4 industry leaders on how to create a positive franchisee culture
In the modern business landscape, companies like to throw around the notion of culture, however in franchising, it’s more than just a buzzword. Creating a positive franchisee culture is critical to the ongoing success of any network, but it’s not always an easy premise.
Understanding the trials and tribulations of the franchisee partner is essential to establishing a framework in which they can thrive. A positive franchisee culture can not only improve individual unit-performance, but increase advocacy for the network, leading to future franchise sales down the track.
So, how do some of the country’s most successful brands create a positive franchisee culture?
“It’s all about support and communication,” Mrs Fields CEO Peter Elligett told Inside Franchise Business.
“Obviously, there’s all the other factors like profitability, but I think support and open communication is definitely the most important.”
The bakery cafe implements a highly active support system to help increase franchisee morale and encourage a more open dialogue. According to Elligett, the brand has an extremely high ratio of support managers to stores, resulting in a far greater rate of visitation.
“The franchisees often come up with the best ideas, so it’s beneficial to listen,” he said. “I know that’s really important for our franchisees, so it has become the main factor for us.”
Heritage on-the-spot repair and service franchise Mister Minit has built a business model that ensures a positive franchisee culture is generated from day one. CEO Mark Rusbatch revealed that many franchise partners are recruited internally, to ensure that they are across the business’ values, systems and processes prior to launching their operation.
“One of the things I say about our business is that our people deliver the brand, but our people are also part of the brand. So therefore, how they feel, their levels of passion, their levels of trust, obviously factors around competency, are ultimately going to reflect on the customer offer, so you cannot separate the two things,” Rusbatch said.
The CEO also went to explain that building trust within the network starts with consistency.
“In very simple terms, there are three stakeholders; the customers, the franchisees and the franchisor, in that order,” he said.
“We are absolutely disciplined and rigorous in relation to following those principles and ensuring that each of the stakeholders benefits, and I think that breeds confidence. We’re certainly consistent with it, but I also think it’s one of the reasons we have such high levels of trust”.
For mortgage broking franchise Smartline, the challenges of maintaining a positive franchisee culture have been heightened over the last few years. Digital giant RealEstate.com.au acquired an 80 per cent stake in the company two years ago, with the remaining 20 per cent completed earlier this year.
CEO Sam Boer said that while the new ownership was a boost to the existing network, communicating the benefits was a challenge.
“People say they fear change, but they don’t really fear change, they fear loss. It’s about being open with people around ‘what’s going on for you’ personally, and understanding that there is a silver lining here and a real future,” he said.
“It’s been a difficult year for the mortgage broking industry, we’ve had some people retire, but we support those people just as much as we do the newbies. So, it’s really about understanding what goals the franchisees have and making sure that we’re providing the right mechanisms to help them achieve those objectives.”
But more than just communicating the message, Boer said it’s important to be present and lead from the front.
“I speak with at least 12 to 20 franchisees every week, just to check in and see how they’re going, and initiate a conversation, because I want to hear. I think when I demonstrate that genuine passion for our network, from a staff perspective, it follows.”
Victorian icon Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses has been able to instil a sense of confidence through professional experience. CEO Steve Plarre revealed that one strategy the chain implements is only taking on business support managers that have run their own business.
“The feedback that we received a few years ago was that franchisees wanted to be educated and coached by people who have walked in their shoes,” he said.
“All support managers have to have either owned their business or run a business very similar to our franchisees. A lot of franchisees still fall back to certain habits, so it’s your capacity to cut through and get change going on, and I think there’s nothing better than having someone that who you have some respect for saying, ‘I’ve done this before, trust me’.
Creating a positive franchisee culture
Regardless of the industry in question, the franchising sector is heavily reliant on a sharing of values. Through the insights expressed, it’s easy to see that above all else, key factors such as empathy and communication are critical to the formation of a positive franchisee culture.
Franchisors who are present, willing and transparent will encourage more meaningful dialogue, which will in turn generate a stronger trust foundation.