Using set collaboration time to unpack concerns, share franchise resources and acknowledge problems is a great way to be a strong leader.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit businesses hard, bringing up incredible challenges and struggles. But during this difficult time, business-owners are also doing something pretty amazing. They have started to reach out to other businesses and ask: “How are you doing?”
This uptick in communication between businesses is particularly evident in the franchising community. Franchisors and franchisees alike are realizing an extremely important truth: collaboration is essential to business success.
Collaboration is the foundation of franchising
Collaboration is useful in all kinds of businesses. It brings people together, saves time and resources, and creates valuable relationships that moves a business forward faster. But collaboration works specifically for franchising because franchises are systems-based.
Franchising is such a unique business model filled with many intricacies because franchisees are investing what is often their life savings into someone else’s business concept. Franchisees can tend to be the judge and jury of the franchisor every day. While it seems in theory like a franchisee would naturally follow systems and work hard to grow their business, sadly this isn’t always the case. This leads to a lack of performance, which can stem from missteps in the way franchisees are supported or from franchisees entering the system who were never a fit. Regardless of the reason, these nuances create a lot of challenges for franchisors, and what better way to solve them than to brainstorm with and learn from franchisor peers who are experiencing the same challenges.
As well as franchisor-collaboration, franchisees collaborate with fellow franchisees. Again, because the nature of a franchise is based heavily on systems, the challenges that each franchisee faces will be the same as their fellow franchisees, leaving plenty of room to help one another and save time and money.
The fear of bringing franchisees together
Something that I hear often from franchisors is that they love the idea of encouraging collaboration between their franchisees, but they are worried about possible negativity that could come up through the process. I hear you. But there are far more positives than negatives in bringing your ‘zees together.
For starters, it is better to deal with negativity than to let it sit and fester. Creating collaboration opportunities for your franchisees will offer a place to discuss any issues and even show how those negative ideas are unfounded. As a business leader, it is crucial to demonstrate the kind of culture you want to create within your franchisees so using this collaboration time to unpack concerns before they fester, share franchise resources and politely acknowledge concerns is a great way to be a strong leader.
How to cultivate a collaborative culture for your franchisees
There are many strategies for creating opportunities for your franchisees to collaborate. One of the most effective ways to create this collaborative culture is to host monthly virtual sessions with your franchisees to brainstorm and problem-solve challenges in the business. Topics could include dealing with employee issues, how to get more customers, how to deal with an upset customer, or how to better market the business. If you have a large system, you can break the group up regionally for these sessions.
If your franchisees respond well to the collaboration sessions, or if you already have some engaged, motivated franchisees, you can also create a Franchise Advisory Council (FAC). A FAC is a group of franchisees either chosen by the leadership team or elected by the franchisees who come together to share ideas and input on initiatives being proposed by the head office.
Creating a FAC is a great opportunity to give all franchisees a voice, get valuable franchisee insights on decisions made by head office, and build camaraderie between franchisees. You’re at a competitive disadvantage if all the thought leadership comes from the top. The most successful franchisors understand that franchisees have valuable insights about the front lines of the business.
Collaboration is not just for franchisees
As the daughter of the founder of M&M Meat Shops, an iconic Canadian franchise company which we grew to almost 500 units, I had lots of opportunities to learn about collaboration. A line that stood out that my dad always said was: “In franchising, you are missing out if you don’t leverage the collective wisdom and energy of the franchisees.”
I love the quote and I use it often. But what really has stuck out to me is the fact that it points out that the franchisees in a business are a collective. But what about the franchisor? Franchisors have this unique position where they are alone at the top of the pyramid whereas franchisees have each other to bounce ideas off of, share problems, and celebrate similar wins.
This unique pain point for franchisors was the driving force behind my new Play Bigger Performance Groups. These groups are specifically designed to provide that collaboration between franchisors that they create for their franchisees. So everyone can be experiencing the immense value that comes from leveraging the collective wisdom, experience, and energy of a group.
Why collaboration works
Collaboration is the foundation of business, and as I have laid out in these steps and strategies, it is certainly essential to franchising. And if you still don’t believe me, let me leave you with a final example. When have you been most successful and happy in your life? Not specifically in business, but in your day-to-day life? If we all think hard on that question, I think we will all come to a similar conclusion. We are most successful in our lives when we are happy and thriving in our relationships with others. Whether that be with our families, our employees, our co-workers, or even just when you have a great conversation with that lady who you go to yoga with. Conversations, teamwork, and collaboration with others is how we achieve success and happiness in all areas of our lives. That is why franchisors need collaboration.
HOW TO CREATE A MONTHLY FRANCHISEE COLLABORATION SESSION
• Communicate the time and purpose of these monthly sessions
• Decide on a series of topics
• Start the session by clarifying the purpose and desired outcome
• Have everyone write in the chat what they want to get out of the call
• Break the ice with some casual questions
• Start working through the topics
• Have everyone share an action step they took from the session
• Send out the key takeaways from the session
Angela Coté is an international franchise growth catalyst.