Through my own business journey to date in building up my core business and brand and then launching headfirst into the world of franchising, I have always been a firm believer in collaboration and working as a team. Running and leading a business can be lonely and isolating at times and quite simply it helps to have others on your side who have or are experiencing just the same as you.
A franchisee joining a franchise brand automatically becomes part of a wider franchise network – individuals running their own businesses independently in different geographical locations, but all delivering the same product or service and working towards at least some of the same goals.
However, how the members of that wider franchise network communicate and interact with each other varies hugely across the franchise industry. It is the case that some franchisors don’t like their franchisees to communicate with each other at all! They take the view that they provide all the assistance and support that a franchisee will need from their management team – and that franchisees talking to each other can only lead to problems. One of the largest fears that almost all franchisors must have is that franchisees might gang up together against the management team to express dissatisfaction at certain issues. Once the franchise network begins to grow past the very early stages, the franchisor will quickly become outnumbered! And certainly recent history has seen franchisees uniting in common dissatisfaction in quite a high profile way – take Subway who suffered a franchisee revolt when hundreds of franchisees successfully petitioned the headquarters to express their unhappiness at the introduction of footlong deal which they predicted would slash franchisee profits. And fast food giant McDonald’s last year came face to face with a large number of their franchisees forming an independent lobby group to protest against some intiatives brought in by the new CEO.
I personally however take a different view. I would encourage anyone seriously considering buying into a franchise brand to interrogate the franchisor about the franchise network. How do franchisees communicate with each other? Is communication between franchisees encouraged and is a platform provided for this to happen, such as a chat group or franchisee forum? Are there structured systems in place for peer to peer support between franchisees? Are there local or regional franchisee meetings so franchisees can meet up and share advice and support face to face? When an individual is considering investing in a franchise, the focus is generally on the brand, the franchisor and the management team and sometimes these very important issues are neglected or simply not given due weight.
The support that franchisees offer each other can be vital to the success of the individual franchisee’s business journey. Whereas the management team are one step removed from the “coalface” of the business, fellow franchisees are working on the front line day in and day out. Although there will inevitably be geographical and economic variations, many hurdles they come across will be common ones. It’s also not only about problem solving – sharing advice and stories can provide aspirational goals for the newer team members who can see others achieving success in their businesses. Shared support, problem solving and working together leads to engaged and motivated franchisees who feel part of a team. And this in turn of course leads to the success of the franchise brand. Within my own brand we have very much a collaborative and team-focused approach with an open team forum for franchisee discussion and a peer to peer support system – this is valued very highly by franchisees and is one of the factors that contributes to high franchisee retention rates.
Of course, when franchisees talk there is always the risk that as within any business, discontent could become amplified and minor complaints become major discords. But if the franchisor has built a culture within the business that encourages open and honest discussion between franchisees and the management team as well as between members of the group then this should be nothing to fear. The rewards of having a network of franchisees who work well together as a team, communicate, collaborate and support each other cannot be underestimated. As they say, teamwork really can make the dream work!