New Normal May Require New Way of Leading Your Franchise Brand: Three Key Leadership Moves During Uncertain Times and Beyond

If you let it, our changing world can create a web of intricacies for franchise companies that will put you on the path to destruction. Considering all that is layered into the franchise model we are aiming to advance – broadly referring to franchisor, franchisee, clients, customers, suppliers and all the employees within those groups – the business can quickly spiral out of control without vision and strong leadership.

Disciplined leaders, however, can maneuver a company through stormy times, even in these unchartered waters. In fact, we’ve zeroed in on three key moves to successfully lead your franchise brands amid the global pandemic, all of which also pertain to longer-term company prosperity. As you consider how to guide, coach and mentor others in your organization, focusing on the following three factors can triumphantly protect and power your brand through any circumstance: addressing vulnerabilities, maintaining company culture and advancing your competitive advantages as a plan for the future. This holistic approach can effectively open the minds of executives and provide a proactive way to lead in the new normal.

Embrace your vulnerability

Even the most successful executives have gaps in their leadership. Identifying those threats to business continuity can be difficult for executives because too often, top management is narrowly focused in one direction, when doing what’s right might mean taking another path. If ever cracks have been exposed, the last half year will have shown them. There are ways to address your vulnerabilities as a leader, and it often takes another individual to help you reflect on what may be misdirecting you. For example, a skilled coach will ask leaders the right questions to help them reflect on their decisions, identify their blind spots and develop their leadership skills. During these periods of reflection and growth, it’s vital that leaders are open and honest with their coaches, dissecting past performance and future plans. Incredible revelations can come from demonstrating an appreciation for your own vulnerabilities.

When a sense of humility is present and self-reflection occurs, greater clarity is brought to a company’s near- and long-term vision. In our world of franchising, this precision results in increased credibility in the business model and greater trust from franchisees that you are guiding them properly. With a little bit of executive coaching, senior leadership can take a deep dive into the tactics and behaviors that have and will continue to advance your company, reinforcing the foundations of success.

No other time more than now, is it more important to reflect on how you’ve led your companies. Doing so will keep you skilled at leading when being nimble is key, when expecting the unexpected is required, and when leadership demands more than just fixing problems – rather, it commands seizing the moment, empowering others and enrolling and inspiring your teams. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity in the months ahead, and it’s important to understand where leaders need to adjust and course correct to be prepared.

Keep organizational culture intact

A strong culture within a franchise system is beneficial for all involved, but especially for the performance and growth of franchisees. A stronger culture – not a top-down mandate – drives better results, both in terms of unit economics and franchise development.

At every single level of the organization – from franchisor employees to franchisees and their teams – having everyone aligned with the vision of the franchise is critical. Demonstrating the five Cs of building strong cultures will help to accomplish this: Care, Compassion, Concern, Communicate, Collaborate. When you have a strong franchisor-franchisee relationship driven by culture, everyone moves toward a common goal. And, while each of the “Cs” are important, the one “C” that stands out the most right now is collaboration. Not only does fostering collaboration result in the sharing of ideas, but it creates the very glue that holds an organization together.  Ask yourself, are our leaders great arbitrators?  Can they effectively instill collaboration cross-functionally throughout the organization?

Authenticity is also key to creating a healthy franchise culture. By identifying ways to be authentic as a leader, you are igniting belief and building trust with all stakeholders. Getting an entire franchise organization to believe in your direction will require authentic leadership that is resilient, positive, emotionally balanced, confident, humble, altruistic and tenacious.

Be aware of your competitive advantages

Despite the current set of circumstances in which we are all operating, you never want to be anchored in crisis mode. It’s vital to always be looking ahead. If you haven’t reevaluated your short-term goals and longer-term objectives, now is the time. Take the opportunity to develop fresh one, three and five-year plans. Not only will you be prepared and able to adapt to your future, you will confirm what separates you from others and understand your unique differentiators which are key to your success.  Planning for the future will keep you innovative and exploratory, while also invigorating your entire organization. Quarterly and annual planning sessions are even more imperative now because of rapidly changing business and economic climates.

As you consider planning, keep this in mind: too many brand leaders have lower expectations compared to what the franchisees in their system want to achieve and talk themselves out of aggressive business plans. Franchisors have been too focused on replicating and duplicating processes with a cookie-cutter approach. The current state of affairs is forcing us all to focus on innovating during uncertainty, and this can be achieved by pivoting to a leadership style within the organization that is accountable and focused on productivity and not afraid to change the old way of doing things.  Be on the cutting edge by pushing your team to be creative and become self-aware of the shift in leadership behaviors and activities that need to take place to produce an accountable and productive organization.  

Be mindful that a majority of the talent and great ideas in franchising come from franchisees, not upper management. This is another reason why collaboration with franchisees is so important; franchisees are the ones on the front lines and tend to have a better grasp on the real issues facing locations. Leaders must wield the humility to acknowledge when things aren’t working out, and surround themselves with people in their organizations who are willing to change course. Leaders can get caught up in who they are or what they want to become, but when leaders think bigger and listen to other perspectives, they are forced to consider what their company needs to become, and then manifests that into a strategy.

More than ever, leadership in franchising must take a step back to reflect. Ensuring that a holistic approach to decision making is taken opens franchises up to a totally new set of ideas and taps into creative problem solving that can build a foundation for long-term success. The next few months will show us how franchise brands will adapt to the new normal, and we’re excited to see the collaboration and innovation that comes from it.

Terry Powell is the Visionary Founder of The Entrepreneur’s Source®. He recently teamed up with John Mattone to co-lead Intelligent Leadership Executive Coaching. With 36 years of experience in franchising, Powell has created and maintained a world-class Career Transition coaching company that challenges franchise norms and the conventional way of thinking behind providing support and guidance to aspiring franchise business owners.

John Mattone is the CEO of John Mattone Global, Inc. and co-founder of the Intelligent Leadership Executive Coaching (ILEC) franchise. The goal of ILEC is to solve leadership problems in organizations of all sizes and in various industries. Throughout his 20 years of executive coaching, Mattone has worked with well-known leaders like Apple founder Steve Jobs and Roger Enrico of PepsiCo.

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