis of a friendship criteria, so it isn’t surprising that you may not get along with all of them. If they were just tenants in your building, that would be fine – but as partners in your business, your relationship with them should constantly be worked on, especially by you.
“Ultimately, the best relationships – whether personal or commercial – are typified by mutual respect and trust,” notes Sally J’Arlette-Joy, founder and CEO of Sandwich Baron. “Communication is key to keeping all parties informed about changes, potential issues and success factors.”
How well are you communicating with your franchisees? Do you know what their pain points are? Are you open to their ideas for the business?
Here’s a guide to building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships between your franchise and its network:
1Create and maintain multiple communication channels
Leverage the power and convenience of technology to interact with your team when you’re unavailable in person. Not only is everyone aware of any changes or developments, it’s a simpler way to communicate with everyone at once, getting the message across quicker and in more ways.
“To be effective, however, the communication needs to be more than frequent,” advises
“It needs to be honest. Get caught in a single half-truth, and trust is destroyed.”
Emails, WhatsApp groups and productivity apps are great ways to communicate in-between monthly or more frequent visits.
2Hone in on honesty
Transparency is a key factor and requires you to trust your franchisees to run an honest operation. They should also be able to know you trust them, allowing them to return the favour.
“If, for example, an operation uses mystery shopping to uncover violations of standards and under-reporting of revenues, franchisees should know about it,” says franchise consultant Mark Siebert. “Hiding this from franchisees will foster distrust and conflict.”
Trust isn’t easily repaired, so emphasise its importance to your franchisees and practice what you preach – always be open and approachable, no matter the situation.
3Keep an open mind for opportunities
Most menu innovations, like the McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish – invented in 1962 by Lou Groen, a McDonald’s franchisee – don’t come from head office, but the guys running the network on the ground. They’re a result of a franchisee being unafraid to raise their hand, presenting a new idea, and being listened to by the franchisor.
“If a franchisor is willing to listen, and through meaningful dialogue between both parties, they may discover new ways to help the franchisee grow the business or exit the franchise as painlessly as possible,” says Monisha Prem, corporate advisor at M. Prem Inc.
Strong relationships with your franchisees dictate their respect for the leadership of the franchise. Not sure how to go about strengthening your partnership as soon as today? Start by ensuring you’re aware how franchisees feel and how you can change or improve upon that.
4Steps to a successful partnership
Before you message all your franchisees for a coffee catch-up, remember that the quality of communication often trumps the quantity.
Keep the communication lines open by applying the guidelines below:
- Whenever possible, take calls from franchisees rather than letting them go to voicemail; and always respond to messages on the same business day
- If possible, establish a dedicated franchise support line
- Every day, call at least one franchisee you haven’t spoken to in a while. Ask how they’re doing, how their family is, and what else your team could be doing to support their business.
- Never speak negatively about franchisees to an employee in the company. Communications relating to franchisees should always be respectful.
- Use a technology platform to track all communication with franchisees for staff members’ interaction with franchisees or should a dispute ever arise.
- Appoint one person in the company as the communications manager, and have all system-wide communications filter through that, ensuring consistent tone and accuracy of information.