Creating network advocates takes more than a franchise agreement and a good op’s manual.
I’ve been distracted recently by thoughts about how and why franchisees demonstrate dissatisfaction with their franchisor. In processing those thoughts it seems to me that franchisors can fail to consider the emotional investment franchisees make.
In the beginning…
From the time I started building a franchise network and until the day I sold it, I invested my heart, mind, body and soul into developing every facet of that business in order to make me and my franchisees successful. If you’re a franchisor you’ll understand what I’m saying. You’ll know first hand the agony of every mistake and the insurmountable joy of every success.
The rock and the hard place…
Franchisors know that franchisees aren’t always convinced that the franchisor is acting in good faith and for the benefit of the franchisee/s. Depending on the age and maturity of the network correcting or redirecting franchisees to improve their business and the business of the franchisor can create a fracture in the franchisor franchisee relationship. This fracture often results in one party becoming the rock and the other the hard place. It’s between these immovable objects that the rest of the network waits for the stand off to end. An inability to handle this situation well can have the potential to create something I call ‘suicide by franchisee’. A network death resulting from the franchisor’s inability to provide sufficient reason or benefit to franchisees.
If you’re a franchisee you may not always be keen on the decisions made by the franchisor. But, with a legally binding agreement and operations manuals swinging like the sword of Damocles over your head, your only available recourse, in the event of an unpalatable franchisor initiative, is an emotional disconnect from the franchisor and the group. I call it ‘suicide by emotion’. This is described by Law Professor Jeff Giddings in his discussion on Kamikaze Conflict. Professor Giddings says: “What is distinctive about kamikaze conflict is that it involves at least one party acting in ways that undermine their own interests.” Withdrawing emotionally can undermine a franchisees best interests.
Let’s play Chinese whispers…
In a franchise network filled with support personnel franchisees can often forget that the hearts of real people are beating just to help them succeed. But, like a game ‘Chinese whispers’ messages conveyed through layers of staff and systems and policies and procedures, become hard to decipher from the rest of the franchise noise! So, when franchisors release support staff into the field, there’s a very real risk messages will be unintentionally misrepresented creating a negative shift in the commitment of franchisees. A franchisor’s desire for franchisee engagement can (albeit unintentionally) be sabotaged.
Because of the legal basis of the franchisor franchisee relationship a franchisee’s only power can be to withdraw emotionally from their commitment to the franchisor and the franchise network. They complete the franchise term creating destabilising waves among other franchisees and franchisor personnel. They can inadvertently (or sometimes intentionally) fail to provide constructive feedback and input that could help generate a ‘better than expected’ return, sabotage their own success and damage the BRAND.
Giddings states: “As with any relationship, it is important to keep in mind that it is not just about you, it is about both of you. In situations involving larger groups of people, it’s about all of you.”
We know that when operating in groups it’s often the greater good that’s most important. However we should never forget to need to maintain positive relationships with those who feel let down by the decision or process of the franchisor.
Support staff who have no commitment to the beat of the ‘franchisor heart’ will create damage in the network. Those who turn up once a month for a free coffee with nothing but a compliance checklist, do nothing to create network advocates among the franchisor’s most important resource; their franchisees. So support staff need to be aware that relationship is just as important as compliance when providing support to franchisees. Anyone who’s been in relationship (that’s all of us) will know that maintaining good relationships can be difficult. The skill however, is in avoiding a permanent and damaging fracture by neglecting the humanity to which we are all enslaved.
Franchisees also need to understand that good franchisors need more than money to help them succeed. They need commitment. Not just a franchisee’s commitment to the success of their own business but a commitment to the success of every business in the network, including the franchisor. This doesn’t mean franchisees need to spend hours helping everyone else. But it does mean being committed to making the BRAND a success in their own business.
Good franchisors want network advocates. They create these by putting in place a support program that helps meet the franchisees financial and emotional business needs. Franchisees don’t need to agree with everything the franchisor asks them to do but they should be able to trust the franchisor. In order to generate this trust, the franchisor should always be able to articulate their rationale for making any decision or rejecting a suggestion.
Trying to create advocates without building a support network that helps franchisees understand the franchisor, may just kill the network. Franchisees who don’t receive the type of support that helps integrate them into the franchisor heart, just won’t care! However franchisees also need to be careful. Emotional withdrawal from the group may kill their franchise business creating financial and emotional losses that can’t be recovered.
You can Read Jeff Giddings article on Kamakaze Conflict here
Copyright 2017 deb shugg
Deb Shugg is a recognised and awarded businesswoman and managing director of Australian Business Experts
BRW Top 50 Female Entrepreneur
SmartCompany To 50 Business.
Franchise Council Franchise Woman of the Year
BRW Fastest Growing B2B Franchise
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Photo credit – unknown. Pic – Mick Fanning