9 Ways You Can Build a Strong Franchise Community
The following excerpt is from Rick Grossman’s book Franchise Bible. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | IndieBound
Developing your franchise community to thrive as a strong network will be the foundation that can support a huge company. Use the following tips to build your successful franchise community.
Creating your franchise support systems and team
Your franchise support team will be the core of your community. Like a coaching staff that directs the team from the sidelines, your corporate office should be there to guide your franchisees so they can focus on playing their positions. Apply the following to build your support team:
- Be sure your support team is on the same page and that they understand and believe in the company objectives and philosophy.
- Adopt a “show me” attitude based on leading by example. Be sure your support team can “play all the positions” that your franchise owners play.
- Use communication software such as an intranet or contact relationship management (CRM) platform
- Make sure that all support staff make complete notes every time they communicate with franchise owners.
Using technology for support and training
Support and training have become much more robust in today’s world. Not too many years ago, franchisors had to assemble their franchise owners in-person for training sessions and delivered support by phone or mail. It was common to hold back new developments until the annual convention, which was the only time everyone was together. Now franchisors can utilize web meetings and video conferencing to train and support franchisees whenever the need arises. This dynamic technology allows today’s franchisors to disseminate new information more quickly and efficiently so owners can apply in the field immediately.
The ideal franchise candidate matrix
Your ideal franchise candidate matrix will enable you to add the best franchisee team players. You can establish this matrix in a number of ways depending on your business model and the size of your company. Once you have franchise owners who’ve been operating for a while, you can establish a baseline for the success factors to look for in future franchisees.
Generally, franchisees who continually want to change systems or have suggestions for change based purely on theory don’t make the best franchisees. The ideal franchisee should have advisory input abilities but not the stubbornness to insist upon changing the franchise system, at least until the franchisee’s theories are tested or the franchisee can show, based on experience, that such theories work.
Assisting franchisees as they navigate the discovery and launching process
Your franchise development department (which may just be you) has an important job to do. Choosing the best franchise candidates out of all of the inquiring shoppers is a challenge in today’s world. You’ll want to set up a step-by-step discovery process that will guide prospective owners. You’ll want to have a consultative approach to educate them about your franchise opportunity without pressuring or “selling” them.
The best outcome for all parties is a great match between the franchisor and the franchise owners. Due to this fact, it is well worth the time investment to help your prospects navigate your process. This will result in more solid owners that have a higher probability of succeeding.
Assisting with site selection
If your franchise involves a restaurant or other business in which location is a key factor in franchise sales, you’ll want to have someone assist your franchisees in selecting sites. Most franchisors require their franchisees to conduct preliminary research on potential sites. In most cases, real estate brokers or shopping-center managers can provide the demographics and other commercial information pertaining to each potential site.
The primary reason for making your franchisees responsible for site selection is not only to make the franchisee thoroughly familiar with the pros and cons of each potential site location, but also to help alleviate any liability you may face if you’re the sole selector of the site and the franchisee subsequently fails.
To ensure that the franchisee has picked an appropriate site, you should have a qualified broker or other expert evaluate the suitability of the chosen site. This person should be qualified in real estate matters and have some experience in franchising and in the particular business being franchised. Carefully check out references and accomplishments of the brokers or individuals you hire to help your prospective franchisee find a franchise location.
If you and/or the franchisee are knowledgeable regarding the elements necessary for a good site for the business and conduct the site selection yourselves, costs will be minimal. If contacts are made with local real estate brokers who are familiar with your franchisees’ needs and territories, costs will also be minimal. Hiring a professional, full-time site selector could be expensive, depending upon your location. In most cases, an employee hired as a site selector will hold other positions in a franchise company, including marketing or training responsibilities. Again, try to keep your costs to a minimum without sacrificing the effectiveness of your organization.
Becoming a great event coordinator
Creating and hosting great franchise events can become the source of inspiration and growth for your overall franchise community. Apply the following strategies as you develop your company events:
- Be organized. Get a good written plan in place well in advance of every event. This reduces stress and ensures a smoother event day.
- Consider hiring an event coordinator for “pre-event” and/or “day of” coordination if you don’t have an in-house coordinator on your staff.
- Commit to a professional production. Regardless of the size of the event, make sure the audience or attendees experience a professional and polished production.
Creating and hosting discovery/decision day events
Even though you may be starting small, you’ll want to create your standard discovery/decision day event. This is a professional step for your franchise company. Remember the Field of Dreams movie quote? “If you build it, they will come.” You’ll build good habits that will pay off in the future by practicing them while you are starting out.
Forming and managing your owner’s advisory committee
One common complaint that franchisors get from the initial franchisees is in the area of early day support and resources, or lack thereof. One of the strategies you’ll want to employ is the formation and management of a properly run franchise owner’s advisory committee. This is an advisory only (not voting or directing) committee of chosen or elected franchise owners that serve for a period of time or “term” that you specify. This committee can help bring new ideas and topics of concern to the corporate team and also communicate with, and mentor newer franchisees.
Offering franchise rewards and incentive programs
Franchisors should initiate a franchise rewards and incentive program from the very beginning (remember, “If you build it, they will come”). Start with standard annual goal-related objectives or contests, such as highest revenue, fastest growth and highest customer satisfaction. Create awards they can display in their office. This is a good method for sparking some fun and healthy competition. You can also create financial incentives for certain achievement levels. As your company grows, you may have more extravagant incentives, such as trips or big-ticket items.
Building your franchise community is a mission-critical step in the long-term success of your franchise story. The feeling of belonging and purpose that the owners feel and believe in inspires them to press on and thrive.