Don’t Audit Your Owners
The relationship between franchisor and franchisee is often referred to in parent-child terms. Though this may be technically true, a better description might be a true partnership. Franchisors spend a lot of time and money recruiting the kinds of owners who will best represent and protect their brand standards. When a new franchisee signs that Franchise Disclosure Document, each party has the highest of hopes and expectations. The common denominator is the brand. Both franchisor and franchisee should be mutually obsessed with adhering to and promoting the brand for the benefit of that new owner’s local market and on a macro scale, the national brand. So much is at stake that only a true partnership can carry out these goals. Therefore, the tone and tenor of the communication between franchisor and franchisee should be one of mutual respect.
Your field managers are the faces of your franchise and the way they interact with your owners will be crucial to the relationship. However, if the sole prerogative of the field manager is compiling and scoring compliance data points on visits, the relationship will become adversarial and unproductive. Nobody welcomes the IRS and they call their reviews “audits” for a reason. These field visits should maximized for the opportunities they present; relationship building, goal clarification, intelligence sharing and reinforcing proven practices and standards that lead to profitability.
Your Tools Reflect Your Brand
Most franchisors understand the important role the field managers plays in cultivating the franchisee relationship and managing adherence to your brand standards. Good ones know that for as much as they invest to pay these people and put them in the field, they need to set them up for success with the right set of tools. Sending your field managers to a franchise with a paper checklist in the age of cloud-based technology sends a contradictory message to your owners, especially if you’re asking owners to quickly process and respond to customer feedback through social media channels. Make sure your people can schedule, conduct and reference reviews on-line through a mobile device. They should not be spending a lot of time in their hotel rooms re-entering information and they should not be using excel anymore.
Your technology should centralize and aggregate review data. Being able to run reports that reflect trends in your network, allow for comparative analysis and interface with your owners will help increase transparency, accountability and empower you to make better business decisions as the franchisor.
Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan
Your field managers should have very specific, pre-set goals for their visit with your franchisees. The franchisees should have an agenda ahead of this visit and be aware of the intended outcomes. Having a required agenda will get your agents into the habit of preparing for their visit, whether it’s reviewing financials, staffing, historical issues and notes with that owner or being able to address issues that the franchisee has brought up since the last visit. This structure will also reinforce the importance of this visit to the owner and prompt them to ask for agenda items that might be added prior to the meeting.
Brand Consistency and Follow Up: What am I Looking for?
Keep your reviews simple. If your reviews have 400 checklist items and mirror your Operating Manual verbatim, they become irrelevant fast. You should be able to synthesize those important brand ideals into a one to two page reviews. Your reviews should be broken down categorically. Incorporate best practices, staffing, customer service, marketing, financials, signage, customer reviews and should include photos and room for notes. Notes should be taken on-site and reviews should be completed on-site. Your owners should be able to access their reviews and be totally clear on what their follow up steps are to be in compliance. It is equally important to recognize achievement and call out owners who go the extra mile. This creates more buy-in and good will..