Top 10 Tips To Maintain a Strong Relationship With Your Franchisees, Part 1
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Top 10 Tips To Maintain a Strong Relationship With Your Franchisees, Part 1

Top 10 Tips To Maintain a Strong Relationship With Your Franchisees, Part 1

The franchising relationship. Many compare it to a marriage, some to a parent-child dynamic, but everyone knows that it's one of the most important factors in ensuring longevity and success for your brand. Your franchisees are the most important part of the growth of your brand. They could be your best brand ambassadors or quite the opposite. Although it's not the only deciding factor, the success of your brand in a market will depend heavily on the franchisees you approve and the relationship you establish and maintain with them throughout the life of their business, especially in challenging times. Here are 10 things to consider in cultivating a strong relationship with your franchisees.

1. Be willing to walk away

The relationship with your franchisee starts from the approval process before any agreement is ever signed. I recently had an industry colleague tell me, "I won't work with anyone who I wouldn't want to go on a vacation with." While I am not suggesting that you qualify every franchise prospect based on how the two of you would fare through a Caribbean cruise together, I will agree that it definitely makes it easier when you work with people with whom you share commonalities and/or a mutual understanding. This could be through similar company culture, professional chemistry, an understanding and acceptance of one another's corporate values, or a shared passion for the brand. Are you aligned on values and vision for the brand? Is there a healthy professional chemistry between your groups? Turing down a franchise deal can be a hard pill to swallow for most, and perhaps it's not an option, depending on company policy. At the same time, when you spot those red flags from the beginning, going into business with a franchisee who you know is not a good fit for your brand and team could prove more damaging down the line and much more complicated to repair.

2. Be adaptable

History has shown us that the copy/paste method is not always the best way to go, especially for new regional or international market entries. Conducting the proper R&D with your franchise partner to understand where adaptations may be needed on design, menu, product offering, marketing strategies and the rest, will help you find the right balance between staying true to your brand DNA and being locally competitive and relevant in your franchisee's market.

3. Trust their experience

One of the reasons a business elects to franchise is the opportunity to leverage a franchisee's experience in their local market. As the brand, your franchisees have trusted and invested in your concept, proven operating system, training program, and support team on which they plan to build a successful business. The brand is trusting its franchisees to follow the system and apply their local market knowledge and expertise to navigate the market as they build the business. It's not uncommon for franchisees to propose changes to the business or system, based on their experience or market knowledge. If any franchisees want to apply a change in their market, it's important to understand why. Before shooting them down, take a moment to assess local market conditions. How do they differ from other markets where you operate or have operating partners? Why might that warrant the suggested change? How will this affect their local business (positively or negatively)? With that said, don't be afraid to say "no" to suggestions or requests that are unnecessary or frivolous.

4. Hold them accountable

This one can make you their best friend or their worst enemy, but it's an absolute necessity for franchisee success. Whether holding them to their marketing spend/calendar, not budging on staff training requirements, enforcing audit scoring, conducting business reviews, royalty/ad fund payments, or anything else, don't shy away from the tough conversations. They will respect you for it and maybe even thank you someday.

5. Go the extra mile with communication

We are all busy. There are a million things going on and not enough hours in the day to get it all done. I get it. With all of the surrounding noise, it could be easy to let months go by without any communication. When royalties are being paid on time and franchisees aren't asking you for anything, it's natural to think that they're fine and don't need anything - and this may be true. These are the times when the extra mile goes a long way. It only takes a few minutes of your day to reach out and congratulate them on a great month of sales (celebrate the wins), to say happy birthday, or even just a quick, "Hi, I haven't heard from you in a while. How's it going?" It's easy for people to get wrapped up in the day-to-day of operating a business and forget about the support system they have, the network they're part of, and the amazing people at the corporate office that they invested into when they acquired the franchise rights. Remind them, when they least expect it.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, based on her industry experience and expertise and are in no way a representation of Darden Restaurants, its employees, affiliates, or other related group.

 Rebecca Viani, with more 15 years in franchising, began her career on the franchisee side working for a group in Quito, Ecuador that acquired and developed U.S. franchise brands. She led the acquisition and launch of a U.S. snack brand there and developed a firsthand understanding of the franchisee perspective. In 2009, she returned home to the U.S. for a role in franchisee training and support with United Franchise Group in Florida, and eventually became VP of Operations for one of their emerging brands as it expanded in the U.S. and internationally. In 2014, she pursued her passion for international, relocating to Dubai, UAE and became head of franchising for a restaurant group, where she developed their franchise program and led the team as they expanded multiple brands throughout the Middle East and abroad. Since 2018, as Director of International Development under contract with Darden International, she handles the expansion and development of the Darden brands for Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Published: March 26th, 2020

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