How would you describe the relationship between you and your franchisees?
Like all relationships, it’s probably not always easy. But it is important - and it plays a critical role in the success of both your franchisees and the overall brand.
I’ve heard this franchisor-franchisee relationship compared to a marriage, and there is a lot of truth to that. When a franchisee signs on with your brand, they’re making a contractual agreement to you and your brand for the next five to ten years (typically). During this time, there will be good times and bad - and that has to be expected.
But just like a marriage, the key is communication and learning how to work through those tough times together, and maintaining the commitment to each other.
A Focus on Relationship Building
There is a lot that goes into building and maintaining the franchisor-franchisee relationship - much more than we can discuss in a single article. There have been entire books written on the subject, with one my favorites being “Profitable Partnerships” by Greg Nathan. Greg’s book is full of great tips and techniques and I highly recommend all franchise professionals have a copy on their bookshelf. If you’re a franchisor, buy a copy for every franchisee in your brand - the takeaways from the book will be well worth the investment.
For today, the main takeaway is that the franchisor-franchisee relationship is extremely important - and having a successful relationship doesn’t happen by accident. Like all relationships, you need to make a conscious effort if you want the relationship to be successful. This effort needs to come from both sides: the franchisor AND the franchisee.
Here is one big thing each party can do to help make the most of the relationship:
- For Franchisors: Have the corporate staff spend one week a year working alongside your franchisees to really get a feel and understanding for the business and everything that goes into the day-to-day operation of the store. Working behind the counter can be an eye-opening experience for someone who has never owned a franchise before - sometimes it’s absolute chaos! This experience allows them to better relate to the franchisee experience and sympathize with their concerns.
- For Franchisees: If you have feedback for your franchisor about things that aren’t working or that could be improved, don’t just complain about it - help them solve the problem! If you’re hostile, the only thing you’ll accomplish is driving a wedge into your relationship. Remember, if it’s an issue for you, it’s probably an issue for other franchisees too. Bring a constructive idea to help the issue. Try to be part of the solution for the benefit of everyone in the brand.
Working together and focusing on your mutual interest is the best way for a franchise brand to grow successfully. Relationships really are the basis of franchising - you have to be willing to listen to each other and work for the benefit of everyone. It has to be a win-win relationship.
When I was a child, I got to see this play out first hand in my family’s home when franchisees would call the house to speak with my Dad. At least a few times a week the phone would ring during dinner, or later, and it was often an upset franchisee who had an issue they needed to discuss. I remember hearing my Dad say, “Calm down and tell me what’s going on.” And then he would just listen.
Nothing was resolved immediately, but it didn’t need to be. The franchisee just wanted to be heard - and to know that their feelings and issues mattered. That someone would really listen...
The reason these calls continued, was because the franchisees knew that my Dad cared and would listen to what they had to say. He knew the importance of maintaining healthy relationships with his franchisees - he knew it was part of being a good franchisor.
Franchising isn’t easy. If you’re a franchisor who is struggling to maintain good relationships with your franchisees, let’s talk. There are strategies you can use to repair those relationships and get your organization back on track. Glad to share ideas with you, anytime!