It can be difficult to effectively scale your business as an individual owner without the support of a broader network. Despite an individual’s strengths or skills, entrepreneurs often need solutions that are tailored to their situation and represent best practices, so they are not reinventing the wheel.
When individual franchisees grow their own business – whether that be through higher profits, owning more locations, etc. – it can help the entire franchise system grow, so it benefits both the owner and the franchisor by offering robust processes and systems, as well as for the franchisor and franchisee to work closely together as partners in growing a brand. In fact, offering franchisees assistance can help build their trust in you, since it becomes apparent that you have their best interests, in addition to your own, in mind.
I’ve listed out five practices that, as a franchisor, you should seriously consider offering to your brand’s franchise owners if you want your system to grow.
Recent events have made it abundantly clear that executive teams must be communicating with their entire franchise system as often as they can. No one ever knows when a crisis may emerge, which makes it a priority to have great communication practices in place. Your communications team should be prepared with statements for nearly any kind of emergency that can take place and ready to answer the questions or quell the fears of concerned franchise owners.
However, regular communication shouldn’t just be for big challenges. It’s important that you’re communicating with franchisees during big wins, too, such as if last quarter boasted strong sales or if you’ve signed a large number of new franchisees recently. Good news can be a big morale booster and show to franchisees that their investment is paying off.
While a mass email to all the franchisees can work, email can sometimes feel too distant. Checking in with franchisees individually via phone calls can be a pleasant surprise for them and lead to communication where all concerns can be addressed right away. Video conferences can be used in a similar fashion.
Communication doesn’t have to just be between franchisees and the corporate team either. It can be very beneficial to encourage communication amongst franchise owners. This creates a collaborative environment amongst their peers, which can lead to new ideas and initiatives being created. Plus, a franchisee might receive better and more helpful feedback from someone else who has been in a similar situation.
A Collaborative Approach
It’s essential that franchisors work with franchisees in a collaborative spirit. Franchisees are in the daily trenches of operations and have a variety of experiences that can provide great insights for a growing a brand.
Letting franchisees know that they can voice comments or concerns whenever they want is also important. You want to encourage a collaborative relationship with franchisees, rather than coming off as a dictator making all the decisions without their feedback.
Most franchisees come from decades of operational experience, and are often part of other franchise concepts where they’ve honed their craft over the years. These franchisees can provide great ideas for new procedures, cutting costs, marketing and other aspects of the business. It’s important that franchisors listen to franchisees’ ideas for the further benefit of the system as a whole. This can often be done through creating counsels specific to different topics (such as marketing, operations, etc.) and inviting franchisees with knowledge in those areas to join them.
National conferences can also be a great avenue to connect franchisees together as well as develop the franchisor-franchisee relationship in sharing ideas. These can be fun events held in different cities, but ultimately the goal is idea sharing and rallying excitement around the concept. Throughout the year, having system-wide contests for best idea submissions to even get managers involved can be a great way to encourage sharing of ideas amongst the whole system.
Franchisors should foster this culture of sharing ideas and feedback, as well as showing franchisees they are listening by implementing shared concepts for the greater good of the system.
Many franchisors operate in a reactive approach rather than a proactive one, which can leave a system in a state of chaos, especially when trying times hit. Our current situation in 2020 so far is a prime example of the hospitality industry being hit with a scenario that no one could have predicted or known how to be prepared for.
Franchisees look to the franchisor to guide them effectively through difficult times. There were franchisors who reacted quickly to match nationwide policies of closing in-restaurant dining and focusing on takeout and delivery for the safety of their guests and employees. They were able to stay ahead of the curve and still drive some level of business to meet their guests’ needs.
While the case in 2020 was a severe scenario for the hospitality industry, there will always be changing times and instances that could affect franchises, meaning it’s important that franchisors know how to work through moments of crisis and guide their franchisees on what to do.
Focus on Employees
Your employees are the face and culture of your brand. They are who interact face-to-face with your guests and create the guest experience. The happiness and satisfaction of your employees is a direct reflection on how your concept will be delivered.
Many concepts miss this connection, and forget that they need to be focused on their employees’ satisfaction just as much as they need to be on their guests’ satisfaction. Sure, you can pay employees minimum wage with no incentives, but at what expense? Low morale, low satisfaction, poor guest interactions and higher turnover.
Ultimately, the costs of higher training due to turnover way offset the expense of incentivizing and keeping happy employees. Think of your employees as the driving force of your brand and your revenue, and realize the importance of incentivizing the front line for your guests’ experience. Higher wages than the competition will cause employees to choose to stay with you, meaning lower turnover.
Figuring out incentives that employees desire, such as a four-day work week, flexible schedules around schooling, health insurance, paid maternity and sales contests, can really set you apart from the competition and create loyal employees. This, in turn, creates loyal customers.
Give Back Initiatives
Partnering with charities or nonprofits to donate services or funds is a great way to grow through community good will as well. A giveback initiative can build respect and a good reputation in the local communities that franchised locations serve, and a good reputation often leads to more business. The relationships your brand can form with prominent members of the community is an invaluable resource as well.
Employees will want to work for someone who does good as well. Employees and staff live in the local community that the businesses they work for serve, and being a part of a brand that makes a positive impact can be a huge morale booster.
These are just five of the strategies and services that, as a franchisor, can lead to serious returns and help your brand grow, especially those that empower others. It’s important to keep in mind that your company doesn’t have a direct impact on just its employees, but also the customers and others found in the local community. Understanding this impact can help you make the right decisions that grow your business.
Shannon Swenson is the vice president of franchise development at Dave’s Hot Chicken, a Nashville Hot Chicken concept based in Los Angeles, a role she has held since 2019. She has more than 15 years of experience in franchise development, and has worked for brands such as Images 4 Kids, Twin Peaks Restaurants and Salsarita’s Fresh Mexican Grill, where she has supported both corporate and franchise growth.