Franchising is a service industry

Julie Finch-Scally, Founder, The Duster Dollies

This article appears in the Sep/Oct 2014 issue of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand

Any business can be franchised. All that is required is a system. When everything in the business procedure is systemised it can be duplicated and become the perfect vehicle for a franchise. All a franchisee then needs to do is follow the manual that describes and explains the system.

That of course is the easy part. It is the unwritten things like personality, how to communicate with customers and how often the book work needs to be updated that are not always written in a manual as part of a business system.

If you have aspirations of enlarging your business into a franchise, you will find when choosing your franchisees, consideration should be given towards their personality and communication abilities.

All businesses provide a service to a customer. Whether it is a retail business that sells products through the internet, or a service industry where customers are visited in their home, office or served over the counter, every business requires the operator to communicate with a customer. We’ve all been into cafés where the person bringing over the coffee is bubbling with personality, and notices straight away that the teaspoon is missing. And seen the opposite where the coffee is practically thrown down in front of you and you have to ask for the napkins but wish you hadn’t because of the look you receive.

If you considered the latter person not suitable to the service industry you would probably be right, and you would be hesitant to take them on as one of your franchisees. The former assistant would not only make you want to return to that café another day but would be considered an asset to any business.

When starting up a franchise this is a large problem facing all franchisors. Taking on your first franchisee is the hardest part. Anyone who is interested looks promising, and if they are keen and have the money, checking whether or not they would be  a worthwhile franchisee gets forgotten. Most franchise application forms request information about financial details and work backgrounds, they will also ask details of schooling and names of people who can be contacted for a reference, but rarely do forms try and find out whether the prospective franchisee would be the right person to work with.

Emails, phone calls and face to face contact require an ability to communicate. An ability to ask the right questions to ascertain what a customer really wants, the ability to hold one’s temper when things go wrong and the customer becomes angry or even abusive. No the customer is not always right, but being able to discuss matters calmly no matter what the customer’s mood is an art and not everyone possesses this.

Can these abilities be taught? You can write in a manual what a person should do when this or that happens, and over time they will become adept at handling these problems, but people who have the right personality to start with will find it a lot  easier.

Because many people granted a franchise don’t have that initial friendly and cooperative personality they quite often have to be nurtured until they can handle all types of customer’s problems and successfully operate their business. It is this nurturing that makes franchising a service industry. As a franchisor your customer is the franchisee. It is your duty to see they make a success of the business.

According to the Oxford dictionary the word ‘Service’ doesn’t only mean servitude. The definition given for service of a customer is ‘Expert assistance or advice given by manufacturers or vendors’. As a franchisor has developed a system and sold the  concept onto a franchisee this type of service is the requirement of a franchisor. Many franchisors will tell you that it is up to the franchisee to make their franchise a success. And if the franchisee does not follow the system and expects the business to make money without any effort, then this would be correct. But what about those new franchisees that are keen but have never run a business before, never worked in the industry they have just chosen and do not have a great deal of confidence in their own ability?

Every time you read an advert for franchisees you will see the same kind of person required. Every franchisor is looking for people with ‘drive’; ‘passion’; ‘never believe in compromising on quality’; ‘become part of a team’; ‘like a challenge’; all great  qualities. But not everyone can be like that, and if they are they have probably already started their own franchise. Unfortunately, because Australia has the highest number of franchised organisations in the world for its population, every franchisor  has to be content with people who might only have one of two of those required qualities. And because of this, the new franchisee has to be taken care of and nurtured until they can stand on their own two feet and run their business with confidence.

Ongoing training of new franchisees is a must. Too many franchisors think once a person is shown what to do they can be left to their own devices. This can lead to some very unhappy franchisees, and franchisors have been taken to court because  their franchisee isn’t earning what they expected and blame the franchisor for the problem. Each franchisor has the responsibility to see their franchisees are successful. Yes this can be expensive and time consuming, but if you want your franchise to  be run well and your brand to become well known, all your franchisees will need to be supportive and enjoy running their business.

How can you achieve this? Firstly ensure when granting a franchise you know the person, their family and their personality. You might find it useful prior to presenting the prospective franchisee the Franchise Agreement to invite yourself to a meal in their home. Spending a couple of hours in that person’s own surroundings will give you an insight into their personality. Oh yes, everyone will be on their best behaviour when you first arrive but by the time you have eaten and are ready to leave everyone will have relaxed and be their regular selves.

It is also wise to get the prospective owner to join in on a normal days work. Sometimes people’s concepts of what they are required to do as a franchisee is less than the job demands. This process not only helps you get an insight as to whether they  will fit in, it lets them discover if it is the kind of work they want to do.

Make the day when they signup as a new franchisee a celebration. Invite your employees, franchisees and their and your families to the signing and induction. People will feel part of a team straight away if they meet everyone and are made welcome  right from the beginning. They will become part of your extended family; part of the company and feel more at home. Spread the training amongst other franchisees. This way the new member will not feel isolated, but part of the team. It will also  make it easier for your franchisees to get on with each other. Franchisees need to be able to talk and support each other. Having that depth of friendship between your franchisees will keep your franchise family together.

On a weekly or monthly basis hold franchisee meetings to discuss your plans and any problems that may have occurred. Remember meetings can be linked by phone or video instead of everyone having to travel. These kinds of meetings make everyone feel not only part of the team but a member of your large family.

Also hold an annual conference where all your franchisees can meet and catch up. Make it a weekend affair. The franchisees pay their own way, all you do is organise the accommodation, the conference and the meals. Have a section in the Franchise Agreement about everyone attending. Hold your awards night during the conference and make all your franchisees feel important. Hand over some of the conference tasks to some of the franchisees. If they can work as a group with other franchisees  everyone will feel they are important and needed.

As a franchisor you need your franchisees on side. One unhappy franchisee can cause more damage by spreading their discontent amongst the others very quickly. Unless you have support from the other franchisees that will quell any objections or  help the unhappy franchisee sort out their problems, you could see all your hard work disappear overnight. By being available at all times and supporting your franchisees so they know if they have a problem they can call upon you, is part of the  service of providing and selling a franchise. In other words being a franchisor.

Provide service to your franchisees and they will provide a service to their customers, help your company to grow and become well known thereby becoming a great success.

Julie Finch-Scally spent twenty years in the cleaning industry by establishing and becoming the Managing Director and Franchisor of The Duster Dollies until her retirement in 2012. Julie is now well known as The Guru of Cleaning® and currently  provides advice on all aspects of cleaning through her books and the media.

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