Best Practices: Promoting Consistency Within A System

Operations & Training

By Margaret McEntire 
       
Promoting consistency within any system is tantamount to laying the cornerstone of a great company, for the consistency which you create, develop, nurture and enhance will eventually permeate your organization. In today’s ever changing business climate it is imperative to possess a strong work ethic, a bold and audacious business plan, and the ability to maintain a consistent and concerted effort not only for the long haul, but in the daily operations of conducting business. The consistency which you promote, or lack thereof, lays the foundation and creates the expectations for your employees, franchisees, vendors and customers. This also has the effect of raising the bar, or lowering the standards.
  
The habits developed as the result of promoting consistency within a system are the basics that you will return in a new professional position and a new reality takes shape in changing the business landscape. These habits can be cultivated at the initial training of franchisees with the franchisor. These habits can develop and maintain consistency through seeing the efforts and daily operations of conducting their business, modeled after the franchisor.
  
Consistency can be likened to water and the three forms it can take. Water in its liquid state can flow like a mighty river or a babbling brook; quench thirst as dispersed from a water fountain or a garden hose; extinguish fires in torrents from a hydrant or from the sky and clear the air.
  
Water in its solid state can be used to build structures such as igloos; refrigerate foods, sink vessels (icebergs) and destroy crops in the form of hail.  
  
In the form of condensation, it can remove wrinkles from fabric (in the form of steam) or create mold and mildew, if allowed to lay dormant. The results can be either constructive or destructive; it depends upon the form it takes and the manner in which it is employed.  
  
Communicate With Consistency 

With a perfect world, a franchise system would be absolutely uniform and perfectly consistent, flowing like the water going the same direction, together in perfect harmony and on the same level. Franchise companies must realize that to attain the best communication practices, they must promote consistency in the system. It takes a considerable amount of great communication on a level that everyone can understand. The system, in a solid state, like an igloo, can function as the re-phrasing of any problems and a more direct way of communications. According to Wikihow.com’s “Define-a-Problem,” a Toyota executive recently asked his employees to brainstorm “ways to increase their productivity,” all he got back were blank stares. When he re-phrased his request as “ways to make their jobs easier” he could barely keep up with the amount of suggestions.
  
Words also can carry strong implicit meanings and play a major role in how we perceive a problem. We will all do well to remember that we can never gain control, only gain cooperation. How little you cooperate with     your franchisees will depend on the character of your system, your staff and visa-versa. Consistency requires cooperation from both the individual franchisee and franchisor in a solid manner. Good communication, rewards, awards, recognition and organizational structure, promote consistency within a system.
  
Another example of best practices can be the judicious use of the Internet. Most franchise systems allow for a significant Internet presence where all franchisees may access the company Web site, their individual “sitelets,” your franchise center, or center for communications, and other Internet communications tools.  
  
A distinguished franchise center can be invaluable to your franchisees. This can be the major artery of knowledge and communications on a daily basis.
  
The Candy Bouquet International Franchise Center is full of many types of free information. Participants should be employees, franchisees, trainers and specialists. All participants should sign a non-disclosure agreement and have individual authentication protocols in place to access the site. The franchise center can contain corporate news and programs, preferred vendor lists, online and live training videos, webinars, forums, marketing and advertising suggestions and guidelines, voting ballots for relevant issues, actual ingredient lists of our private label candies and chocolates and more. We also provide a photo gallery for our franchisees to display images of their store front and delivery vehicles. There are free downloads of all types. Marketing templates configured for the non-tech savvy franchisees should also be offered for free. Effective communication, rewards and recognition promotes consistency within the system.
  
Each Friday we post a new “Tasty Tips” article for our franchisees. Not only is the article entertaining and fun, but it also provides great information that our franchisees can put into immediate use.
  
Once a month, we have a webinar with information that each franchisee needs to know. We provide constant updates on relevant issues, such as programs completed and projects that are in the pipeline. With most of our webinars, many corporate employees talk about their areas of expertise and experience. This provides a name, a face and a voice, so our franchisees get better acquainted with our employees. Our franchise center also has breaking news on the home page.
  
Most recently, we have worked cobranding stores in small towns with J.C. Penney to combine a catalog merchant program or kiosk type catalog store within our stores.
  
The test store has dramatically increased its foot traffic. This program was announced in a recent webinar, as well as prominently displayed on the home page of our franchise center. This immediately produced multiple candidates, or smalltown Candy Bouquet stores that are prime candidates for this program.
  
Communications of this type drive new business and increase existing productivity by providing convenience to the consumer and increasing business with the retail stores. Consistency with communications in mind can only be obtained when it is presented in a consistent and interesting way. It’s important to focus on what true characteristics are essential for the franchise system. The corporate headquarters and the franchisees should be of one accord. There should be mutual respect for the system, as well as each other. You do not control this system, but work with much cooperation. Like a good marriage, working together for the good of both creates a strong bond and system for all.
  
We also have a distribution center for online shopping through which our franchisees can buy their supplies. Through the center, we offer specials and shopping incentives, discounts for volume shopping, which are best practices to promote the individual store locations and also let them know that we are there for them.
  
Other best practice to promote consistency and communications are field-operator visits, regional meetings, annual conventions, regional fly-ins and corporate gatherings with franchisees. All can be in a very formal or informal setting, but should maintain consistency with a clear and precise vision for the meetings as well as the program presentation. Proper notification and participation with an agenda and check list, pertinent to their particular needs is a must. Gain cooperation, not control. With these practices, franchisees and franchisors and staff are face to face, so communications are positive and highly-productive. One key that is paramount is to find common ground. Before meetings, franchisors should survey the franchisees’ requests and needs.  
  
Consistency Through Competition

One of my personal favorite practices to promote consistency is creating ways that franchisees can compete with each other. We love to find ways for our franchisees to meet goals and then reward them for obtaining their goals, ideas and creations. Taking that to its logical conclusion would be to share the knowledge of the lessons learned. We can all benefit from each other’s triumphs by sharing our experiences with one another. Peer pressure can also create and help promote in so many ways. Encourage your franchisees to constantly think of ways to improve their systems, working together with the corporate office on everything from marketing ideas, plandesign and more. Some of the very best ideas are from the franchisees.
  
And it all can begin with the promotion of consistency.  

Margaret McEntire is president and CEO of Candy Bouquet International, Inc.