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Mar 26, 2024

Good communication as a business strategy


Franchises depend on trust. Like any business relationship they require open and honest communication and a good franchise relationship is a valuable business asset to be nurtured and developed. By providing consistent, quality communication and on-the-ground support, the franchisor creates a reservoir of goodwill. The ability to tap into this reservoir when something new or difficult arises can be invaluable. The successful franchisor places great emphasis on structuring the relationship in a way that supports the needs of the franchisee, consistently asking, "What information does the franchisee need from me to be successful?

Similarly, effective franchisee communication is a two-way street. Franchisees must ask, "What information do I need from the franchisor to be successful?" In many organizations, these questions are presented and answered by the field professionals, with support from the rest of the organization's structure.

It is important to identify the key roles and responsibilities of the teams that specialize in guiding franchisees through all phases of their development. The field organization should also have counterparts in the office to support its efforts, such as a help desk or franchise relationship specialists. Careful coordination of resources allows franchisors to keep communication channels open and ensure that franchisees feel supported. Equally important, successful franchisors leverage their teams as ambassadors of the brand's philosophy, culture and business mission.

Support on the ground

The cornerstone of franchisee communications is field support. In addition to helping the franchisor keep a finger on the pulse of its franchisee community, field operations support is one of the greatest resources a franchise system can provide to its franchisees. An added benefit is that through in-person visits, phone calls, and e-mails, it becomes possible to help ensure that each location is operating according to the predefined system. But this is only achieved through team building, making the most of every phone call and in-person visit by asking good questions, bringing new and useful information, taking an interest in each franchisee and location, and carefully documenting and communicating any problems or issues.

Effective Communication

As a franchise grows, communication, especially with geographically distant franchisees, can make or break the brand relationship. Communication with franchisees should be clear and consistent. Approaching them by phone, email and in person on a regular basis to share ideas and identify problems allows you to resolve issues before they become major challenges.

A franchisor's worst nightmare is hearing, "How should I know you changed your logo?" Regular company communication actions with franchising tips and milestones are helpful, but don't forget the personal touch: send a handwritten note congratulating a franchisee on an accomplishment or thanking them for a great idea.

Franchisees who have no one to turn to with questions and problems often find their own answers less desirable. This can also lead to a "no one in the brand listens to me" attitude.

Make active listening a priority. Franchisees should feel free to raise any concerns at any time. It is important to train staff to listen patiently and identify solutions. As always, documenting this communication is a key step.

Here's the bad news: sometimes there will be conflict between franchisees and franchisors. Conflict often goes from bad to worse when you ignore concerns in the field. It's easy to approach the most satisfied franchisee, but it's the consistent and open communication you have with an unhappy franchisee that can save the brand time, resources, and frustration in the long run.

A philosophy of partnership

If a company's culture is not focused on the franchisee, it's time to start changing. Respect for franchisees, coupled with positive day-to-day interactions between franchisees and field staff, combine to create great franchise relationships. Even inspections by the franchisor can be a positive experience, when a company has established trust and respect with its franchisees. You must always recognize what is good about the franchise, even if areas of improvement need to be highlighted. Franchisees want to know that the organization sees the whole picture, not just the negative aspects.

It's a cliché, but is your franchise a team? It is essential that both franchisee and franchisor understand that the success of one depends on the success of the other. Franchisees should know that their opinions are needed and valued, and feedback is encouraged, especially around major changes and new programs. Ask the best of the best in your franchise for their opinions on issues large and small, and then enlist their support as new programs are launched. Leverage successful franchisees to mentor new or struggling franchisees.

Maintaining healthy franchise relationships is a full-time job and requires brand managers to stay up-to-date, flexible, and promote positive interactions.



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