What are the new characteristics of being a true franchise leader? Today, choosing leaders for a franchise network’s management team has become an exercise that requires careful consideration. It is now necessary to consider very different criteria than just a few years ago. Of course, competence remains crucial, but there is more to it than that. Why is this so?
We live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. This context is now permanent, bringing its share of opportunities but also challenges that put the future of franchisors at stake.
Volatility is caused by major forces (technologies, value changes, knowledge explosion) that are changing the landscape.
What are the consequences
• Franchisees and franchisors must constantly adapt and invest without being sure of the ROI.
• Work has become a place of personal expression, not just a job to make money.
• The franchisor no longer has a monopoly on the truth.
• Franchisees find their solutions by themselves.
Uncertainty creates insecurity, and the consequences have many ramifications:
• The franchisor experiments with more trial and error, and the franchisees suffer the consequences.
• Decisions are less effective, and franchisees have difficulty understanding and supporting them, which generates inertia and slower growth.
Complexity generates perplexity
Here, the consequences affect the entire business model and partnership. The franchise is a reflection of today’s society. It is not uncommon to have four generations working side by side, creating a “generational clash” that, if not handled properly, can be unhealthy.
Franchising is a “land of welcome” for many people with different backgrounds and values who want to rebuild their lives. It is a challenge for the franchisor to create the conditions for everyone to adhere to the values of the company and act by them.
The primary consequence is that franchise leaders are faced with communicating in a new way by multiplying open channels with the obligation of structured and quick feedback.
What can a leader do to prepare themselves?
In order to cope with the VUCA world, leaders have to develop an emotional quotient (EQ), also known as emotional intelligence.
“The emotional quotient translates the ability of a person to express his own emotions (to assume them, to understand them, to reason according to them) but also the ability to understand and interact with the other, according to his emotions,” said Dr. Fanny Jacq, a renowned psychiatrist.
EQ has always been present at the leaders’ level but often neglected in favor of management skills specific to the responsibilities within the organization.
What are the “right” EQ attributes for franchise network leaders?
They can be summarized by the 3Cs.
Character is the set of high-level ethical and moral qualities that are present in a leader. These qualities are often expressed at critical moments in the relationship with a franchisee or the challenges a network faces.
The most eloquent illustration of a character in a franchise leader is when they choose to demand excellence and nothing less from everyone in the organization. Poulet Rouge, a network of 28 restaurants, has chosen excellence. One of the consequences is that the franchisees undergo a supervised internship of at least four months within existing restaurants so that they gain the skills they need before even opening the restaurant. By choosing this way of being excellent, Poulet Rouge slows down its growth in favor of excellence even if the demand is robust.
Franchising is a ‘land of welcome’ for many people with different backgrounds and values who want to rebuild their lives”
This is the ability of a network leader to be close to the realities of the franchisees, but more importantly, to have the genuine intention to act to help them. Why is this important?
It cannot be forgotten that the business relationship with a franchisee is very long and that everything is not always perfect. Compassion is used to bring people together, especially so that they can collaborate without generating any conflict.
The pandemic years have exposed many examples of compassion from franchise leaders; however, compassion is something that must be shown every day. A common misconception is that compassion calls for pity. For a franchise leader, compassion means “I am with you in your reality. I am taking action to help you.”
Multi-prêts, a network of more than 700 mortgage brokers grouped into 35 teams, reacted quickly during the first phase of the pandemic by setting up support groups. The company brought together the team managers every week to take the pulse of the situation and act quickly on the issues raised. This initiative allowed them to get through the critical phase by optimizing results.
It also opened the door to settling an old dispute, which saved Multi-prêts a considerable amount of money and allowed team managers to appreciate their business model tangibly.
The connection within a network is that special bond that develops between the leader, the team, and the franchisees; it fosters a commitment and a willingness of all members of the network to excel. This allows the development of an invisible competitive advantage to conquer customers and new markets more easily.
Soluflex, a network of human resources firms, has adopted an ultra-dynamic approach with its franchisees from the very beginning. They participate in strategic planning with the franchisor three times a year. Thanks to this exercise and a wide range of coaching and training activities, Soluflex leaders have succeeded in developing a solid “esprit de corps” (attachment of members of a group to the values, rights, and interests of that group) that promotes growth and commitment.
What should we remember?
Today’s franchise leader is a leader with professional and personal characteristics that foster loyal franchisees through consistent communication and collaboration. The “power leader” era is over; it’s time to make room for “together, we are stronger leaders.”
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.