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Basic Training

The franchisor of The Maids Home Service reveals what makes a franchisee training program successful.
May 13, 2002
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/51814

When franchisees buy into a system, they expect to get training for their investment. This could come in the form of manuals, an online course, an apprenticeship at an existing location or several weeks at the corporate office. Whatever the approach, the goal is to get the new franchisee familiarized with the culture, systems and services the franchise offers.

How do you know, as a franchisee, if a franchisor's training program is working? Franchise Zone spoke with Robert W. Theisen, director of training with The Maids Home Service about how his program is succeeding. "Our job is to make people successful," he says of franchise training departments. "We are as responsible as trainers for our franchisee's bottom line as anybody else in a corporate franchise company."

Franchise Zone: Describe the training program at The Maids.

Robert W. Theisen: People who purchase our franchise come to Omaha, to our corporate training class, which lasts two weeks. Seven weeks before that, we have pre-training, which involves working with new owners to make sure they're on task and on schedule in opening their store after corporate training is over. I become involved in that, because it's critical for people in training to know what their class members know and don't know. By the time they come to training, I have a very good idea of the areas I have to give priority to.

Who should be involved in the training process?

Every department within a company should be involved. Our franchise owners, their administrative and technical people, and their initial team leader need to be trained by corporate to ensure consistency, which is the strength of every franchise.

What knowledge or skills do you like your franchisees to have before they enter training?

Franchises should have skills in communications, both written and oral; organization; delegation; leadership; management; negotiation; multitasking and computer.

What makes a training program successful?

It has to be real world. Culture is important as a subtopic of a training program, but we eliminate philosophy and fluff. These are just real world principles and relevant training. Trainers need to be experts. We're in the field a lot, testing product and equipment, monitoring our system and measurements, talking to other franchisees. We don't just work in a vacuum. Exciting trainers are part of a training program. Yes, platform skills are important, technical and administrative expertise are important, also, but our trainers really need to be people people. They have to be able to relate to both front-line, entry-level maids and the business owners. We want trainers who can make that transition and talk to all groups of people and be knowledgeable and helpful. It's a challenge; it's a challenge for any training department to be able to do that.

How do you know if your training program is successful?

You never know at the end of training itself, because the best evaluation tool at the end of a two-week corporate training program is really only going to measure attitude. We like to measure training six months after our owners return and run their businesses, then at a year and at a year and a half. We want to make sure the knowledge and skills get transferred back to the owner in their location and with their customers. Within the first eight weeks of their store being opened, somebody is assisting the owners in some functions of training back in their units. We just don't corporately train and get ready for the next class--we follow our people, training-wise, back into their local areas.

If somebody is looking at a franchise, what should he or she ask about the training program?

The background of the trainers. Often in corporate America, people wind up in the training department, because the principals of the business don't know what else to do with those people. Check backgrounds, experience, business knowledge, including all the administrative and technical sides of the business as well.

I would call other stores and ask owners, "What was your experience in training? Did it apply to your store once you got back?" How easy would it be to access training materials? How often are manuals being revised in the company? I would want to know about other training programs within the franchise besides the two weeks of corporate training, and about immediate follow-up training after corporate training. I would ask about regional and annual meetings as well.

How can potential franchisees find out if a franchisor has a good training program?

They can look at the impact of training on existing franchisees, generally by measuring the financial return. They can also [gauge the efficiency of training] by measuring the [space between] the time training is delivered to the time it is needed.

What questions should franchisees ask about employee training?

What's in it for me? How will my employees use this training in the workplace? How actively will my employees be involved in the training? How do you evaluate and measure methods and results? What training can best be learned on the job? Do you have performance standards? Do you have an internal intranet site, and are your programs available on your site?

Is it possible for a franchisor to provide too much training?

It is possible for the franchisor to provide too much training too soon. Franchisors should train in modules and allow time for application, as well as check for understanding.

How often should a training program be updated?

We update our training programs four times a year. Some of those changes are subtle; other times, they're dramatic. Franchises aren't successful because manuals are successful; they're only successful if those manuals are continually updated and franchisees are turning to them when they need to. People make a franchise work, and that's our focus, the people side of our business.

What does a good training program add to a franchise?

A good training program enhances compliance, retention and standardization. It builds relationships and results in increased revenue, higher profits and cost reduction.

Note: For more information on franchisee training, click here, and for information on employee training, click here.