Conversational Navigation in Franchising

Bianca Keys, Assistant Franchising Mediation Adviser, OFMA


Navigating conversations and navigating road trips - they each have their challenges. The map (or in the case of franchise conversations the protocol or the agreement) may be difficult to read, or there may be times where the path seems arduous, an uphill battle (or downhill fall), and there may certainly be stages that seem slippery and unsafe. There may not be a clear road paved, so you might find yourself championing a path through roughage and dangers unknown. Or everything might seem simple and smooth, yet just as you fall into a lulled sense of security, a sharp turn can jolt you with fear and the need to react on pure instinct.

In most cases a map may do wonders, but there is nevertheless a time when you may need to ask directions.

In the language of difficult conversation this helpful stranger by the roadside is referred to as a mediator.

However, just as some individuals do everything possible to avoid asking for directions on a road trip, there are many who feel that they ‘should’ be able to navigate their way through conversations without the need for external assistance. If this is possible, that is great. But not everything is within our control and sometimes we just end up lost.

A mediator is a trained specialist; armed with every communication and facilitation tool you can imagine, helping you and the other person forge a path to effective communication. Any mediator on the panel of the Office of the Franchising Mediation Adviser (OFMA) must also be experienced in franchising, so that those needing assistance can feel confident that their helpful stranger is also an informed individual.

Many will associate the word mediator with the words ‘conflict’ or ‘dispute’ and it can be quite a confronting thought to describe yourself as being in either situation. But a relationship does not have to be conflicted or litigious in any extreme way for mediation to be an effective forum. Any difference or difficulty can benefit from the presence of someone that is not connected to the topic of conversation. This is particularly true for franchise relationships, where preserving an ongoing relationship may be key to discussions. Mediation does not have to be about damage control or ending the relationship (although this can be true for some circumstances). Franchise mediation can be effectively used as prevention rather than a cure and as an opportunity to build more profitable working relationships.

The idea of mediation is to empower those who are having the conversation to be able to have it in an effective and meaningful way. The goal of this might be as simple as clarifying what needs to be discussed or may involve exploration of one or many issues with a view to finding a workable outcome. The role of the mediator is to facilitate this in a way that makes the goal possible, without taking sides or making judgements. A mediator will be used to conversations ‘hitting a wall’, that, to those involved may seem insurmountable. The comforting thing is that a mediator has helped people over the wall before, and they can do it again...if you are willing to try.

Mediation is being effectively used in the franchising industry because, let’s face it, as soon as you have more than one person in a space you face differences, difficulties, politics, miscommunications, resistance to change or a rush to get to it, and a number of other descriptors.

For some, there might be the feeling that they are just a ‘little bit lost’ and don’t necessarily need mediation at this stage. In such cases, where perhaps there is one issue, or a couple of straightforward ones, or where the quantum in question does not justify the fee for mediation, OFMA may be able to assist through their Early Intervention Service. This is a voluntary, informal and confidential service whereby OFMA assists through facilitating communications via telephone and email, with a view to finding common ground and possible outcomes.

Mediation and the Early Intervention Service each have their place in an effective franchise relationship. Systems, whether small or large, are like road trips through your career and an affective neutral third party can be just the GPS you require. Taking that first step to ask the stranger by the roadside for some directional assistance can save you time, money, and the frustration of becoming lost, all of which are draining on the individual and the system within which they operate.

For more information on having ‘that difficult conversation’ contact your GPS/Mediator now. Before you find yourself lost.

The role of the Office of the Franchising Mediation Adviser (OFMA) has been established under the Franchising Code of Conduct. OFMA assist parties to a franchise agreement to resolve their issues in a time and cost effective manner, utilising the skills of experienced franchise mediators across Australia. Contact with OFMA is confidential and negotiations are on a without prejudice basis. For further information visit OFMA’s website or contact them on the number below.

Phone: 1800 150 667 (free call)