12 steps to building a strong franchise culture

By Sarah Stowe | 02 Oct 2018 View comments

Inside Franchise Business: build a strong franchise culture in your networkWorkplace culture has the power to alter individual, team and business results. But often culture is associated with intangible “great place to work” sentiment.

In general terms culture is described as the shared values and norms within an organisation. There are 12 drivers leaders can focus on to create a strong culture in a franchise business.

1. Put your people first

Workplace culture starts with your people. Without great people who represent your values, performance can suffer. As a business, we have a simple philosophy. We focus on people, process, and clients in that order. That might sound counterintuitive. Focusing on your clients first, seems like the common-sense approach. But great workplace culture starts with your people because they are delivering the service to your clients.

2. Offer long term career prospects

I started Vision PT for precisely this reason. I could see how challenging it was to get results for clients when the average career span of a personal trainer was only five months. By creating a culture where people want to stay and grow in their career, ultimately clients benefit.

3. De-hassle your people. Create systems that work

For a personal training business, the goal is to help clients achieve great results in the one studio. In order to do that, you not only need to keep the right people engaged, you also need to give them the right tools and systems to follow, so they can get results.

Technology is changing how we do business and how we interact with each other and our clients. To keep people engaged and productive, and stand out in the market, you have to invest boldly. You can’t expect new franchisees to come on board and invest in your brand, if you do not do the same for them.

4. A company’s values are at the core of culture

I noticed one our studios had put up the word ‘happiness’ in their team room. Each letter of the word happiness had a value attached. It was a nice idea, and one we used for some time while truly finding our feet and creating our own set of values from scratch. Many business owners strive to create a culture of happiness, but happiness is quite a broad term. How do you truly live that value at work?

There are many human values that a business can draw from to define its core. Happiness, curiosity, trust, freedom are just a few.

To agree on ours, we first organised a franchisee meeting at HQ; 100 of us got together. We each grabbed a bean bag, and openly shared our values. Then we put a number of surveys out to the network, so everybody had the opportunity to voice what was important to them.

After that exercise, we landed on our three values: leadership, spirit, and growth.

Another survey was then conducted to focus on those three values. At that stage we uncovered what makes our people happy: the courage to build a better future for ourselves and others; a family spirit both in our community and our network, and a focus on never-ending personal growth and learning.

5. Recognise those who live the core values and hold each other accountable

People want to feel valued at work. That means listening to their ideas. And acknowledging their contribution. At each franchise meeting, we acknowledge the people who exemplify leadership, spirit, and growth.

6. Bring your network together

As your organisation grows, bringing people together is critical. Whether through regular conferences, workshops, community events, time on the phone, face-to-face, or via social media. Create ways to bring your people together because real conversations help to build trust and loyalty. Human beings are inherently social. Innovation happens when we share experiences, or challenges and learn together. Workplace connection is key to creating a positive franchise culture.

7. Dance culture, yes seriously!

I think one of the reasons New Zealand is so good at rugby is the haka. It represents the country’s culture, history, passion for the game and life. Aussies singing Waltzing Matilda before the game is not really the same.

For many years we have had our own Vision version of the haka. People, especially personal trainers, are kinaesthetic learners so having a dance that reminds us of who we really are and what we do is not only fun but unifies our team across the network.

8. Reinvigorate people with opportunities for personal growth and learning

In any franchise opportunity, you’ve got your top 20 percent of performers, your middle 70 and the bottom 10 percent. You know some of them are killing it, and some aren’t. And it all comes back to personal motivation—theirs and yours.

I have sometimes encountered an expectation that by buying a franchise, everything will get done for you. Of course the onus is on the individual to work harder on themselves. At the same time, good leadership will keep the franchise network strong. How driven are franchisees, and what are you doing to inspire their higher purpose?

9. Invest to develop leaders

I am passionate about providing personal trainers with great career opportunities. With that comes investing in their education. Vision PT recently developed a leadership program with the Australian Graduate School of Management. At present, one person per studio will go through the program. There are plans to roll out the course on a quarterly basis.

10. Interview more effectively

Have a process for interviewing and recruitment. Don’t leave this to chance and intuition. We’ve got a pretty rigid process that we follow when recruiting. It involves a team of three interviewing in three different settings, at three different times in the day.

11. Exit interviews done well boost culture

Exit interviews provide valuable insight into what’s working or not. Often times, people don’t a leave business, they leave leaders. So be conscious that underneath an exit interview there is probably a relationship breakdown with a leader. I often reflect when looking at exit interviews: “Okay, what could I have done better in that situation or what can we do as an organisation to improve?”

One key lesson learned is the need to invest in employee networks, to build loyalty and connections—especially if you are growing quickly. Morale in a franchise network can fall if personal connections beyond a single studio or business unit are missing. People get inspired by other people, and particularly by their peers. Good relationships keep us healthy and happy.

12. Incorporate your core values in performance reviews across the organisation

On a monthly basis our trainers rate themselves on our core values. So, when it comes time for their performance review every 12 months, they’ve actually had 12 personal assessments. Regular check-ins with your team also help to create a positive franchise culture.