If you expand your business through franchising, your franchisees become more than investors. They become your partners, and you entrust them with your brand.
That said, it’s not surprising that disharmony between franchisors and franchisees can destroy a venture. Happy franchisees, on the other hand, will strengthen your business every day.
The best way to make your franchisees happy is by earning their trust. Building trust should remain at the top of your agenda during each stage of the franchising process. Follow these simple steps to ensure that you’re establishing your trustworthiness with franchisees:
You or someone on your team should reach out to your franchisees – not via email – at least once a quarter. The stray email every now and then is not enough to show your franchisees that you care how they’re doing. Don’t use email to settle disputes, either. Sending an encouraging note or making a personal call goes a long way when you’re trying to stay in tune with your franchisees and their businesses.
These calls don’t have to be all business. Learn who your franchisees are outside of work. Do they have children? Do they play sports or do theater? Taking interest in your franchisees, their families and their wellbeing helps you better understand what drives them. If you display genuine interest in your franchisee as a person, he or she will feel more valued, and trust in your leadership will grow.
Consistent check-ins also give you the opportunity to help your franchisee stay motivated. One of your jobs as a leader is to inspire your partners to reach their full potential, so let that positivity set the tone.
Vague communication erodes trust. At every step, clearly lay out what you expect from your franchisees and their teams, and understand what they expect from you. Don’t leave them in the dark about any aspect of the deal or the process. The last thing you want is for franchisees to feel like they didn’t understand what they were signing up for.
Commit to making all your communication swift and sincere. Set a protocol for responding in a timely manner, even if you don’t have an official answer or solution. If you want franchisees to make a change, explain why you believe the change will benefit them. If you make a mistake, admit to it.
Similarly, it’s okay to be picky when it comes to potential franchisees. Stringent vetting helps both parties stay on the up-and-up and avoid a bad fit. Trust your gut, and don’t feel bad about cutting a potential franchisee loose if you see any red flags.
Listen, Listen, Listen.
Listening is the single most important component to building trust with franchisees. Use peer groups, advisory councils and franchisee surveys to stay on top of the challenges your franchisees face. Then, go to them for solutions. Odds are, your franchisees have ideas about how to troubleshoot and improve.
Make sure that senior leaders in your organization are connected with franchisee groups as well as individual operators. Furthermore, if one franchisee or group zeroes in on a way to improve, share that new best practice with the rest of your organization and recognize that achievement.
If your franchisees have complaints, reservations or hang-ups, let them express those concerns. Give franchisees a voice – this prevents molehills from turning into mountains.
As you’re striving to become a better listener, here are a few things to avoid:
- Don’t wait until there’s a problem to talk with franchisees. Waiting too long puts everyone on the defensive and makes problem-solving more difficult.
- Avoid referencing legal agreements unless you absolutely must. Deferring to a franchisee’s contract might resolve the dispute, but it will shatter the trust you’ve worked so hard to build.
Happy franchisees are a must-have for any successful chain. They’re in a better position to inspire their teams, and they’re more likely to trust your judgment in times of change. Keep your franchisees happy by getting to know them, communicating clearly and listening intently. Those relationships will be of huge value to you and your business.
The experienced franchise management consultants at Winmark Franchise Partners can help your business reach its full potential. With 30 years of franchising experience and more than 800 franchise owners representing 1,200 locations for five brands, Winmark Franchise Partners is a trusted name in franchise consulting. For more information about how we can help you grow your brand, contact us here or at (844) 452-4600.