Five Must-Do Franchise Support Tactics
January Franchising World 2011
By Mike Rotondo
A highly successful, energized group of franchisees is critical to the success and growth of any brand. When franchisees are seeing their desired results through the help of an active and engaged franchise support system, their success becomes contagious and begins to create “brand evangelists” to further drive growth in the brand. These brand evangelists promote your brand for you–they assist in selling franchises, driving increases in system-wide sales and in decreasing store closings and transfers. Their attitude becomes infectious, thereby spreading their success throughout the entire system. But this brand enthusiasm is not created overnight. It is developed and nurtured only by providing ongoing, effective franchisee support. The following are the five key components of a first-class franchise support system:
1. Regionalized Support
2. Broadcast on Channel WII-FM
3. Correct Allocation of Time
4. Get in the Trenches
5. Live by the Numbers
Let’s dive into these a little deeper and learn more about these tactics of a first-class franchise support system.
As a franchisor continues to expand, one question it must consider is whether it should provide regionalized franchisee support or continue to attempt to support all franchisees directly from the corporate office. There are many factors to consider in this decision, but the main drivers are: Does the complexity of your brand require more “hands on” training versus virtual training? Where are your locations in relation to the corporate office and how geographically dispersed are they? What level of support are you trying to deliver?
Regionalized franchisee leadership makes it easier and quicker to have immediate and constant insight into your organization. Your regional leadership does not have the day-to-day distractions that a corporate office sometimes has, allowing them to be focused and dedicated to providing support. It will also have lower travel costs and a higher rate of visibility into your franchisee community giving your franchisees a strong sense of support and dependability from corporate. Regionalized franchisee leaders will have a greater sense of being in touch with local franchisees and will therefore be able to react more quickly. Regional leadership also provides a local point of contact for your franchise sales team since its members are embedded in the local community and can provide invaluable information to a prospective franchisee.
Regional leadership has great benefits for a franchised organization, but it also presents challenges. To be successful, it takes strong leadership. It takes a uniquely qualified person to handle the responsibility and communication necessary to ensure the success of this model. Corporate leadership can quickly and easily lose touch with its regional leadership, potentially making their franchisees feel stranded and without direct goals or clear vision. Corporate leadership also needs to provide the regional leadership with goals, metrics and tools to gauge success and analyze the regions results.
So which model is better for your organization: regionalized versus centralized support? Many factors play into this, but in most cases 10 to 15 franchisees per corporate support staff member is a good start. The next thing to consider is how far away drive time support is from your locations. If you have locations more than five or six hours away from the corporate office, then regional support should be considered. As an organization, you will have to decide which support system is the better fit for your system.
Broadcast on Channel WII-FM
Franchisors must always be tuned into the only radio station that can get their franchisees off the fence and engaged, namely, WII-FM … What’s In It for Me? It is not enough to just tell franchisees that they have to bring in a new piece of equipment or add new menu item–a great franchise support team needs to present to their franchisees “why” they should embrace a specific change. It is only natural for someone to resist change at first–everyone wants to know the reason for a change. Engaged franchisee support teams can move their franchisees from resistance to commitment. They must help their franchisees examine the benefits of the change and prove the success to gain their trust in the program and in the support system. This is one of the most challenging aspects of leading any team; getting them to make the changes needed for their success in a way that makes them feel like they were a part of the process. Only when you fully grasp the needs of your franchisees will they become more open and receptive to change.
Correct Allocation of Time
Franchise support teams should spend time with the franchisees across the three main aspects of their business: growing sales, increasing profits and operational excellence. Generally our support teams at Tropical Smoothie Café spend 50 percent of their time on sales, 25 percent on profits and 25 percent on operations.These tactics are beyond the basics of supporting a franchisee system. Ensuring operational excellence is a price of entry for a brand leadership team.
An overview of the operational status of most QSR brands can be determined in about an hour or less. There are certain times (monthly or quarterly) when a full assessment of each location is necessary. This can be an all-day event, but on subsequent visits, for example, a four-hour visit to a location should suffice by spending an hour on operations, an hour reviewing controllables and two hours working on growing sales. Teaching operational procedures , calculating controllable costs and evaluating labor and material usage are fairly easy; however, understanding how to grow the business for most brands is much more difficult to teach and requires extensive follow-up and leadership.
For the most part once you know the operations and how to control costs there aren’t many changes. Growing the business for many brands consists of thorough community outreach and relationship building which is tough in itself, this segment of the business is a moving target and the game changes daily with new technologies, new competition and new product developments. If you can’t lead this for your system, who will?
Get in the Trenches
Members of the corporate team need to be able to work side-by-side with their franchisees and show them how it’s done. Think back to a time when your leader got along side you when you needed some help. Afterward you had a higher level of respect for the leader because he was in your shoes even if it was only for a short while. That is also how you find out how well your operational programs work. As an example, in the restaurant field, if you want your franchisees making outbound calls to local businesses to grow catering sales, your support team should have the skills to sit next to their franchisees and make a few calls. For example, we started a “Blitz Marketing program” about a year ago. We had someone from the senior team wearing a gorilla suit and other corporate and regional staff wore banana suits; we were in the trenches with them. Think about how hard it would be for a franchisee to say they wouldn’t get in a banana suit if senior management did it first. This type of approach allows you to be seen as more approachable and gives you a better understanding of what the job of running a success franchise is really like. When we conduct new café openings, our support team gets involved in everything from putting away the initial order to getting in the banana suit.
Live by the Numbers
It is next to impossible to drive results without having the numbers at your finger tips. Everyone needs to be in touch with the numbers and facts constantly. You should have access all the way down to the individual transaction level for every unit in your system. Proper reporting and facts can have a dramatic impact on your system. You should send out reports showing the specific results of tactics you are focused on to drive results. For example, post your top sales locations on a weekly basis, post sales versus last year for the entire system, post top performers in cost control metrics. These facts will motivate your system, pushing those on top to maintain their numbers, while setting a higher bar for others to achieve.
If you want to keep your system engaged in a program or promotion, you have to keep them up-to-date on how that program or promotion is driving results. During a limited-time-offer promotion, provide sales of the LTO items and how they are related to different aspects of overall sales performance. As an example, in our system we would look at an LTO smoothie and see how it performs in the following ways: What are the total number sold per café; what percent of the smoothie category does the item hold; how do total smoothie sales compare to last year or even the few weeks prior to the start of the promotion?
Showing the system the impact the LTO item is having on incremental sales, at units that are executing the promotion to its fullest, will have a positive impact on the entire system. Some franchisees just won’t engage until they see that it actually can be done. All promotions must be evaluated throughout the promotional period as to the level of success it provided the system.
Action Speaks Louder than Words
This is not meant to be an all encompassing list, but rather a starting point for evaluating some key tactics in providing effective franchisee support. If you take anything away from this article, it should be that action from the leadership team is what will make a difference. People join a franchise to be led. It’s not just from afar; they expect to see action from the ones who are the experts and leaders of the brand. If you are not getting the results you believe are possible in your system, take a hard look in the mirror. Ask yourself and your support team if you’ve put it on the line the same way that you ask your franchisees to do every day. That’s when things really start to happen, when your actions become heard throughout your system.
Mike Rotondo is Chief Operating Officer for Tropical Smoothie Franchise Development Corp. He can be reached at 888-292-2522, Ext. 145 or