Close the loop on your FAC

Corina Vucic | Director | FC Business Solutions

Communication, sharing of information, ideas, being on the same page, one vision, one agenda – it’s all about how people come together for the ultimate goal… the continued growth and improvement of the brand.

The traditional Franchise Advisory Council (FAC) is a formal meeting environment within a franchise brand which enables open and healthy discussion around the table between normal franchisees who are representing their peers, and the corporate office personnel, to think tank new methods, products and services that your industry’s market is looking for to ensure the brand is staying relevant.

The franchisor leadership team should regularly take an insightful look into the FAC and dig deep to consider what function it plays in adding value to the brand, enhancing the communication loop within your system and reviewing what has it achieved in the past 12 months that warrants the investment in the forum. Is it time to stress test this organ in your franchise system?

The observations I’ve made in recent years is that the reality of the FAC for many systems is far from the core DNA of why FACs have become an institution within franchising. Too often the forums are unhealthy and unhelpful, with franchisees representing only their own specific interests and the support office personnel just presenting on the progress of key result areas and lack the opportunity to share what really goes on at support office.

Chairing the Meetings

Who chairs your FAC? Is it a biased Chair? Is the Chair too close to the action? Is the Chair experienced in facilitating the healthy blue sky thinking required in this forum? Is the Chair mentoring franchisees into successful FAC representatives?

The ultimate purpose of an FAC is to talk, share ideas, think outside the box, stress test new ideas for the system, vote on acceptance by franchisees of the new concepts and ways - it is not the Senate Assembly where the FAC is charged with rubber stamping the corporate offices policies and procedures. Does the CEO or Founder have a constructive role to play within the FAC? Too often FACs become a forum where the CEO is looked to for sign off and decision making. CEOs struggle to remove their decision making hat and the franchisee representatives expect decision making and direction from the CEO inside this forum. This is not productive, the FAC is not a decision making group and therefore those leading the FAC in franchise brands must remove this legacy and opportunity. In fact I would go as far to say that the CEO, Founder or the senior operational representative of the brand should not be the Chair but just be a contributor to healthy conversation rather than the emotional ‘executive’ protecting their turf and performance of their team.

Review the Agenda and Minutes

When did you last take a hard look at the content of the FAC agenda? Is it filled with healthy agenda starters or is it department heads reporting on updates and validating the successes and challenges? Often I sit in these meetings where I am ready to be inspired by conversation and action yet I am underwhelmed by talk that requires no action or conclusion, just forward thinking and brain storming. Too often the think outside the square agenda item is at the back end of the meeting and by the time we get to it we have run out of time, are zapped of all energy and creative thinking or these items are pushed to another meeting. The result being we have not succeeded in taking a moment to brain dump what’s happening in our industry of choice.

Review the agenda, think minimal, less word and less agenda items. Allowing more freedom to innovate will breathe new air into the FAC forum.

We continue to see PowerPoint slideshows with slide after slide of information. Once again, think minimal, think of the time you will save not requiring over exhaustive slideshows which add very little value to the outcome of the FAC. Have you considered treating the FAC members with respect and actually circulating pre reading materials and information and asking them to come along to the meeting well prepared, well informed and ready for conversation to develop ideas? Sometimes when I read pages and pages of FAC notes, which are referred to as the minutes, I am fast asleep - the minute taker has transcribed every comment and every conversation and in the end all I am looking for is the golden nugget or the action item and I am puzzled when I cannot find it. Was there one? How was the agenda item concluded? Was it just mindless talk?

Record keeping of a meeting should be about action items - no one has time to read the detail of every conversation or exchange and if that is what they want then they should invest their time wisely and be an FAC member. It is the minute takers responsibility to record the action items, acceptance of decisions and ensure that if the FAC has the power to vote, that they record the votes and what the resulting change is.

Member Code of Conduct

FAC members require guidelines on how meetings will be called, prepared for, conducted and concluded. FAC members also require a lesson into what the FAC’s purpose is, how it has contributed to the success of the brand’s growth and how the FAC member is obligated to contribute within the forum and when they are representing their peers each day between each scheduled FAC meeting. Do you have a process to induct an FAC member; have you introduced FAC members to the world of meeting structures, how to absorb information, how to communicate to their peers and how to collect information from the franchisees they represent to bring healthy thinking and voices to the FAC?

Do you have member guidelines or a charter and when was it last reviewed? Is there an induction into becoming a productive FAC member?

Reporting to the Network

With everyone’s pocket containing a smart phones, at the conclusion of the FAC meeting record a snapshot of what happened in the meeting and upload it to your brand’s intranet site to offer a quick visual to the network to say this is what we invested our time doing today and to touch base with your FAC representative if they want to know more.

A fit and healthy FAC is different for each franchise brand. Its heartbeat represents where the brand is within its journey, the culture of the company, the engagement levels of the franchisees and most importantly the willingness and strength of leadership teams to evolve the FAC into unchartered waters which require self-reflection, trust and courage.

Corina Vucic has been involved in the franchising industry for more than 15 years. Corina is the 2012 FCA Woman in Franchising (Vic/Tas) and a Victoria Chapter Committee member of the Franchise Council of Australia. Corina is an experienced and highly qualified mentor, trainer and business coach.

FC Business Solutions is an integrated consultancy firm specialising in developing, growing and marketing franchise systems. A professional team provides expert service exclusively to the franchise community, in system development, marketing and communications, business health checks, and business operations. They also offer solutions in documentation, training, and human resources.

Contact Corina on:

P: 03 9533 0028