The best franchisors diligently provide their franchisees with frequent, useful communication, which means more than the occasional email, newsletter, or perfunctory visit from their field representative.
Today, it’s all too tempting to rely on the Internet for communication. But depersonalising the franchisor is a big mistake. Time and again, well-intentioned emails or texts ignite firestorms when they’re misinterpreted. Don’t make the mistake of believing an email can be a substitute for human contact.
Relationships are built with dialogue, so it is important to encourage dialogue in every aspect of a relationship with franchisees. Good franchisors are careful to create multiple venues for constructive dialogue. Annual conventions, regional meetings, and advisory and advertising councils all provide for this two-way communication.
To be effective, however, the communication needs to be more than frequent. It needs to be honest. Get caught in a single half-truth, and trust is destroyed.
Finally, to be effective, a franchisor has to genuinely care about the success of its franchisees. Good franchisee relationships start with a franchisor that is, first and foremost, committed to franchisee success. That commitment, more than anything else, needs to permeate the organisation at every level.
If your franchisees don’t sense a commitment, the relationship can quickly become adversarial. If, on the other hand, franchisees see the franchisor breaking his or her back to help them succeed, there’s almost nothing they won’t do in return.
Here are some recommendations on best practices in franchisee communications:
- Whenever possible, the franchisor should take calls from franchisees rather than letting the calls go to voicemail.
- If possible, they should have a dedicated franchise support line.
- If the franchisor gets a message from a franchisee, they should always respond the same business day.
- Every day, the franchisor should pick up the phone and call at least one franchisee they 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.
- Franchisors should never speak negatively about franchisees to an employee in the company. Communications relating to franchisees should always be respectful.
- A technology platform should be used to track all communications (copies of emails, summaries of phone calls) with franchisees. Maintaining a record of all communications will provide valuable information to staff members when they prepare to interact with franchisees, and it will be important, should a dispute ever arise.
- A franchise operation should appoint one person in the company as the communications manager, and have all system-wide communications filter through that person to ensure consistent tone and accuracy of information.
Trust, but verify
In many ways, the Internet has been a tremendous boon to franchising. Intranet sites, blogs, chat rooms, emails, e-newsletters, real-time reporting and online training have made communication faster and more frequent. And they’ve unquestionably improved a franchisor’s ability to train and coach franchisees.
But it’s not without its drawbacks. The ubiquitous and sometimes intrusive nature of the Internet can all too easily transform a franchisor into a menacing Big Brother in the eyes of a franchisee. Real-time access to the franchisee’s POS system, remote video, and form-letter emails can substitute for dialogue — and in the process create an ‘us versus them’ environment.
So where’s the middle ground? As we said in the beginning, the key to successful franchise relationships is trust.
The franchisor needs to trust that franchisees are paying all required royalties and properly reporting revenues. As the saying goes: “Trust, but verify.”
It is a question of transparency. If, for example, an operation uses mystery shopping to uncover violations of standards and under-reporting of revenues, franchisees should know about it. Hiding this from franchisees will foster distrust and conflict.
Strong relations will necessitate franchisee respect for the leadership of the franchise. At the same time, franchisees want to be heard. And, in fact, the best franchisors make a point of knowing how their franchisees feel.
3 Employment Best Practices To Apply In Your Franchise
Brand new to franchising? As a first-time franchisee, you may need some guidance on managing your recruitment processes within your business.
You’ve just hired your first few employees. Congratulations. As an owner-operator who is also new to business ownership, navigating the human resources aspect of your franchise may be daunting, especially when growth is imminent. Your franchisor offers support, but may not want to play a huge role in recruiting and managing your staff.
“Employee management and HR compliance is a tricky topic, especially with the relationship between franchisors and franchisees. Depending on what HR support the franchisor can and cannot provide, the franchisee may be on their own in this all-important area.” – Dean Haller, President and founder of HRSentry
This, however, doesn’t mean you’ll have to blindly search your way through human resources practices, hoping you’ll eventually get it right. Invest a little time into learning the basics, and you’ll make the best decisions until you can afford to hire an HR specialist – and pick up some expertise along the way.
1. Equip newcomers with the tools for success
Consider the type of information, tools and training your new recruits may need to function productively in their new work environment – and ensure they get it. “Studies indicate that most new employees decide whether to stay or leave a company within the first six months, so be sure to be welcoming early on to help them feel part of your team,” advises Haller.
“If you’re thoughtful of your employees’ new experience, they will become more productive and engaged, and thus, more likely to stay.”
Remember the first time you went through the manuals while familiarising yourself with the franchise concept? A new employees’ experience is similar as they have to take in a lot of new information while acquainting themselves with their new workspace, colleagues and systems. Make the on-boarding easier, by reasonably introducing each aspect during orientation and training.
2. Remain stern on performance standards
Once both parties are satisfied with the training and support offered, new staff should be made aware of expectations and receive continuous and constructive feedback on their performance based on these.
Should employees fail to meet their KPIs, it’s important you’re able to identify if your best efforts have failed and whether termination is an option. “Don’t procrastinate. Make sure all performance-related reasons are documented clearly,” says Haller. “Treat the person with dignity and respect –not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s good business practice and can help you avoid any potential legal action against your business in the future.”
You can avoid this situation early on by hiring employees whose CVs not only meet your business’ operational needs, your company culture too.
3. Acknowledge and reward hard work
During key periods of business growth, it’s easy to overlook good performance. And even when you acknowledge your best employees, sometimes money in the bank isn’t as meaningful as creative tokens of appreciation.
“Get creative,” says Haller. “Provide flexible work schedules, interesting assignments, or a gift certificate to a great restaurant or spa. Be mindful that it’s costly to replace a good employee, so reward your employees with some kind of benefits if you can,” he adds.
Why Your Franchise Brand Should Be Culturally Relevant
Are you going to wait for consumer pressure to redirect your marketing efforts, or is your franchise going to make customers believe you care about what they care about?
Do you understand how consumers feel about the ads you broadcast on the many media platforms they use every day? Research by Nielsen shows that all the marketing you’re paying so much for is least trusted by the buyers you’re aiming to hook. Why? Because how can you sell to a customer whose ideals you don’t identify with?
“Conversations are such a subtle but powerful tool. They can make or break reputations, brands and policies.” – Serge Vaezi, strategy and creative officer at Ogilvy
As an established franchisor with a loyal customer base, you want to ensure your marketing strategy isn’t talking at clients, but to them. Here’s how you can stop spending money in the wrong place and start measuring the right elements of your campaign:
Customers expect you to be ‘woke’
Whether you realise it or not, your brand is operating within its audience’s cultural context. Consumers are increasingly demanding that brands acknowledge and contribute to this cultural context.
“We are failing to measure the things that matter most for our client,” says Vaezi. “We spend most of the time measuring the things we create, while our colleagues in advertising spend their time measuring the impact of the things they create on consumers.”
Related: Are You On Your Team’s Wavelength?
Rather shift your focus to adapting your offering and message to your customers’ needs, desires and interests.
Watch and learn from your audience
“Listen to your audience, watch what they’re doing, listen to their behaviours, and understand what’s interesting and motivating for them,” advises Vaezi.
The insights gleaned from this exercise can be used as the basis for developing a brief aimed at becoming a part of their world, he says. Remember that the message you’ll be putting out will change as your customers change.
Sorbet, for example, launched a make-up range in early 2018 to complement its existing salon services arm and its skincare and nail products. The franchise partnered with Clicks to launch The Skin Tone Project aimed providing consumers with the most extensive foundation ranges in South Africa.
Your product doesn’t always come first
In the age of experience trumping actual products, you ought to consider developing a value proposition that shifts the focus from your product’s features and benefits, and “instead develop a narrative and positioning that acknowledges and contributes to the culture, or perhaps even resolves specific cultural tensions,” says Vaezi. “In other words, stand up for something that people consider meaningful and which is also aligned to the brand’s essence.”
This is the secret sauce to producing creative, culturally relevant campaigns that connect with influencers and leaders, while leveraging cultural values and ideologies.
Are You On Your Team’s Wavelength?
Success means being a team player as well as a team leader.
Remember that old interview question, “Are you a team player?” When you run your own business you are the team leader – the captain and the coach rolled into one usually. But on top of that, you also need to be a team player.
That means more than squeezing into your bulging To Do list automated, one-size-fits-all birthday messages or the occasionally staff party. Yes, staff lunch out, a braai at the office or a few drinks after work are good ways to put the work stresses aside and get to know your staff better.
Those basic bonding exercises are taken for granted now. In reality, any wow factor was fleeting in the first place. The days since the automatic birthday greeting impressed any employee are at least one generation back and Victorian industrialists had extensive staff entertainment programmes.
What never goes out of fashion, though, is proving to staff that you are an active part of the team, not just a figurehead. I have now been with Cash Converters for almost 25 years and nearly every day, I say a thank you for the fact that I learned the business from the ground floor up by launching our first pilot franchise.
That quarter-century of experience has shown me that leading a team proactively means you need to be:
This is more than rushing through the shop floor late for your next meeting and focused far away from the employees you are passing by. It is more than just being spotted in the hallway between your office and the carpark or even waving or nodding a greeting to an employee.
In the know
Taking the easy route here is initiating a conversation about the latest sports scores. More personalised is to ask how a staff member’s house move has gone or a child is settling into a new school. It is good for you to be reminded why your employee works for you and for your employee to know that you are aware of him or her having a life beyond a work role.
The time-and-motion pioneers who emerged after the Second World War to translate regimented army mentalities into greater industrial efficiency and productivity have long since been discredited. It rapidly became obvious that workers object to being treated like different parts of a machine.
Staff want to be treated like the human beings they are by someone who has the courage to show their own human side. In your conversations with staff, this also means showing how you are aware of the work they are doing and what they are contributing to your business.
Staff respect a boss who gives the team motivational talk and then rolls up his or her sleeves to spend some time helping accelerate the push to a new goal. As team leader, ideally you should understand and be able to carry out any job within the team. Some of the tasks might not be your speciality but keeping up to date with new techniques, materials or needs in each area means that you can make better strategic decisions.
This is about more than the capital, skills and time you have invested in growing the business. It is about sharing key goals as well as daily tasks so that your staff feel they are investing their working lives in a shared project – and so share the insights and inspirations that could be the next important key that makes your business run more smoothly and productively.
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