A common challenge for franchisor executives is when an overly friendly relationship with a franchisee goes pear-shaped. The franchise relationship can be fickle, and confusing, because it does have a personal, as well as a commercial and legal component. In our workshops, we refer to this as the 3-legged Franchise Relationships Stool. Field Managers in particular, sometimes believe they should become friends with their franchisees. In this Positive Franchising Update we provide an extract from a fascinating Q&A session that includes an explanation of why this is not a good idea as well as six things franchisees want from their Field Manager.
Last month, Katrina Mitchell from Franchise Speakers hosted a fascinating session with FRI's Founder, Greg Nathan, where 50 Field Managers asked questions on some of their challenges. Here are Greg's responses to some of the questions.
Do you have any tips to help franchisees see us as a partner and not an inspector?
GN: These two concepts are not mutually exclusive. You can be a partner and an inspector, as long as the purpose of the inspection is clear. Sometimes the most useful gift you can give a franchisee is constructive feedback in specific areas on how they can improve their business. It is even more powerful if the franchisee identifies these themselves. The most important thing is the franchisee understands that the purpose of the conversation is to help them improve, and not to make them feel bad. It can be useful to remind them you are there to support and help them, and that your intention is not to criticize. Also, try to identify things the franchisee is doing well.
How can we get better franchisee engagement in implementing the Continuous Improvement Action Plans resulting from our visits?
GN: Without commitment to action, any continuous improvement plan is going to stay as words in a document. Commitment to action will largely come from involvement, because when people are involved in a process they tend to take ownership of it, rather than feeling they're doing it for somebody else, which is not very motivating. If possible, link any improvement plan back to what is important to the franchisee, which will usually be having less stress, more profitable sales, happier staff, and more loyal customers. Also, the more positive emotion there is associated with a task, the more likely someone is to do it. So always ask the franchisee “How do you feel about doing this?” If you get an emotionally flat response, you can be pretty sure there is no commitment to take action.
Our field team tend to become best friends with franchisees. How can we switch their mindset so they have more of a franchisor focus?
GN: The role of the field team is to help franchisees improve the performance of their businesses. I have always advised against becoming friends with franchisees as it blurs the relationship and can leave field managers open to being taken advantage of. The best relationship is one of a trusted advisor, which has some professional distance. You can still be friendly without being friends. Just be sure your friendly interactions always have a business-related purpose behind them. By the way, while it is legitimate to have a franchisor focus, field managers shouldn't just be mindlessly doing the bidding of the franchisor. They need to understand how this will benefit the franchisee.
Sometimes a franchisee is closed and not open in sharing. Is there an effective tool or strategy to address this?
GN: Just state what’s going on for you, and what you observe in a calm and empathetic way. Then be straightforward in what you need from them. For instance, "I am here because I want to help you, but you seem reluctant to share any information with me." Then pause and wait for a response. This will usually open things up a little. Work with whatever they say. If you are sincere and coming from the right place, the conversation will naturally go where it needs to go. Just keep in mind that you are there to either:
1) help them improve their profitability;
2) protect the brand for them and everyone else in the network;
3) encourage them to participate constructively in network strategies.
If what you are doing doesn’t relate to any of these, you are probably focusing on the wrong things.
As part of our ACE Franchisee Satisfaction Survey, franchisees have the opportunity to rate the effectiveness of their Field Manager. We then ask those who are particularly satisfied, "What does your Field Manager do that adds the most value?" Here are the six most frequently mentioned responses:
1: Helps me to understand my business metrics and improve our profitability.
2: Shares what similar franchisees are doing that we might apply in our business.
3: Is positive, motivating and constructive with feedback to help us improve.
4: Is well organised, follows through on commitments, and is available when needed.
5: Is knowledgeable about the business and helps to get outstanding issues solved.
6: Genuinely cares about us and our business, and checks in on how we're going.
Since 1990, thousands of franchise executives around the world have enjoyed receiving a regular email tip from FRI’s Founder, Greg Nathan.
These short stories on the psychology of business and everyday life have been likened to “mind brightening pills” as they open our thinking to fresh insights for improving wellbeing, business performance and franchise relationships.
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