How Franchisors Can Keep Franchise Partners Engaged and On Track
Franchising can be a highly effective way to scale your business, though like any major operational decision, it’s a strategy that must be executed thoughtfully and intentionally. There are several key ingredients that must be there in order to position yourself to be a successful franchisor - a solid business model and strong unit economics, clearly defined systems and procedures, and, perhaps most important, a motivated and engaged team. Being purposeful in expansion and developing and maintaining a strong franchisee-franchisor relationship is absolutely critical to successful long-term growth.
Here are some best practices for keeping franchisees on track - whether your business has one hundred locations or one thousand.
Make Face-to-Face Conversations a Priority
This may seem like an impossible task (especially as your franchise numbers begin to scale), but building one-to-one relationships with your franchisees is absolutely critical to creating a system that works. I make it a point to travel to our different regions throughout the year and meet with our franchisees in person. Together, we talk through their progress and roadblocks, suggestions that we have for them and vice versa, and outline our system goals and strategies so that we are aligned in terms of the overall strategic initiatives we are working towards. While traveling may not be an option for you, building time into your calendar for video conferences or phone calls with your franchisees will be time well-spent. Some of the best ideas we roll out nationwide, come from these types of conversations!
Work with Franchisees to Develop Goals and a Plan of Action for Achieving Them
Although many franchisees do come to the table with business experience, it can often be difficult for a business owner to set benchmarks and goals for their operation without context or clear expectations. There’s the franchise slogan that “you’re in business for yourself, not by yourself”, which is why entrepreneurs are interested in franchising - they can become a small business owner with the backing of a system. It’s the years of experience and processes that the franchisor can leverage to help the individual owner set themselves up for success. As a franchisor, we have a strong system with specific departments and teams that focus on particular goals to help the individual franchisees achieve their goals. Each team member focuses on their key areas of expertise to help the franchisee success. At the franchisor level, the corporate level, our goal is to protect and grow the system. Therefore, the franchisor team is a collaborative team where we work together to continue our mission and expand our system. The franchisor team needs to help their franchisees follow the system through operational, marketing, and all the areas of support that help the franchisee achieve his or her goals.
Create a Communication Loop
For a franchisee, the corporate structure can sometimes feel distant and siloed - but it shouldn’t. Franchisees represent the brand at their local levels. The franchisees are fulfilling the mission across the country and working directly with the customers. Therefore, it is critical that the franchisees know who to go to at the franchisor level for support. Make sure that your franchisees understand the communication structure at all levels and that the franchisee is in contact on a regular basis with a dedicated team member to answer questions and address obstacles. There are different platforms and internal communication plans that can help; help desk system can work, feedback can be beneficial and dedicated email addresses can be positively adopted to streamline communication. Communication and collaboration are key.
Share Individual Franchise Successes with the Broader Franchise System
Bringing positive attention to successes at the franchisee level is beneficial in so many ways. Not only is it a great morale booster and a way to show your franchisees that you’re paying attention, but it’s also a great way to share best practices that can be applied to other franchise locations. Ask your franchisees to share what they’re most proud of on a regular basis and share those insights with the rest of the system. It’ll go a long way! We have a monthly internal newsletter that shares good news in addition to system and department updates, we share positive stories via email through dedicated channels regularly.
Anne Huntington is Vice President of Business Development for Huntington Learning Center, as well as a member of Huntington's Board of Directors and Advertising Fund Board. In these capacities, Anne develops and executes programs, partnerships and initiatives that help the company achieve its long-standing goal of giving every student the best education possible. Prior to this position, Anne served as Head of Public-Private Partnerships and Director within the family business.