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Creating the Perfect Relationship

Maintaining a good relationship with your franchisees is essential for your business.

Mark Siebert

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As a franchisor, you may find the nature of your relationship with your franchisees to be unique and even, on occasion, daunting. While you have the right and the obligation to enforce system standards, your franchisees often view themselves as an independent business (which they are) with the ability to call their own shots (which they are not). And while the relationship is contractual in nature, if you are ever forced to bring out the contract, the relationship is already in jeopardy.

The franchisor must pay particular attention to the franchisor-franchisee relationship from the very start.

The Nature of the Relationship

Time and time again, we hear people compare the franchisor-franchisee relationship to that of a marriage. Our feeling is that a marriage is exactly what the franchise relationship should not be.

When we think of marriage, we think of a joint venture relationship. Because of the relatively equal footing of the ‘partners,’ the typical joint venture starts out with a negotiation, and is often a series of ongoing negotiations.

Franchising is much more like a parent-child relationship. The franchisee, like the child, will go through a variety of growth phases during the course of their life.

When children first come on the scene, they are typically very dependent on their parents, relying on them for the education and training that will allow them to survive in this world. And as they grow older, they become less dependent, and you begin to allow them some latitude — first playing in the yard and eventually crossing the street on their own. As they get older still, they will begin to test the boundaries of their relationship, pushing a little around the edges, trying to change or influence the system that you have set for them, and perhaps breaking some of the rules. But they still live in your house, and what you say goes.

How to be a Good Parent

A franchisor needs to start by establishing the boundaries of the relationship. It is important that the franchisee understands that your first role as ‘guardian’ is to guard the system and the brand so all franchisees can continue to thrive. Thus, one of your most important roles as a franchisor is that of disciplinarian. To do that, you need to clearly communicate the rules and your intention to enforce them from the start.

At the same time, it is important to understand that, as a franchisor, discipline can no longer be meted out the way you may have when you owned all your operations yourself. If you try to give a franchisee the ‘it’s my way or the highway’ speech, you’ll quickly find yourself with alienated franchisees.

Franchisees are business owners, and as such, require you to communicate with them in a professional manner. Being firm with franchisees, as opposed to managers, also means providing them with an explanation for your various requests. Most franchisees have a key desire for their opinions to be heard. A franchisor should thus avoid making decisions in a vacuum and providing direction to franchisees without a clear explanation of why the direction is being given.

Effective Communication

The key to being a good franchisor starts with communication. And that means more than the occasional newsletter and a visit from the field representative.

In today’s technology-centred society, it is all too tempting to rely on the Internet for all our communications. But in a franchise context, that would be a big mistake. All too often, we have seen well-intentioned emails ignite a firestorm when they are misinterpreted.

Relationships are built with dialogue, so it’s important that you encourage dialogue in every aspect of the relationship. Good franchisors are careful to create multiple venues where constructive dialogue will occur. Annual conventions, regional meetings and advertising councils all provide for this two-way communication.

The accessibility of your senior staff is also vital. I have known the senior executives of some fast-growing franchisors who will not go home for the night until they have personally returned every franchisee’s call.

One of the most important tools at a franchisor’s disposal is the franchise advisory council. As the franchisor, creating this council not only allows you to control the agenda, but also assures you a voice on it. While there are some things you may choose not to share with your franchisees, the key to a long-term sustained relationship is trust. And trust starts with openness and honesty. Get caught in a lie once, and you have destroyed that trust forever.

Lastly, to be effective, you have to genuinely care about the success of your franchisees. Good franchisee relationships start with a franchisor that is, first and foremost, committed to franchisee success.

If your franchisees do not sense your commitment, the relationship can quickly become adversarial. If, on the other hand, your franchisees see you breaking your back to help them achieve their success, there is almost nothing they won’t do for you.

As a franchise consultant since 1985, Mark Siebert founded the iFranchise Group, a franchise consulting firm, in 1999. During his career, Mark has personally assisted more than 30 Fortune 1000 companies and over 200 startup franchisors. He regularly conducts workshops and seminars on franchising around the world. For more than a decade, Mark also has been actively involved in assisting U.S. franchisors in expanding abroad. In 2001, he co-founded Franchise Investors Inc., an investment firm specializing in franchise companies. He's on the board of directors of the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers and the board of advisors to Connections for Community Ownership, which encourages minority business and job development through franchising.

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Franchisors

How Strong Is Your Franchise’s Quality Control?

Your key objective as a franchisor is ensuring every one of your locations maintain the same quality standards. Why?

Diana Albertyn

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If you’re concerned about brand consistency as your footprint grows and you acquire more franchisees, listen up. While growth is good, keeping tabs on the quality franchisees are providing versus your company-owned locations’ efforts is difficult, but not impossible.

“McDonald’s is among the world’s most quality-oriented brands, but the value proposition and price point aren’t appropriate for steak and lobster,” says Mark Siebert CEO and Senior Franchise Consultant at iFranchise Group, an author of Franchise Your Business, The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever.

Related: 3 Ways Communication Helps You Run Your Franchise Better

“There are, however, high-end franchise brands known for detailed attention to quality. Quality is not about what’s on the menu; it’s about consistency of the operation.”

Inconsistency ruins things

Many franchise brands risk failure by not establishing and maintaining quality for each outlet under the network’s guidelines. Regardless of whether a store is run by your company or a franchisee, if there’s glaring inconsistency in service and product quality between different locations, it’s likely to harm your brand’s reputation.

To establish the strength of your quality control standard, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is your operational training procedure customisable?

Acquiring new franchisees is a chance to cement your training and quality processes and establish if these can be standardised, or if customisation is necessary.

“Training is equally as important as franchisee selection when it comes to maintaining the brand. The best franchisors routinely provide the most – and the most comprehensive – training to their franchisees,” says Siebert. “If standards aren’t rigorously enforced from day one, chances are these standards will continue to slip, and in the process, they’ll become more and more difficult to maintain.”

Because different locations present varying climates and market preferences, remember to customise your training materials based on respective franchisees’ markets, keeping in mind to remain consistent with your brand’s core identity.

2. Have you provided the right tools in the franchisee manual?

Duplicating your franchise’s success relies heavily on mapping out the roadmap for your franchisees and their employees to follow. The right tools will most likely yield the same results you have achieved.

“Documenting systems of operation lend a big hand in a quality control,” says Siebert. “A robust manual has multi-fold benefits and not only serves as a blueprint for operation, but as an ongoing piece of reference for even the most established franchisee, becoming the default go-to in most every scenario.”

Related: 3 Core Strategies For Building Successful Franchise Organisations

3. Do you understand the role of supporting each franchisee?

Whether you choose to conduct on-site field visits, offer master classes like Nando’s, or check in via email or phone monthly, the ultimate goal should be aiming for higher-quality and more profitable franchisees through ongoing support and reinforcement of brand standards.

Quality control is all about commitment. For a good franchisee, that commitment comes naturally. For the franchisor, it comes at a price. But franchisors who are willing to pay that price will find their ability to build a quality brand greatly enhanced,” says Siebert.

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Franchisors

Could Semi-Absentee Franchise Ownership Be For You?

Ready to become your own boss…for only 15 hours a week? Yes, you can become a franchisee while still clocking into work. Here’s how.

Diana Albertyn

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If you want to keep your current job while owning your own franchise, you may want to look into semi-absentee franchising.

“A semi-absentee model allows you to work on the franchise for ten to 15 hours per week while continuing full-time employment. Then when the time is right, you can exit your day job to focus entirely on your business,” explains Jim Judy, a consultant at Franchoice.

When you have a capable manager to oversee the daily operations of the business, you have the flexibility to work your full-time job and ownership of a fully-fledged business. But first, the following considerations need to be made:

Related: 3 Things You Should Consider Before Buying Your First Franchise

How will the decision affect your finances?

While being a semi-absentee franchise owner may require less from you in terms of time, the financial commitment is the same as investing in a franchise as an owner-operator. The decision to become a semi-absentee franchisee should not be made before examining your needs, goals and expectations of the business. Asking yourself the following:

  • Do I want to become a franchise empire builder?
  • Would I like to build numerous concepts?
  • How much capital do I have to invest?

Keep in mind that semi-absentee models may take longer to turn a stable profit if you’re not giving it your full attention due to spending less time working on the business.

“Semi-absentee business models are also expensive,” says Heather Rosen, president of FranNet of Virginia, a franchise advisory firm. “Because the owner must not only rent the space but hire a competent manager.”

Do you have the necessary skillset?

The key to managing a franchise while at you have a full-time corporate job is having impeccable people management skills. This is because having a manager run your business while you oversee them requires you to be comfortable with delegating and trusting that they will handle the day-to-day operations of your business.

Related: The Secret Sauce To Great Franchise Leadership

In addition to people skills, you may think certain talents are required before calling yourself a business owner, but each franchise is different.

“Some franchisees find that the available training and the business concept allows them to use their particular talents and skills to enter semi-absentee franchising without management or business ownership experience,” say experts at Franchise Direct.

Can you balance your schedule adequately?

Even if your plan is to one day leave your job and become an owner-operator of your franchise, while you’re still on your employer’s payroll, you will need to work out ways to handle your nine-to-five tasks with your business’ success. This is an important aspect of choosing the kind of franchise to purchase. While most semi-franchisee suitable options are in retail or the service industry, ensure you’re able to keep track of the business remotely and can periodically check in on how things are going.

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Franchisors

Insights On Recruitment That Could Affect Franchise Performance

A critical aspect of operating any successful franchise chain is getting the right franchisees on board.

Diana Albertyn

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You’re facing a lot of competition as the franchising industry continues to grow. International brands, local giants, and new innovative entrants to the market require you to step up your game. Not only are you geared for growth, but you need your new locations to compete with the best.

“One of the success factors for franchise systems is market penetration which is often achieved through expansion, by opening new stores with quality standards that match the brand – through franchisees,” says Ethel Nyembe, Head: Sales Optimisation and Planning at Standard Bank Group. “The wrong fit, however, can seriously set a franchise’s growth back many years or cause irreparable damage to its reputation.”

Related: 3 Things You Should Consider Before Buying Your First Franchise

Besides the challenge of trying to make your brand more appealing to franchisees in a competitive market, acquiring the right candidates to join your franchise requires the following:

1. Draw up (and adhere to) a checklist

Not all franchisees are created equal, and even a candidate with previous franchising experience may not be the right fit for your particular brand. Alternatively, you can decide to train a potential franchisee if you see potential.

When narrowing down your list of franchisee candidates, consider the importance of this:

  • How important is prior experience in terms of the franchisee’s ability to become profitable in their first year?
  • Does he or she have the necessary resources to train and support the franchise?

“You need to be clear about what you want; don’t compromise on your required skills, priority traits and qualifying requirements,” advises Nyembe. “There’s too much at stake financially and reputation-wise to settle for second best.”

2. Network in the right circles

Sometimes, if the talent doesn’t come to you, it’s beneficial to seek it out physically. Industry events are a great place to come into contact with people aiming to own and run their own franchise. If not, your presence at these functions will expose your brand to more potential people to do business with.

“During key annual industry conferences and trade shows (such as The International Franchise Expo), make a point to send attendees, to sponsor or to exhibit in order to increase brand visibility,” advises Nyembe. “Also consider participating in panel discussions.”

Related: (Infographic) 7 Digital Marketing Strategies For Franchises

3. Get to know your new brand representatives

While personality tests and numerous meetings can give you an idea of whether you’re choosing the right candidate, it’s important to consider taking a more advanced approach to franchisee recruitment.

“Selecting the right candidates to represent your brand is critical to your operation’s ongoing success,” says Sue McConnachie, Vice President, Quality Credit Services Limited. “These franchisees will be the face of your company and you need to trust that they will maintain your brand image.”

The selection of franchisees is crucial because, as it carries both long- and short-term implications, including:

  • Reducing franchisee failure and turnover, while increasing success and profitability
  • Protecting and developing your brand’s reputation
  • Focusing your resources on business planning and management instead of problem-solving
  • Decreasing exposure to legal implications when a franchisee’s conduct is negative or their franchise is unsuccessful
  • Minimising legal and collection claims against delinquent franchisees.

Selecting your next set of franchisees requires establishing a checklist before viewing any CVs, dedicating time to seek out potential franchisees, and ensure you’re choosing people who will take as much pride in your brand as you do.

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