Franchising is as much about the franchisor and franchisees developing strong working relationships as it is about growing your brand. But, as we all know, relationships of any kind can be fraught with hurt feelings, bruised egos and ill will if not managed with care. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
When it comes to growing your brand, a franchise relationship management strategy can help you and your franchisees get the most out of the franchise. After all, successful growth depends on the health and happiness of each franchisee and their locations. Here are four elements you can include in your franchise relationship management strategy:
1. Mutual Alignment Around Brand Vision
To make the franchisor-franchisee relationship easier right from the start, be selective about the individuals to whom you award franchises. You’ll spend less time and money and experience less aggravation if you select entrepreneurs who share your vision for the brand’s mission. Avoid the temptation to grow by accepting just anyone with enough capital to pay the franchise fee. If you hastily award franchises, you may end up with franchisees who prefer to do things their own way, have a poor work ethic, lack passion, dedication and commitment – and have no regard for your vision. Remember, your franchise agreement is typically 5 – 10 years, so if you award a franchise to an individual who doesn’t fit your brand vision, you have to work with them for the life of the agreement.
To avoid this, know the type of person you want to represent your brand, and then recruit franchisee candidates that meet your criteria. Vet prospective franchisees thoroughly by asking the right open-ended questions and invite them to discovery days, which will allow you to get to know them better and them to know you better. Involve other team members in the vetting process to gain different perspectives before making a final decision.
2. A Spirit of Collaboration
Create a positive culture where franchisees feel valued. Let them know their contributions to the franchise system are appreciated. One way to do this is work with franchisees to find solutions to problems rather than just telling them what they should do. Although you ultimately call the shots for the direction the brand will take, work as a team player to create a stronger solution to the challenges of the franchise system.
Seek franchisee collaboration on system-wide projects, such as a store redesign or operating efficiencies. Chances are your franchisees have invaluable input since they are using the brand’s systems every day.
3. Open Lines of Communication
It’s a given that franchisees will hear from the franchisor on a number of things, including performance. But, in order to establish and maintain a strong relationship, your franchisees should be allowed to provide feedback to you. As franchise brands grow, it’s only natural that the distance between operations at the unit level and the leadership team widens. Allowing franchisees to communicate with your brand leadership regularly will help keep you in touch with how the brand is actually performing. Two ways franchisees can provide their two cents is through a franchisee advisory council and surveys:
- Franchisee Advisory Council
This group of franchisees representing different regions, tenure with the brand and sales volumes can report on programs, practices, operations and systems. Since they and their employees are in the trenches every day putting all aspects of the brand’s model to use, they know best what works and does not work. Not only will the free flow of feedback and ideas help the franchisor evolve more effectively and efficiently, but the council will provide a voice that empowers franchisees. When franchisees feel empowered, they perform better. When franchisees perform well, the brand does well, too.
Another effective means of communication between franchisors and franchisees are surveys. You can survey your franchisees on a wide range of topics: how they like the programs, the effectiveness of advertising and marketing, how they rate support and training and more. Surveys may also help you identify franchisees who need extra help.
Here are three other ways to form open lines of communication for your franchisees:
- Create networking groups – Franchisees will feel like they have an extra layer of support as they bounce ideas off each other, which they’ll appreciate.
- Add franchisee interactions to your conventions – Allow time for your franchisees to discuss with each other the ideas speakers shared at your convention. Table huddles and franchisee-led panels and workshops are an effective way to do this.
- Host town hall meetings – Not only do town hall meetings provide an opportunity for you to share information directly with all your franchisees at the same time, but it provides your franchisees with a platform to engage directly with you.
4. Uphold Your End of the Deal
In other words, deliver on the support you said would be there when the franchisees signed their franchise agreements, which stipulated they pay ongoing royalties and other fees in exchange for your support. Provide thorough training, opening support, advertising and marketing – and remain attentive to their needs throughout their tenure with the brand. If you welsh on your end of the agreement, be prepared to watch your brand’s growth stagnate. But, if you deliver on your promises, you can be confident your franchisees will deliver for the brand.
With 30 years of franchising experience and more than 800 franchise owners representing more than 1,225 location for five brands, Winmark Franchise Partners has a bounty of franchise relationship experience ready to share. Contact us here or at (844) 234-8520.