Nowhere is the franchise ethos of building a solid base of trust and reputation more crucial than in the children’s market, says Michael Brown, President, Children’s Lighthouse
Maintaining a stellar reputation for any brand is paramount, but perhaps none more so than a child care franchise system. Let’s start with franchising. The franchise business model in general is built upon trust and reputation: the franchisee must trust the franchisor, and vice versa.
In child care, that is taken a step further, as child care professionals are trusted with the most important thing in their customers’ lives: their children. One thing is for certain, in order to earn parents’ trust, you must have a very strong reputation.
So, as a franchisor in the child care industry, I know a thing or two about building and maintaining a strong reputation across audiences, and it starts with establishing trust within the franchise system itself.
Establishing franchisee/franchisor trust
The first step a brand must take is to define what trust means to its system. Defining trust and acting upon that definition will build the necessary foundation for your brand to establish a strong reputation.
At Children’s Lighthouse, we have defined trust as “confidence among the people involved that everyone is working for the good of all.” Implementing this is no easy feat, as it requires buy-in from partners, individual sacrifices, self-discipline, perseverance and, of course, passion.
To make sure trust is at the heart of the brand, it’s very important for the franchisor to establish a strong set of core values and a very clear and defined mission statement that guides every aspect of operations.
Once those values are decided upon, the franchisor must set high expectations upon the home office staff to work on behalf of the franchisees and, subsequently, earn their trust and buy-in – i.e. inspiring owners to believe in and follow the brand guidelines. This requires significant effort.
One way we build franchisee/franchisor trust at Children’s Lighthouse is by holding an annual conference that provides industry best practices, trainings, and, equally important, interpersonal bonding opportunities through team building exercises.
It’s important to build a close-knit group of franchise owners who feel connected to the brand (and each other) and are invested in its reputation.
Beyond the convention, the home office should speak with franchise owners regularly, checking in on them to see if they need support and soliciting honest feedback. Franchisors need to be as transparent as possible with their franchisees and strive for a passionate exchange of ideas with them – they are the ones in the field who can provide actionable insights.
Also, if the franchisor listens to them – and acts upon their feedback – franchisee trust will be earned. Not to mention, this will also help in fine tuning systems to continuously improve operations and the end product.
All told, these strategies should motivate franchisees to live the brand values rather than enforce the values upon them.
Building trust with your customer base
Now that the system has a strong foundation of trust internally, it’s time to build that trust – and subsequently, reputation – with your customer base (i.e. parents). In the child care industry, maintaining a healthy and safe environment for children is the highest priority. To do this, create and enforce systemwide processes and best practices around health and safety.
First, minimize the likelihood of accidents as much as possible. There needs to be strong systems in place to make sure classrooms and play areas are always monitored and looked after by several adults to reduce the chances of accidents.
There should be strict safety guidelines that all locations must follow. In addition, make sure there’s always a plan of action or contingency plan in case of emergency. This will limit the impact accidents have on all involved.
Don’t forget that these guidelines and systems can and should be shared with parents to make sure they are well-aware of and confident in your commitment to the health and safety of their children.
Once you have a strong foundation of health and safety procedures, you can then focus on delivering on your core competency, which in our case, is unmatched educational opportunities for children. Consistently delivering on your promise to customers is what ultimately builds a strong reputation in the industry and will set brands apart from the competition.
Focus on results
Finally, analyzing results is vital. Holding all locations accountable to maintain the brand’s core values and achieve strong results – whatever those may look like for your system – is the final step in establishing and maintaining a strong reputation in the child care industry.
To hold locations accountable, define what success looks like and what results are expected of franchisees. One way to gather results is through customer surveys, which help to identify improvement areas.
Remember, building a strong reputation starts with establishing a franchise system founded on franchisee/franchisor trust. Then, make sure operations are rock-solid, with health and safety at the forefront, so that you can deliver on your core competency.
Finally, evaluate results, maintain high standards, and strive to constantly improve. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to building a great reputation in the child care industry.