Today I read a thoughtful blog by Greg Nathan on how to improve franchise field visits. Many of you are probably familiar with Greg’s work and his thought leadership for The Franchise Relationship Institute. His blog lists specific tips that would be good to cover with your field personnel. The guidance is relevant and honors the hard and often ill-defined job description of franchise field reps. I highly recommend exploring Greg’s ideas and sharing with your teams.
Your field agents are given a monumental task. When I talk to franchisors it always strikes me how diverse the expectations for this role are simply in the names they’re given. Franchise Consultants. Relationship Managers. Regional Territory Managers. Operations Managers. Franchise Liaisons. The titles suggest that these road warriors are being held accountable for the brand compliance of their respective franchisees as well as maintaining productive relationships and lines of communication with the franchisor. And in most cases they do both. Nathan also understands that the most effective and ideal communication takes place in person and he honors the rigors of field management. Lots of travel. Dealing with diverse personalities. Maintaining empathy for owners without becoming compromisingly close. Holding owners accountable but keeping them plugged into the Big Vision and selling the “why” always… His tips are pragmatic and tactically smart. Framing the discussion of compliance around the integrity of the brand is the key to diffusing tense franchisee management issues. Setting clear purpose with measurable outcomes for the visit will help franchisees view your field managers as resources and not distractions.
When I was responsible for managing franchisees, many of whom I’d previously recruited and sold while my company was growing, I learned some valuable lessons which compliment Greg Nathan’s franchise field visits tips.
- Follow up with the franchisee within 48 hours of your visit. The follow up should re-cap the outcome of your visit, the agreed upon tasks and set specific dates for completion of the mutual tasks. I always agreed to have an answer from corporate for them regarding questions or issues that they had.
- Be transparent. You are not the IRS so don’t act like it. Franchisees are partners and have invested in your model. They should be crystal clear on what you’ll be taking back to corporate and what you’ll communicate. Transparency builds trust as does follow up.
- Do your homework. You are not friends with the franchisees but if you know their family members and the background from which they came, bring it up in the context of your visit. You get more out of your owners when they know they are being viewed as a human being and not “franchisee 232.”
- Be professional. If you are late for your appointment, under-dressed or checking e-mail while they are talking to you, you have lost all credibility with the owner and are wasting their time. You cannot ask owners to follow compliance rules when you appear to not have any such governance in your role. As they say, “preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.”
Franchisors would be wise to put as much effort into finding and promoting these employees as they should be in recruiting the right franchise owners. Your ideal employees will be detail-oriented enough (your systems should not be so complex as to require the skillset of a data analysts), strong on communication and people skills and trusted with a great degree of autonomy. They should spend time training in each of the roles the franchisees manage in their daily business. If this person is the face of the franchisor, make sure it is the right face..