Mark Siebert delivers the ultimate how-to guide to employing one of the greatest growth strategies ever -- franchising. Siebert shares decades of experience, insights, and practical advice to help grow your business exponentially through franchising while avoiding the pitfalls. In this edited excerpt, Siebert offers advice on exactly how much and what kind of training you should provide to your franchisees.
Once your operations manual is complete, you must develop a strong training program to impart its contents to your franchisees. To develop a sound training program, you need to start with an understanding of your franchisee. Is this new franchisee someone with industry-specific knowledge? Specific skills, such as sales or management abilities? Or will you need to treat your franchisee as if they were learning absolutely everything for the first time?
Ultimately, your training program must be good enough to ensure that the least-skilled new franchisee will represent the brand to the standard of quality associated with the concept.
The best franchisors are huge advocates of training and invest heavily in it. Even though the training conducted by newer franchise companies is often fairly informal, the best new franchisors make it a priority to develop more formal programs as soon as possible. These programs will prescribe in detail exactly what each franchisee and their personnel must master. By specifying exactly what must be taught and how the instruction will be conducted on an hour-by-hour basis, these training programs provide knowledge in a manner that will foster consistency.
Once a new franchisor decides on subject matter, it must then decide how to conduct the training. Generally, this training takes several forms:
- Pre-training (either reading assignments or online learning) that is often completed prior to the start of classroom training
- Classroom training (generally at the franchisor’s home office)
- On-site training (often including grand opening assistance)
- Ongoing training (which can be provided via video, online, at the franchisee’s site, in regional meetings, or at annual conventions)
Once you reach a decision on how to provide training, you'll need to decide on logistics.
- Where will the training be held?
- Will training be given on a regular schedule or on an as-needed basis?
- Who will conduct the actual training?
- Who must attend training?
- Who may attend training?
- How long will the training take overall?
- How much time will be devoted to each topic?
- What form or combinations of forms will the training take?
- How will trainees be tested on their knowledge?
- What will happen if a trainee fails? Does not attend? Demonstrates a poor attitude?
Because a healthy franchise system depends in large part on the ability and preparedness of its franchisees, the franchise agreement must define with great care and precision the franchisor’s obligations and rights with regard to training and ongoing support. To ensure maintenance of brand quality, system-wide uniformity, and reliable quality, all franchisees should be required to attend and successfully complete an initial training course designed, refined, and staffed by the franchisor.
Training at the Franchisor’s Home Office
For most franchisors, the hands-on portion of training starts at their home office. This training can last for several days or weeks and, for newer franchisors, is often held in hotel conference rooms or temporary office facilities to keep costs under control.
Generally speaking, home office training starts with a tour of the prototype operation and corporate offices, and an introduction of staff and their roles. Once the formal training session begins, most franchisors focus on subjects best taught in a classroom setting. Among the dozens of topics usually included in this portion of training are corporate history and philosophy, site selection, lease negotiation, pre-opening procedures, daily operations, insurance requirements, vendor relationships, and reporting requirements. This segment of training often involves hands-on training within your franchise prototype (or perhaps a special training prototype constructed for that purpose).
Franchise training classes should be lively and interactive. A mixture of training formats such as video (for example, showing a key supplier’s facility), lecture, discussion, and hands-on work (such as product preparation or how to provide the franchise services) creates an inviting training environment for franchisees. Moreover, various studies have shown that franchisees retain more information when the trainer uses a variety of training methodologies combining visual, auditory, and tactile learning. We often recommend that our clients involve their management staff in the home office training session as well. Exposing multiple staff members to franchisees energizes the process and helps build franchisee relationships throughout the organization.
Home office training, like all training, should be accompanied by testing, evaluation, and other procedures to ensure that franchisees are indeed capable of top performance.
The next step often involves spending several days to a few weeks (or more, depending on the complexity of your operation) assisting franchisees and their staff at the franchisee’s location.
As with home office training, you should develop a detailed training agenda for this stage. Training should focus on assisting the franchisee in becoming more familiar and comfortable with the day-to-day operation of the business. Franchisees new to the industry will have different questions and expectations than franchisees with prior experience in related businesses. One of the key objectives of the on-site trainer is to identify and prioritize the franchisee’s needs during the first day or two so she can tailor the remaining training schedule to best meet those needs.
On-site training is an important extension of the franchisor’s pre-opening training program. New franchisees can easily become overwhelmed and can sometimes momentarily forget everything that has been taught to them. Having the franchisor’s representatives at the site—often in the form of an opening team—can ease this transition and ensure that customers get a good first impression of the brand and the franchisee’s operations. An opening team helps franchisees break into day-to-day operations slowly, so they don’t feel they’re jumping into the deep end alone, without assistance from the franchisor.
Within several days of the completion of on-site training, you should provide the franchisee with an overall written evaluation of his or her performance in the training program. The evaluation should reference both the franchisee’s strengths and areas in which the franchisee needs additional work, and it should include a specific action plan with a clear list of objectives for the coming weeks and months.
For the best franchisors, training doesn’t end once the startup period is over. It's a vital ongoing part of the franchise relationship. For a franchisor to be competitive in the long run, its franchisees must remain current with industry trends and adapt to changes in the market, incorporating new products, services, marketing, and operating procedures into their businesses.
With this in mind, every franchise agreement should contain not only initial training requirements, but also specific requirements for ongoing training. To minimize the erosion of system standards over time due to a lack of training, you may want to consider requiring periodic recertification on core competency issues for franchisees and their key staff members. Such a program might include regularly scheduled refresher training for these top positions, as well as detailed training for all staff on any new products, services, or procedures that are introduced from time to time.