Could this mean death to the franchise salesman?

Julia Camm Evans, Founder, Corven

The franchise recruitment process refers to how franchisors attract, assess and appoint franchisees. The term ‘recruitment’ is useful and at the same time a problem with peacocking, the halo affect and the Top Gun Factor, says Julia Camm Evans.

Think of the last time you were travelling overseas.

The excitement of choosing where to go, packing your bag making sure you have everything, arriving at the airport, getting your paperwork done and going through a series of checks – checking in, customs and security – before you are on that plane, heading towards your new adventure.

Well, the franchise recruitment process is a lot like that. The process is a series of steps that evaluates the suitability of a prospective franchisee, assesses their current abilities and make judgements about their future and making sure all the paperwork is in order – checking in, customers and security.

The term recruitment is useful in describing the process as current practices mirror, in many ways, the process used to recruit employees. There is rapport to build, interviews to conduct, checks to make, tests to complete and research to be done before a decision is made. Yep, it’s similar to recruiting employees.

The term recruitment is useful in guiding structure and the sequence of activities for appointing franchisees. It is also useful in setting an expectation of what is going to occur through the process, as most prospective franchisees have probably been employees at some point and have been through the recruitment process. It’s familiar.

The term recruitment is useful, and at the same time slightly problematic in regards to promoting and delivering informed decision making. In my world, informed decision making is all about making a confident, well-assessed choice where a person willingly accepts the role, obligations and risk of the opportunity. An informed decision is where a reasoned choice is made by a reasonable person, using relevant information about the advantages and disadvantages of all the possible courses of action, in accordance with their beliefs and goals.

Informed decision making relies on learning, and for prospective franchisees this means acquiring new knowledge, skills and forming attitudes on franchising and on the specific franchise opportunity. Knowledge, skills and attitudes combine to form ‘competency’ – a term that
indicates someone can do something under certain conditions to a particular standard. Following this line of thought, the franchise recruitment process itself is a learning process, providing prospective franchisees with more knowledge and skills.

Government review, after review, after review continually point to the role and importance of learning and education, with the mantra of “do due diligence, do your homework, do pre-entry education”. It’s clear. Prospective franchisee competency development is a key contributor to informed decision making.

As a result, the franchise recruitment process has the greatest of obligations in franchising – assessing prospective franchisee competency and what they have learned through due diligence and pre-entry education.

The franchise sector appears to embrace the sentiment, the ideal, of pre-entry education and due diligence so everyone involved can make an informed decision... but do we truly embrace it in practice?

I want to tackle this from a franchisor perspective, as I believe this is where we can get some quick wins in meeting the call from Government reviews about ramping up the impact of due diligence and pre-entry education on informed decision making.

Here’s problem number one: assessing a prospect’s knowledge and skills achieved from pre-entry education and due diligence. Of course we encourage prospective franchisees to “do due diligence, do your homework, do pre-entry education”... it’s the right thing to do.

But do we really gather worthwhile evidence of learning and understanding? How do we know that they know? What are we doing about filling the knowledge gaps... and are we filling the gaps with useful knowledge, or sales spin? Simply attending a pre-entry education program doesn’t guarantee competency. Simply having an accountant or lawyer sign off on a certificate does not guarantee competency. Placing the onus on prospective franchisees to gain knowledge and skills through self-directed learning doesn’t always deliver consistent results.

Problem number two: franchisee competency profile.

Franchisors appear to select prospective franchisees against profile of ideal and identified knowledge, skills and attitudes that are needed for successful business performance. It is not just current competencies we are aiming to determine, but we make judgements about
their potential. So, how do you do this? Is it an intuitive guess, or is it grounded in structure and science?

Problem number three: your contribution to, and measuring, informed decision making. If your franchisee recruitment processes favours a more sales approach, rather than a competency-based assessment one, ‘peacocking’ occurs. Here we see both franchisors and
prospective franchisee strut around, positioning themselves as ideal selections. They are selling themselves to each other and they enter into a cycle of mutual excitement about the other without really cutting through the spin to ascertain if they do what they say they can do, and have what they say they have.

Similar to peacocking, yet slightly different, is the ‘halo’ affect [this happens in employee recruitment too].

The halo affect is where franchisors select prospects based on how they are similar to current franchisees, and assume a skill set or particular capability without actually assessing for it. The halo affect is evident with justification statements like “They’ll be great. They are
exactly like Viv and Alex from Newcastle”... or, “Not likely. You know what happened last time we recruited someone from [insert country name].”
Also, assessing for prospective franchisee competency is often minimised due to the ‘Top Gun’ Factor... the need for speed - speed to expand, pressure to meet site construction timelines, quotas and individual performance measures.

Peacocking, the halo affect and the Top Gun Factor gloss over the critical practices of helping prospective franchisees learn more about franchising and assessing what they have learned. Remember, the franchise recruitment process has the greatest obligation in assessing
competencies required for informed decision making.

Maybe franchisors don’t place value in competency assessments or don’t know how to do it. Maybe. But know this: prospective franchisees may seize the opportunity to sell themselves as rock star candidates knowing that their competencies won’t be tested or

So, does this mean death of the franchise salesman?

No, not really. Highlighting the goodness of franchising and the features and benefits of your franchise is accepted and expected. What I suggest is are enhancements to what franchisors currently do, so everyone can declare with hand on heart, hope to die, stick a needle
in my eye, that informed decision making was reached.

Perhaps a complete overhaul is required, but a slight lean towards learning practices to complement all the other recruitment activities you do will keep me happy.

Two very quick and simple enhancements that you can do today include:

1. Develop a Franchisee Competency Profile so you can assess your prospects against. Start by asking yourself: what core knowledge, skills and attitudes do we need evidence of before prospects can move through to the next stage of the franchise recruitment process?
Your competencies will be based on a delicate combination of experience, history and an ideal, knowing that your training and in field support can fill the gaps. A psychometric assessment can form part of this profile, but it’s not all of it.

You may want to consider categorising your competencies into four categories: what do franchisees need to know and do in regards to the concept of franchising, business management, financial management and operations. Because, as we all know, these four categories of competencies are what maketh the franchisee.

2. To assess for these four categories of competencies, you need to determine how you will gather evidence. This encourages a move beyond peacocking, the halo affect and the Top Gun Factor and backs up your decision as to why a particular prospect was selected.

Evidence is the hard-core combination of written, verbal and observed competency-in-action and can be achieved through franchisees completing a series of learning-based activities, such as:

— Case studies, asking the prospect to prioritise, solve, analyse or interpret information.
— Role plays or live interaction centred around customer service.
— Language, literacy and numeracy testing.
— Successful completion of online training modules.
— On site experience... and the list can go on, and does.

Promoters and critics of franchising support increased due diligence and pre-entry education, indicating a learning-lead revolution for informed decision making.

If it is to be a learning-lead revolution, then let’s add learning practices into the mix and do our bit for informed decision making.

So, when was the last time you changed, updated or refreshed your franchise recruitment process?

Since 1995, Julia Camm Evans has been working with franchisors achieve more from their education and training efforts.

She is the founder of research firm Corven, who have produced a series of practical reports on franchisee learning and training. She can be contacted via email and you can access research reports and articles from the Corven website.


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