The Pitfalls of Absentee Franchise Ownership

The Pitfalls of Absentee Franchise Ownership

Why Leadership Actions Trump Remote Management in Franchising

I’ve worked alongside hundreds of franchisees during my career, and I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that the most successful franchisees have always been the ones who prioritize spending time working on their operations while trying to build a robust and collaborative relationship with their franchisor.

Unfortunately, I’ve also seen many absentee franchise business operations suffer significantly because the franchisee has become too far removed from their employees, customers, and day-to-day business operations. As a franchise operations executive, this troubled me greatly. Absentee franchisees, as I used to affectionately call them, who tried to run their business from afar, usually far south, as they escaped the cold Canadian winters for months at a time, rarely saw sustained business success. While technology in business has come an awfully long way and can provide many incredible benefits to franchised systems, it cannot replace the magic that a hands-on franchisee brings to their team, customers, and overall operations.

Taking Action as a Franchise Leader

Managing from afar is not how the best franchisees in the business became the best. They became successful and highly regarded within their respective systems because they understood that being a franchise business leader wasn’t a position; it was an action, in fact, a series of actions that had to be taken daily. They knew they needed to role model for their team what the customer experience is supposed to look like and how specific parts of the business need to operate to meet business unit profitability goals and ensure that the operations were running according to brand standards.

The Pitfalls of Absentee Franchise Ownership

The other big challenge of attempting to run your franchised business as an absentee franchisee is that you become several layers removed from how your employees are performing and the overall culture and workplace reputation you hold within the community. In a time when hiring employees in entry-level positions has never been so difficult, you’ll want to be sure, as a business and community leader, that your business is treating its employees well. You should ensure you have leaders on your team who use an appreciative and coaching leadership style to not only retain the employees that you currently have but also to attract new employees to your business when you need them most. Poorly run operations that treat their employees as if their experience at work doesn’t matter rarely attract the top talent from that community and almost always end up with a culture of high, repetitive turnover.

The Importance of Franchise Advisory Councils

From the franchisor’s perspective, absentee franchisees, specifically those without a robust secondary leadership team, are seldom amongst the top performers in the system. If you aspire to become the type of franchisee who is asked to join the Franchise Advisory Council (FAC) or perhaps the go-to-franchisee when a new product, system, or tool needs live market testing, you’ll want to work hard and be actively involved in your business so that you can evolve into, what I used to call, a “leadership franchisee.”

Leadership franchisees are most often the franchisees within the system that have displayed, over long periods of time, that they care about the brand and are deeply committed to its success. They show up, put the work in, and strive to develop the next-in-line leaders that help them add more locations to their portfolios or perhaps make that first all-important jump from one location to multiple locations.

Taking Control of Your Franchise Business

Investing your time to become a franchisee who takes continuous leadership action in your operations will ensure that you can observe your employees performing in their roles and give them constant coaching and feedback, unlocking your ability to nurture those who have the potential to become leaders in your business.

This continuous focus on talent development within your four walls will help to ensure that when you do need to take a little time away to warm up or spend some much-needed time with family, you have competent leadership ready to step up to the helm of your operations, making sure that you are always taking great care of your customers, your team and your reputation as a community employer who cares about their employees. Not to mention, you’ll rest easy knowing that consistent execution of the brand standards doesn’t miss a beat. 

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Laura Darrell lives in Mexico City, and as a former leadership executive, she has over 25 years of senior leadership experience at some of the world’s most beloved brands like Starbucks and Apple. Her time spent working in franchised operations for large multi-unit franchisees at A&W Restaurants Canada complemented her executive leadership skills as vice president of operations and training at Boston Pizza Restaurants, Canada’s largest casual dining chain.

She prides herself on her ability to build strong, collaborative relationships between franchisees and franchisors. She is a regular contributor to FranchiseWire and other publications in the franchise periodical space, where she writes about the leadership skills required to lead in a franchised organization and many other topics relevant to franchisee success and strengthening unit economics. She holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Royal Roads University in British Columbia, Canada, where she conducted her thesis research on multidisciplinary collaborative leadership practices within franchised organizations that enhance business results for all key stakeholders.

She has written three books: The Principles of Franchisee Success – Apply Them and Take Control of Your Business Results; The Promotability Gap – The Real Reasons You’re Not Advancing in Your Career; and The Great Resignation – How a Culture of Coaching, and Appreciation Can Help You Win the War for Talent. She travels frequently in the US, Canada, and Mexico to speak at franchised organizations that are looking to develop strong and effective leadership talent as well as helping them to enhance their relationships with their franchisors. She is also the founder of Laura Darrell Leadership Coaching.
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