One of the key selling points of any franchise opportunity is evidence of strong and consistent franchisor support.
Potential franchisees will often choose a franchise over starting or buying their own business due to the ‘safety net’– not only of a tried and tested business model – but also of guidance from the top.
Besides strong leadership, savvy prospective franchisees will also be attracted by the notion of a ‘franchise family ’and will want to know what they can learn from their fellow franchise partners.
As a franchisor, as well as offering training, refresher courses, operation manuals, stock purchasing benefits, marketing support and regular correspondence, you will need to engender a strong sense of community. Regular franchise get-togethers, as well as intranets and chat groups will allow for sharing valuable experience and advice.
Mark Witter, co-franchisor of the Window to the Womb franchise group, agrees,
‘One of the main benefits of a franchise business model is that it is made up of a community of independent business owners all of whom are facing the same day to day challenges to optimise their business. The role of the franchisor is to put in place a culture of sharing and have specific tools that allow the transfer of good practice from one business to others. At Window to the Womb, we see this as one of our main responsibilities.’
As well as a monthly newsletter ‘including news, updates, successes and new initiatives’ the Window to the Womb franchisors pay monthly visits to their franchisees’ studios and carry out an operational audit every quarter,
‘This allows us to be very close to the front end of the business and thereby be aware of any issues or initiatives’
Mark also advocates frequent franchisee/franchisor meetings, ‘…to allow the free flow of information both from franchisor to franchisees but also between franchisees.’
Seasoned franchisor and Managing Director of The Bardon Group, Nigel Toplis, also acknowledges the need for sharing between franchisees but points out that it’s not always an easy culture to establish within a franchise network,
‘One of the potential drawbacks in franchising is relying on franchisees to simply share ideas/news/achievements. Most franchised businesses are small businesses and, as such, franchisees inevitably become myopic and focused only on their own business and their own performance and don’t have the time to simply share.’
So, whilst the connective element of any franchise is a potential strength – the challenge for the franchisor is to encourage the sharing of ideas and advice. As well as regular ‘network meetings’, The Bardon Group also tries to glean information from individual franchisees in order to inform their general directives,
‘In my experience one of the most critical functions of the franchisor is to harness successful ideas, actions, activities of individual franchisees and where appropriate turn these into system best practice.
We do this by meeting regularly on a 1-2-1 basis with a range of our franchisees to do a business review and use these meetings to elicit their experiences.’
Mark Witter shares this sentiment, ‘We are learning more about our business on a daily basis from the interaction with our franchise partners.’
He has found that each new franchisee has brought their own previous experience to the organisation and are happy to use this to benefit the whole business.
‘We have one franchise partner who is an IT specialist and who is now working on our web site and digital marketing strategy and another was a PR manager of a major PLC and is working with us to develop our PR strategy.’
Indeed, when taking on new franchisees, it’s well worth trying to get a balance of skill sets within the franchisee community. A range of expertise can then be filtered down to benefit the whole network.
Although one of the key founders of the Window to the Womb franchise network, Mark Witter calls himself a ‘franchise partner’, rather than anything suggesting hierarchy, and uses that term for all new appointments. It’s a useful title – for facilitating trust and cooperation. Partnerships will not work unless everyone involved is content and mutually supportive.
So, it seems that the best practical support that can be offered from a franchise to potential and existing franchisees is the kind that has been informed by the everyday experiences - successes and failures alike - of all network members.
‘Franchise business are quite unique in this respect; no other business model has such a cross section of stakeholders and the role of the franchisor is to create both the culture and the tools to allow the whole organisation to benefit from the skills and experience of each franchisee.’
Such symbiosis is the bedrock of any successful franchise.