Q: I'm considering purchasing a franchise. What kind of training should franchisors provide franchisees, and how can I tell if a franchisor is really interested in my success?
A: You can tell the difference between great franchisors dedicated to your success and the ones only interested in selling you a franchise by their dedication to training. Very few franchise systems have the resources of a McDonalds or the market strength to demand that their franchisees spend more than a year in preparing to open their first location. But the success of McDonalds and its franchisees is directly rooted in their dedication to training.
Great franchisors make certain that before the first customer comes through your door, not only are you prepared, but so are your manager, assistant managers and your entire staff. Equally important to the great franchisors is that as the system changes and new products and services are added, they make sure you and your team have the new skills required to be a success.
Most franchisors today require that everyone involved in managing the business-the franchisee and his or her manager-attend and complete the initial training classes. The really good ones also invite you to bring additional staff to training so they're also prepared. Better still, if you own multiple locations, the franchisor has a training program for all your general managers and other support personnel. If you think about it, when the franchisor provides training to your entire staff, they reduce their costs in providing support services later on because your staff, once trained, has less need to continually ask questions that were covered during the initial training.
Your initial training program should be geared to teaching you more than simply how to prepare products or deliver services. Expect to cover:
- Real estate selection and site development
- Standards and procedures contained in the system's operating manuals
- Technical information on products and services you'll provide under the brand
- Food safety and CPR (for food franchisors)
- Leadership and business management
- Problem solving
- Training the trainer-techniques for ensuring your staff is trained
- Managing the customer experience and brand positioning (how the customer should feel when they hear the brand name)
- Marketing, advertising and communications
- Merchandising and pricing methods
- Safety, security, cleaning and maintenance
- Labor management (recruiting, hiring, firing, supervision and motivation)
- Vendor relations (purchasing, receiving, stocking and inventory management)
- Financial management and the use of the company's point-of-sale and management information systems.
The goal isn't only to provide you with information on how to run your business to the system's standards but to provide you with an understanding of the system's philosophy so you'll intuitively know what's right and what's wrong.
Most systems will provide you with classroom and hands-on training. However, simply watching others do it isn't sufficient. Franchisors dedicated to training have personnel who aren't only proficient in operating skills but are also skilled in teaching you what they know.
Michael H. Seid, founder and managing director of franchise advisory firm Michael H. Seid & Associates, has more than 20 years' experience as a senior operations and financial executive and a consultant for franchise, retail, restaurant and service companies. He is co-author of the book Franchising for Dummies and a former member of the International Franchise Association's Board of Directors and Executive Committee.
Kay Marie Ainsley, managing director of Michael H. Seid & Associates, consults with companies on the appropriateness of franchising; assists franchisors with systems, manuals and training programs; and is a frequent speaker and author of numerous articles on franchising.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.