Those of us who run a growing franchise have to focus on the big picture to keep driving a successful company. That means keeping an eye on cohesive branding, sustainable point of sale systems, growing at a healthy rate, and much more.
However, although the head leadership of a franchise has to focus on the core keystones such as finance and other mechanics that keep a franchise strong, one essential factor of every franchise’s success sometimes gets lost in the background: Community among franchisees.
Being a franchisee means you enjoy the best of autonomy and entrepreneurship alongside the support of a larger organization that helps you create a professional, healthy business. But franchisees can easily start to feel like distant satellites in the larger structure of the franchise as a whole, and the more disconnected they feel, the more easily small problems can turn into something big. If a franchisee can’t reach out for help, they could lose their business and even damage the brand’s reputation as a whole.
One of the pitfalls of rapid franchise growth can be focusing so hard on new franchisees that you forget about the people who have been there all along. It’s not enough to sign up new franchisees, give them training materials, and have a few conference calls and meetings every year. For a franchise to be wholly successful, it can’t just sign new locations, it has to continue engaging and developing its existing and growing force of franchisees.
Start with a communication plan.
If a business doesn’t have a plan from day one to help franchisees stay connected, the franchise risks communications gaps and franchisees feeling isolated, which could hurt the brand later. From day one, OsteoStrong started with a solid, meaningful plan for keeping in touch with franchisees. We decided every franchisee would have weekly contact with the leadership team, and we’ve stayed true to that initial plan. Later, as we grew with more new franchises, we added having monthly webinars with the CEO and created a private franchisee Facebook group in order to facilitate and develop best practices, we’ve continually facilitated open avenues for franchisee communication with one another, our field training experts, and leadership.
Don’t rely on email.
Email is a great tool for certain tasks, but it’s not perfect. Most of us get hundreds of emails per day, and reaching out through email alone quickly becomes impersonal. Our franchise focuses on phone calls as a more direct, more relatable way to communicate. Conversations are more productive, and it’s easier to get a real sense of how a franchisee is doing when you can hear their pauses and tone of voice. When people are on the phone, their focus also tends to be better than when they’re typing an email and likely multitasking, so it’s easier to have a meaningful chat and make real progress.
Document your communications to catch gaps faster.
From phone calls to leaving messages, each corporate interaction with franchisees is documented in a shared system. This shows a broad, long term picture of every franchisee’s progress and gives an open account of how each unit is doing. Tracking communications also makes it easy to prevent anyone from falling through a communication gap. If a field trainer moves on to another assignment, having solid records will help the next regional representative get a feel for the franchisee’s history and jump right in more easily.
Create an initial support system for franchisees to build on.
Corporate leadership needs to stay focused on the broad picture, which means expert field trainers need to be there for franchisees to ask day-to-day questions. When our facility owners aren’t helping run grand openings, they’re busy reaching out to every franchise facility they have opened in the past year to check on progress, ask about challenges, and offer help. Our extended training and support network is there to talk about the numbers and help franchisees strategize ways to repeat what’s working well and fix what’s not. Franchisees know where to look when they need help, so they never feel lost or ignored.
The CEO shouldn’t always be behind the scenes.
I don’t care how busy I am—at least once a month, I set aside an hour to do a webinar with all the franchisees. Whether it’s to discuss a new concept, retrain on an old concept, or just answer questions, the point of the webinars is staying connected. Lots of CEOs become so focused on the broad business that they forget what it’s like to be a franchisee on the ground, and the business as a whole becomes poorer as this vital perspective is lost. I do the webinars to stay connected with our growing group, and I want our franchisees to know we’re here to serve them. We all share developing the OsteoStrong brand together, and giving franchisees regular opportunities to ask me direct questions is a way to be more accessible and hear their great ideas.
Facilitate fresh ways for franchisees to connect.
Franchisees within a brand have a lot in common, yet they often don’t get to know one another as well as they could. Schedules are busy and territories can be spread out, but we’ve always thought that franchisees should be able to build strong networks with one another. In addition to weekly calls and monthly webinars from the CEO, we have a private Facebook group that gives franchisees the chance to share ideas and ask questions that corporate leadership can quickly review and respond to. Franchisees can share when something goes great, and they can ask one another for suggestions if something is out of alignment. The group also makes it easy for people to connect offline if they want to.
Community is at the heart of every successful venture, and franchising is no different. A thriving business does come down to the numbers, but people are the most important element behind those numbers. When we connect all the different branches of a franchise into healthy networks where communication is king, we can build a company that’s infinitely stronger.
Kyle Zagrodzky is president of OsteoStrong, the health and wellness system with a focus on stronger bones, muscles, and balance in less than 10 minutes a week using scientifically proven and patented osteogenic loading technology. OsteoStrong introduced a new era wellness in 2011 and has since helped thousands of clients between ages 8 and 98 improve strength, balance, endurance, and bone density. In 2014, the brand signed commitments with nine regional developers to launch 500 new locations across America. Today, the OsteoStrong brand is staying true to its growth towards a brand with global reach with the addition of more franchise sales and new regional developers.