7 ways to fire a spark in longterm franchisees

By Greg Nathan | 10 Apr 2019 View comments

How do you invigorate mature franchisees? Frontline field managers may find long-standing franchisees a little resistant to their efforts to freshen up a stale business.

Reasons why franchisees are sceptical

The average tenure of franchisees in Australia is a little under seven years. On the other hand, the average tenure of franchisor staff is 3.5 years. This means most franchisees will have seen off at least two generations of franchisor support teams.

Enthusiastic new franchisor executives and field managers are sometimes surprised at the wariness they face from mature franchisees. If you look at it from the franchisees’ perspective, they are probably thinking, “Here we go again, I need to educate these people about my business all over again and make sure they don’t do anything to mess up what I’ve built over the years.”

The longer tenure of most franchisees also means much of the cultural history of a brand lives with them. Previous franchisor teams will have no doubt rolled out a raft of initiatives over the years with lots of fanfare but poor results. Then they have moved on. This of course is going to result in a level of scepticism by the remaining franchisees toward proposed new initiatives.  This is especially true if these initiatives require them to spend money.

Finally, rising costs of doing business mean many mature franchisees are finding themselves having to work longer and harder to protect their profitability. This can create resentment, resistance to new initiatives, and a form of grieving for the good old days.

7 tips for supporting longterm franchisees

Keeping in mind the above, here are seven ways franchisors can help their mature franchisees gain a new lease of life.

  1. Revisit their motivations and goals. A franchisee’s personal and business goals will have changed over time. What motivates them now is likely to be different to when they started. Quality conversations about what is happening in their life and what they now want can be useful.
  2. Draw on their knowledge and experience. Include your seasoned franchisees on expert panels at conferences; invite them to contribute to task forces; involve them in the pilot testing of new initiatives; and use them as mentors and trainers for new or struggling franchisees.
  3. Acknowledge and recognise their contributions. People like to be recognised, particularly if they have given years of loyalty to a brand. Yet one of the most consistent sources of frustration we hear from franchisees, especially mature franchisees, is a lack of appreciation from their franchisor.
  4. Provide advanced professional development opportunities. A franchisee may go off the boil simply because they no longer see ongoing opportunities for learning and personal mastery. Participation in advanced professional development courses with outside experts, senior executives or other seasoned franchisees, can challenge and expand their thinking.
  5. Conduct a detailed business review. While you might assume a mature franchisee has clear goals and is monitoring their metrics, there is no correlation between tenure and a tendency to work ON one’s business. Taking them through a structured business review can stimulate renewed commitment to reinvest energy and resources into the business.
  6. Provide opportunities to expand into additional units. Our research shows that, if properly managed, a multi-unit franchising program offers existing franchisees a way to improve their overall financial performance. It also provide the opportunity to improve their life balance, and to bring in a fresh partner, such as a high potential staff member, to help manage the expanded operations. This is also a way for franchisors to grow with people they know – a win for both parties.
  7. Help them develop an exit or succession plan. Sometimes, despite attempts at reengaging mature franchisees, the best solution is to help the franchisee prepare the business for sale so they can move on. Ironically, as a franchisee works through the process of getting their business into good shape for a sale, and explores other options, they sometimes fall back in love with the business and want to stay!

Keeping franchisees engaged

The Franchise Relationships Institute also runs educational programs for franchisor executives on how to keep franchisees engaged and focused as they move through their business journey. These include a Franchisor Excellence Masterclass in Melbourne on May 20 – 21 and a Field Manager Bootcamp in Sydney on May 14-15. Go to www.franchiserelationships.com for details.

Greg Nathan is a business psychologist, researcher and Founder of the Franchise Relationships Institute, Australia’s leading provider of educational programs for franchisors. He is also a speaker and author of several best-selling books on how to create healthy franchise relationships.