We are in an era of economic, social and environmental uncertainty. To make matters even more complex, we are experiencing a revolution in work-related values that brings a host of hitherto unknown challenges. Work is no longer considered a way to “earn a living” or to increase one’s social status; it has become a place to fulfill oneself.
Your franchise is no exception, and “more of the same” is not the answer if you want to ensure it endures and grows. It’s high time to renew your strategic plan.
What is the purpose of strategic planning?
“The purpose of strategy is to enable an organization to achieve its desired results in an unpredictable environment” – P. Drucker.
Executing a strategy means choosing clarity. When things are clear for a franchisee, it’s much easier for them to get on board with the plan.
The elephant in the room here is that it’s very difficult for a franchisor to execute a strategy within an environment where franchisees are scattered across the territory, come from different backgrounds, and do not all have the same amount of experience with your franchise. In addition, most of the time, franchisees often do not perceive reality in the same way as the franchisor. This is normal. The franchisor has a duty to contemplate the long term for the entire network while the franchisee contemplates benefiting their franchise over the short term.
The mistake that many franchisors make is to ignore their franchisees in a strategic planning project. This has many impacts:
- Massive resistance to change
- Brand disengagement
- Loss of time and revenues
- Ill-founded lawsuits
What can the franchisor do?
Let’s remember that in franchising, the ultimate goal of the strategic plan is to enlighten the members of the network about the path to follow as well as preserve and develop the network and each franchisee. Your strategy must enable stakeholders to achieve collective and individual objectives.
Without the ability for a franchisee to “find their places” in the plan, there’s no hope!
Based on my experience in strategy development for dozens of franchisors, there are four keys to a successful strategy.
1. Building the strategic leadership team
Creating a successful strategy requires bringing together the right people to imagine the future and design concrete solutions to materialize it. It must be developed with two main components of a network, the franchisees and key members of the franchisor.
To do this, the franchisor must assemble a team of franchisees with enough experience who want to participate in the exercise in a professional manner as well as members of the franchisor team from different hierarchical levels – not just the C-suite.
The quality and the variety of the individuals who form the team are crucial conditions because they make it possible to connect the wires in a more practical way when the time comes.
2. Develop a plan to engage franchisees in the strategic exercise
Mobilization goes beyond communication; in fact, it calls for a mutual commitment on everyone’s part to achieve the targeted objectives.
Why does it matter?
With strong mobilization, it’s easier to develop the mutual trust necessary to achieve the changes required by the new strategy.
How do you mobilize?
Human beings like to play but involving everyone in strategy development is an exercise that can be done if you create a game. That’s right – a game!
In fact, creating a strategy is a lot like a rally, or if you prefer, a treasure hunt or a football match; it doesn’t matter. The important thing is the “gamification” that you introduce. In any case, there are stages and unforeseen challenges, and at each stage, you must assess the options and make decisions.
By planning the game in advance, you can invite franchisees to participate in it instead of being passive spectators. Of course, you have to establish the game’s rules. However, remember the concept: by finding a way to involve franchisees in the strategy, they’ll be more receptive and mobilize the successful outcome.
Some important aspects to consider when developing your mobilization plan:
- People must be prepared and therefore helped to change their “mindset” regarding the current situation. We are in the midst of “change management” here. Communicating and not selling is the way to go.
- Everyone needs to know:
- Why their participation is important and what’s in it for them
- Which aspects will they be involved in, and which ones they will not
- With whom will they be involved
- How it will work
- How much effort the project requires
- Developing rituals and storytelling throughout the game helps maintain interest and generates mobilization.
- Remember that you have to repeat the same message five times in order to be understood.
- Don’t hesitate to inject some originality into your game, as it helps to maintain the momentum.
3. Act with discipline
“Without a strategy, execution is aimless; without execution, strategy is useless.” – M. Chang.
It’s simple: a strategy’s success depends upon the execution. To execute the strategy in the most optimal way, you need to create a team of strategy “keepers”. This team, comprised of franchisees and members of the franchisor’s team, is responsible for monitoring and reporting progress. It’s also important to empower participants by delegating certain responsibilities.
Finally, a public dashboard should be developed so that everyone can see the execution’s progress.
Too often, executing a strategy is perceived as a “duty” and arouses varying amounts of enthusiasm. The way to keep everyone engaged is to celebrate! At each stage, a celebration should take place. What should you celebrate? Improvements, key milestones, and failures that become learnings. It’s up to the strategy keepers to promote the celebrations. But let’s be realistic. It’s up to network leaders to create the conditions for the network to continue to grow and for franchisees to thrive with confidence. Today, they cannot do it in a vacuum and expect the results to come by themselves. By creating the necessary mobilization upstream, it becomes much easier to obtain the franchisee’s commitment and to execute and accomplish the objectives.
A franchise network’s success is not because of the franchisor; it stems from the franchisee’s excellent execution of the jointly developed strategic plan and shared goals.
Key takeaways for engaging franchisees
- On top of the complex economic, social and environmental uncertainties in the world, the workplace is the site of a revolution itself, with employees seeing it as more than a place to earn a living
- One of the most difficult jobs of a franchisor is choosing a single, coherent strategy for so many widely dispersed and varied franchisees to all follow
- Franchisors can often make the fatal mistake of not factoring franchisees into strategic planning projects, and can invite brand disengagement, underinvestment, ill-founded lawsuits and much more
- The franchisor must remember that its job is to enable stakeholders in the system to be able to successfully reach their objectives
- Franchisors should bring franchisees into the strategic leadership team to create more practical strategic plans that franchisees know they can implement
- Using gamification, franchisors can ensure that franchisees commit wholly to the new strategies
- Everybody’s role, workload, methodology must be clearly defined and communicated
- A lack of discipline is debilitating. A team comprised of franchisees and employees from the franchisor’s office should jointly monitor progress
- In addition to delegating certain responsibilities to empower participants, a public dashboard that tracks progress of the new strategy is essential
- Leaders should celebrate. Celebration keeps people engaged and present an opportunity to learn, whether it was a success or failure
Stephane Breault, MBA, is CEO of Imagine Franchise and works with franchise system CEOs to maximize the impact of their leadership to enable them to realize their organization’s full potential.