By Roz Sandham

First who, then what (Jim Collins)

The transition from being an independent, family or corporate business to a franchised business or just venturing into franchising needs some thorough planning and preparation.

When it comes to the ‘people’ aspect of the business, we take a deeper dive into the right way to identify, select and recruit them.

We have worked with many clients that decide that they want to invest into a franchise and expect that just having a strong brand is enough. As a franchisor you need to ask, “what am I selling?” to potential franchisees.

One critical part of this process and offering is that your team at “head office” is set up or equipped to support the franchise network.

Let’s start at the top. Are you a CEO or Managing Director?

Are you prepared to have franchisees question your decisions and are you prepared to take feedback and input and consult with your franchisees before making major business decisions? The leader of the organisation has to deal with a very different dynamic in franchising and it is not for the faint hearted. Franchisees have invested hard earned cash and savings and they feel that they should have a say in what goes on in the business. There are different ways to address this issue in franchised businesses, but hoping it goes away is not an option. Engaged franchisees will work with you to grow the business and because they are in the front line and have a vested interest, can add huge value if given the opportunity to do so.

The next layer is the exco or management team.

This team has some responsibility to the franchisees.

The exco or management team generally consist of heads of departments, for example head of Marketing, Finance, Human Resources and now a Franchise department.

The head of marketing is always an easy target, as well as supply chain. When the business is not performing, often franchisees will raise issues with marketing (i.e., they are not working in terms of driving sales) and/or supply chain because the cost of products is too high, or their quality is not great. These roles need to be filled by competent individuals that can hold their own when faced with legitimate concerns and comments from the franchisees in the business so as to avoid this being a weak spot in the business.

Decisions also need to be made on what extent of support the finance, human resources, and other support departments will be giving to the franchisees. This needs to be clear for all parties so that expectations can be managed. This exco or management team also needs to be strategic in their approach, as franchisees will be looking for innovation and staying ahead of trends to ensure that their investment stays relevant.

The position in the middle: The Field Service Consultant

The next role, and probably the most important, is that of the Field Service Consultant, sometimes referred to as the Area Manager or Regional Manager. These key players are stuck in the middle. They need to be upskilled to add value to the franchisee’s business and not just be seen as auditors or policemen/women. Managing franchisee performance is in the best interest of the business and the franchisees. This is a unique skillset and again, not for the faint-hearted. The people that fill this role in the business need to make sure that the strategy of the business is executed (top-down communication) and they need to listen to and act on the feedback from the franchisees (bottom-up communication). It is a fine balance.

They need good E.Q. (Emotional Intelligence), and they need to be able to balance relationship with maintaining brand standard. It takes maturity and confidence and skills like coaching and understanding franchisee psychology to really be effective in this role.

We often find that company owned outlets/stores/branches are sold to franchisees, and the same area/regional manager ends up looking after the franchised business. There is a big difference between managing a corporate employee (that is paid a salary no matter what) to trying to influence and manage a franchisee’s performance. Without upskilling, these Field Service Consultants normally end up burning bridges that cannot be repaired.

Training and coaching of individuals in all of these roles will add value to the people fulfilling them and also to the business. They will focus on what matters and partner with the franchisees to drive the business forward, instead of wasting hours managing relationships that have gone sour due to low skill levels.

“Those who build great organisations make sure they have the right people on the bus and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus.”

Good to Great – Jim Collins