How to Mix Your Franchise Veterans with New Franchisees
Creating a culture where franchisees support one another is a tremendous benefit to your franchisees and the success of the franchise as a whole.
By Steve Murphy
As your franchise matures, one of your greatest assets to new franchisees is a system of franchise veterans, who were once in their shoes and understand any challenges they may face, a trusted peer and extended family member they can turn to for support at any given moment. Easier said than done. Encouraging a system of nurturing support isn’t simple, but is often high on a prospective franchisee’s checklist of must-haves. To create this type of environment, you need to start by having the right people in place, supplying the leadership, vision and framework and creating opportunities for franchisee interaction.
Ensure franchisees understand your vision and their role
One of the most critical decisions you make as the franchisor is who is able to join your family. Especially in the onset of your franchise, these are the people who are setting the foundation for your franchisee system. And, as your system grows, these are the people prospective franchisees are contacting. When evaluating your current franchise system or meeting with prospective franchisees, it’s important to consider the following: Do they view their peers as teammates or competitors? Are they givers or takers? Do they put the team and the brand first or themselves?
Your franchisees should be passionate about the brand, the concept and the mission statement. They need to care deeply in order to effectively set an example and lead others to feel the same and contribute to that culture. You need to add the right people to the mix who can see and understand their role in contributing to the system and each other. If you feel that a franchisee doesn’t have a team player mentality, meet with him and show areas of his business where he could benefit from communicating with others about best practices. Whether it’s a chance for that franchisee to learn from others or the opportunity to show his expertise, the experience will help instill the collaborative culture you seek.
Create opportunities for franchisee interaction
As the franchisor, it is your duty to create opportunities for franchisees to interact with each other and reinforce all of the above. This could be at conferences, on the extranet, in forums, in regional meetings, on conference calls, in monthly newsletters, or through your Franchise Advisory Council, to name a few options.
First and foremost, when new franchisees come onboard, you should provide the names of mentors in their area and strongly encourage that they reach out to arrange a time to work in their franchise prior to officially launching their own. Leave it up to them as to how long they want to work at the store; it could be just for a weekend or more than two weeks.
Offer guidance on what they should be learning during this time, what types of questions they should consider asking different franchise owners, and what their expectation of the experience should be. Not only does this help set your new franchisees up for success with their franchise, but it is the start of a lasting relationship.
After their franchises are in operation, encourage them to keep in touch with the franchisees they met with to share big wins and any challenges they’ve encountered. The existing franchisees should also do the same. There could be opportunities for them to learn from each other.
Bring them into the fold
Beyond this, having annual national conferences is the easiest way for you to foster a supportive relationship between your veterans and newer franchisees. While the conferences are great ways to share new brand developments and ideas, these sessions are better opportunities to reignite passion in the brand and build rapport among your franchisees.
Going into it, you should encourage franchisees to always sit with different groups during meals. Kick-off the conference with a welcome reception and have fun, interactive social events scheduled across the days to encourage interaction.
For example, speed mingling and scavenger hunts. For roundtable sessions, consider seating franchisees by region or have assigned seating, mixing older and newer franchisees, people who wouldn’t typically interact with each other, or franchisees from different backgrounds.
At Winmark Corp., parent company of Play It Again Sports, Plato’s Closet, Once Upon A Child, Style Encore and Music Go Round, some of our franchisees have been with us for 20-plus years. Meanwhile, we have a slew of new blood in our system. What’s worked well for us at our conferences is having workshops with panels that include both new franchisees and veterans. This brings a great mix of new ideas, thinking and training to the table and adds a new level of respect for
While the veterans have several years of first-hand experience in the field, the new franchisees bring with them a fresh perspective and their prior career experience. When picking candidates for your panel, consider your franchisees’ experience with your brand and accomplishments in
For example, when you’re putting a panel together on marketing and you know one of your newer franchisees has a heavy background in digital marketing, you can ask that franchisee to join the panel to speak from his previous career experience as well as current involvement with the brand.
In-person interaction is a much more powerful way for a relationship to grow. Beyond the national conference and store visits, consider hosting regular regional meetings annually or throughout the year. Work with the FAC member in that region to develop topics that would be of interest to franchisees in that specific area. Perhaps it’s a challenge specific to that region or a continuation of a workshop from the national conference. These meetings are great opportunities for franchisees to step away from the day-to-day operations of their business to focus on big picture topics and work together to advance their businesses forward.
Collaborative culture: A win for everyone
Especially as your franchise locations spread across the United States and internationally, it’s important to have initiatives in place to connect your franchisee veterans with new owners. Creating a culture where franchisees support one another is a tremendous benefit to your franchisees and the success of the franchise as a whole. Always look for opportunities to encourage interaction and maintain those initiatives on a consistent basis so mentorship and helping one another becomes a regular function of their operations.
Steve Murphy is president of franchising of Winmark Corp. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org.