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The Single Most Important Thing to Look for When Hiring a Franchise Executive Successful franchise execs do more than run the home office. They support an entire network of franchisees-and above all, that requires empathy. Here's how to seek out that skill set.

By Michael Ruiz Edited by Frances Dodds

This story appears in the June 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of GTS

Successful franchises all look different, but they have one big thing in common: The franchisor and the franchisees must be in sync. Creating (and maintaining) a culture of unity isn't easy, but it's the ultimate key to success — and it starts with a committed, communicative leadership team.

I know this well. I'm the founder and CEO of Global Talent Solutions, an executive-­search firm that exclusively works to help franchise systems hire successful corporate leaders. For most hiring managers, "strongly aligned values and goals" sits at the top of their wish list when they're searching for a candidate. That makes sense — if an executive's beliefs align with the company's culture, it will be easier to harmonize with the rest of the leadership team, as well as with franchisees.

But an even more critical need (and a more nuanced trait) is the ability to form interpersonal relationships and understand teammates on a deeper level. Without it, any leader is going to have a hard time building true community with a network of franchisees.

Related: Does Your Franchise Need a Workforce Management Partner?

Kristen Pechacek is a great example of this. She's the chief growth officer at MassageLuxe, a spa franchise with 70 locations across the United States, and we were recently talking about a lesson she learned in decision-­making. When coordinating across a franchise system, she says, decisions can never be a one-way street.

She got to thinking about this earlier in the year, when she was ready to roll out a new Valentine's Day marketing program. A franchisee asked Pechacek to rethink their marketing process. Franchisees need more time to prepare ahead of campaign launches, this person said, because they can use that time to plan for additional community engagement and guerrilla marketing. Pechacek agreed and changed the implementation process for new campaigns. As a result, the Valentine's Day promotion boosted ROI.

"Listening to a franchisee's perspective can change a project for the better," she says now.

Pechacek also learned that effective communication rarely has a one-size-fits-all solution. "It's important to tailor communication methods based on both the message and the audience, especially since franchisees are most likely hearing this information for the first time," she says. "One-on-one conversations, group video calls, and mass emails are all ways to communicate a message — ­but choosing the correct method in each given situation can change whether the information is received positively or negatively."

Related: 3 Ways to Diversify Hiring Pools

So when brands are looking to hire new leaders, how can they find good communicators and good listeners? Just ask! Don't gloss over communication style in the interview process. Ask a candidate for real-world examples of how they engaged with other team members and franchisees to create a more successful business system. You're ultimately looking for someone with high emotional intelligence — ­and while there are many ways to assess EQ, the easiest is to simply ask strong situational-­based questions, behavioral-­based questions, or a combination of both.

When you're hunting for the "right fit" for an executive role, remember not to focus solely on a candidate's résumé. Picking up on the difference between a franchise executive with strong experience and a franchise executive with the ideal balance of experience and culture fit for a specific brand can create harmony within the company.

Michael Ruiz

CEO of Global Talent Solutions

Michael Ruiz is an Executive Search Expert, Recruiting Trainer and Founder/CEO of Global Talent Solutions (GTS), the franchise industry's leading executive-search firm. For more than a decade, Michael and his agency have built leadership teams for some of the most recognizable brands in the world.

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