It is rare enough to be an idea generator, and even rarer to be an innovator—one who actually turns those ideas into reality. For those of us who are entrepreneurs, this is the birth of a business concept. Exciting stuff.
Success flows as others want more and more of what you’re providing. You’re out growing yourself rapidly and the demand has warranted expanding into multiple locations. Stupendous.
Your purpose is so wonderfully niche yet appeals to the masses that you’re approached by others who share the same passion. They want to help, and they want a piece of the pie. Let’s franchise away.
A herculean effort now rests on your shoulders. You know it’s death to lose focus on what made you great in the first place. That is your brand. You’ve already proven it’s what the market wants. Now you need the drive of others to make it bigger, better. But with that things change. Others own a part of you, are within the fabric of your brand, are in charge of delivering your vision, and are directly creating your customers’ experiences…. And some are going rogue.
What I heard over and over again at the International Franchise Association show was the exhausting concern around ensuring the standards that grow brand equity are shared well with the people running each location in a way that empowers them to improve their investment.
Franchisors are guardians of the brand and see franchisees as their number one customer. They support franchisees to fully realize and employ all that the brand stands for. Franchisors have a responsibility to all of their investors (franchisees) to protect the brand by administering standards, which in turn protects their constituents’ investments. If one franchisee does not support the basic standards it lowers the value of their sister franchisees and devalues everyone’s share of the system. The brand is put at risk.
Franchisees made a personal investment—they are owners of the brand not paid help. They bought into their particular franchise concept for a reason. They believe in it and are there to make a living. Franchisees are entrepreneurs through and through, but they also like the foundational and supporting structure the franchise system brings. They know how to run their business as they are on the ground each day doing just that. Thy have their own ideas on what will bring success that may differ from that of corporate headquarters.
Common ground exists for franchisors and franchisees when it comes to their dedication to the brand promise. They also agree that replicable standards are required in order to deliver the consistent quality experience expected by their customers when they interact with any aspect of the brand. A question from the IFA member crowd was, “How do we make a standard truly a standard? HOW!?!”
Three points came out loud and clear in our group effort to find ways to create more common ground and fewer battlegrounds:
FIRST | Set your standards clearly throughout every turn of your system. (Franchise tool standardization: Franchise Agreements, Operation Manuals, Employee Handbooks, Training Programs, Manager’s Red Books, Internal Communication Channels, Hiring, Back Office Systems, Workforce )
SECONDLY | Communicate and explain the “why” behind the standards. Show and share the value that is gained when adopted and executed effectively.
FINALLY | Develop robust, easy-to-use tools and resources to help execute the standards easily and consistently.
Finding equilibrium in the throes of a franchisor and franchisee relationship is not simple. Yet being a team that is all on the same page, connecting in spirit and action, has the promise of being an American Dream experience like no other. And when you realize that franchising provides 1 in 8 jobs in the United States the pride in making what we do the best it can be… is just one more reason to be that much better.
By, Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions | 20 years Cross Industry Experience | Corporate Marketing and National Sustainability Lead, BlueLinx |Chief Strategic and Creative Officer, Limelight Advertising | Strategic Marketing Manager, Vail Resorts