Effective communication: Getting support rather than resistance from your franchisees

Bianca Keys, Assistant Franchising Mediation Advisor, OFMA

The New Year is a perfect time for setting intentions and creating the building blocks for a successful year ahead. As a franchisor, prosperity is a wonderful vision to have. But what does it mean if you are the only person on the journey? Effective communication and supportive relationships with your franchisees are the keys to unlocking this positive vision. To bring a system safely to destination success you need to include your colleagues and engage them in collaborative practices. In theory this sounds wonderful, although it is not always easy to put into practice, particularly if ‘the journey’ is fundamentally seen by your franchisees as change. For many people, change, however positive, is something that is feared or at best viewed with caution. To be truly effective in gaining support for your ideas and implementation strategies, you need to work on two important areas, 1. Preparation 2. Communication Preparation It is great to have enthusiasm for your ideas, but if enthusiasm is all that you burst into the room with, you are likely to be met with fear, doubt and scepticism. However, if you are well prepared you stand a much better chance of gaining support. Firstly, think about what might be important to your franchisees. What are the needs and goals that might be important to them? What intentions might they have in mind for 2013? Secondly, give some thought as to whether your own intentions are in line with these, or whether you need to spend time considering ways in which to meet both sets of objectives. Thirdly, put yourself into the shoes of the other person for a moment. If you were in their position, how would you like to receive the information that you (as yourself) wish to convey? Then spend some time considering the positive attributes that your franchisees bring to your business. How might you acknowledge these and include them in the implementation process? Finally, how can you best prepare your franchisees for an upcoming discussion so that they feel part of the process, rather than a mute audience being told what to do? Perhaps you could send an outline of your idea and ask for written feedback, develop and circulate a draft agenda for comment, or meet with individuals or small groups to get a sense of what is important to them this year? By doing this, you avoid a situation in which anyone feels surprised or excluded. In addition, you role model a collaborative and inclusive approach to have people join the journey (rather than be taken for a ride). Communication Even the best preparation can fall apart if the execution is not done properly. You might have done all of the above but then burst into the room with the previously mentioned enthusiasm, only to throw your ideas around the room at lightening speed. Instead, try the following, 1. Welcome and thank everyone for making themselves available, and for any comments or feedback that were previously provided. 2. If you are comfortable, acknowledge the positive attributes that you have thought of in preparing for this meeting and highlight the importance of those involved in making the year ahead a successful one. 3. Outline the items that you would like to discuss and any process for asking questions or having discussion. People like to know what to expect, even at a process level. 4. Be clear in communicating your ideas – slow down and realise that for many this will be the first time they will be hearing your ideas in full. They have not been privy to your late night internal dialogue, post-it notes and other thought processes. 5. Ask open questions of your audience. Invite them to give their thoughts, ideas and feedback. 6. LISTEN to what is being said. It may or may not be what you expected and you might need to tweak your ideas to meet the needs and goals of those you want to work with. 7. Be flexible and be prepared to brainstorm other ways to achieve your goals or to incorporate the goals of others. 8. Work with others to agree to times for progress meetings and leave the door open to comments and questions following the meeting. 9. Perhaps design a process for collaboration beyond the meeting, like a suggestion board or Facebook page. Something that everyone can be involved in if they so choose. The key is collaboration. If you prepare well, set the stage for inclusive dialogue AND be prepared to change if need be, then you are more likely to gain support for your vision and some company for the journey. Without this, success might not mean very much when there is only one glass of champagne to toast with. Finally, a note on the resources available to you if you find that resistance to new ideas escalates into conflict of some sort. The Office of the Franchising Mediation Adviser (OFMA) is an independent office, appointed by the Federal Minister for Small Business to provide mediation and other supportive services for disputes arising under the Franchising Code of Conduct. Where parties to a franchise agreement are in dispute, either one may contact OFMA and request information and assistance. The OFMA offers access to a panel of specialist franchise mediators so that you can have an effective conversation with your franchisee/s with a view to resolving issues in ways that meet the needs of both parties. The OFMA also offer a free Early Intervention Service for matters where there is only one or two straightforward issues that perhaps do not warrant the time or cost of a mediation process. It has been the experience of the OFMA that some franchise systems choose to use their service regularly – not because they have extensive or numerous issues, but because they choose to resolve issues at an early stage and in a collaborative “problem-solving” manner. If you are seeking information as to how you might effectively communicate and resolve a problem with your franchisee/s you can contact OFMA and they will go through the problem and possible services with you. All calls are confidential. Bianca Keys, Assistant Franchising Mediation Advisor. For further information contact: Phone: 1800 150 667 Web: www.franchisingmediationadviser.com.au

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