THE ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES OF A STRONG FRANCHISE RELATIONSHIP
No business, be it a franchise or a privately owned company, exists in a vacuum and nor is success frozen in time. This was made very clear last year when the pandemic challenged businesses across the globe and we were all forced to innovate and respond very quickly to a rapidly changing situation in order to survive.
A successful launch is one thing, but to be successful long-term – to really build a franchise brand that lasts – requires constant review, work, commitment, courage and improvement. Time can work in your favour if you’re smart about it – it allows for strong relationships to be developed, brands to be fostered and innovation to thrive. Time can also work against you if you’re not careful and can see franchises negatively affected by competition, stagnation and drops in standards.
Whether you’re new to the franchise world or have many years under your belt, here are some of the key considerations for sustaining a franchise that not only lasts long-term but thrives. And remember, long-term success is the responsibility of both the franchisee and the franchisor, who can together create a partnership for a bright future.
The world around a franchise doesn’t stay the same, so nor can you. This is not about constantly changing your core offering or brand, it’s about carefully considered shifts that are in line with significant movements in client behaviors, needs and expectations that change over time. Influencing factors can include new industry trends, developments in science or technology and even changes to laws and major world events, which we all experienced first-hand during 2020. Much of this rests on the shoulders of the franchisor, but as a franchisee, once you get comfortable and your business is nicely established, it pays to look at how you can evolve your individual offering and add your own touches to add value and improve experiences for customers. Ensure you get the basics right first, however, before you turn your attention to evolution.
Treasure your brand
Once your brand is established, it more than just a logo. With it comes core values and the cultural vibe of the company. Respecting it, protecting it and making key choices in line with it is the responsibility of both the franchisor and the franchisee. Your brand is a reflection of what you do, more so than what you say. While the franchisor sets the ultimate vision, the franchisees are the key to the ultimate success of the brand, as they are there on the front line every day. They are the brand ambassadors! It’s important to have a collaborative approach and open lines of communication regarding marketing plans and strategies.
Regularly review processes
There is no room in franchises for processes that don’t work and one of the biggest assets you have the longer you’re in business is a solid understanding of what works well and what doesn’t. The key is acting on this knowledge and ensuring that things that are no longer working are cut as quickly as possible. The longer you’ve been running, the more you’re in danger of becoming complacent and also falling into ‘group think’ patterns that reinforce inefficiencies in the business. To avoid this, reviews of processes and structures should be formal and scheduled regularly, at both a franchisor and franchisee level, with members of the business responsible for implementing and communicating the outcomes of those reviews.
Trust and strong relationships
The relationship between franchisor and franchisee is an important part of long-term success. The franchisor needs to have strong integrity and build two-way communication with franchisees. For franchisees, trust in the prescribed operational systems is important, balanced with input and feedback to the franchisor based on ‘on the ground’ experience and local knowledge. A well-balanced franchisor-franchisee relationship can greatly contribute to long-term growth. Relationships with suppliers are also crucial – strong relationships here help ensure reliable, smooth-running of the business and also allow for negotiating financial efficiencies that benefit the entire franchise network.
When both franchisor and franchisee embrace creativity the sky is the limit. This isn’t just about coming up with new product or service ideas, it’s about being able to approach problems in unique ways, think outside the box, see things from a different perspective (be that the franchisor seeing things from a franchisee’s perspective or the franchisee seeing things from a customer’s point of view). It’s also about being open-minded and flexible. Creativity can give franchises a serious edge over the competition, foster innovation, support evolution and drive growth.
Clarity and commitment to roles
When a franchisee enters an agreement with a franchisor, both agree to commit to their respective roles. These roles should be clearly defined and both parties dedicated to adhering to them. These roles can differ from franchise to franchise, but as an example, the following aspects usually apply to each role description:
The franchisor is responsible for:
- providing franchisees with the tools, systems, materials, guidelines, training and support they need to succeed
- ensuring the smooth operation of the system and maintaining high quality standards
- watching and adapting to new technology, trends and customer needs
- maintaining a brand relevance and awareness.
The franchisee is responsible for:
- following the systems and training
- maintaining high product/service quality standards and adhering to brand guidelines
- being responsible for staff
- reporting to the franchisor as required
- participating in marketing campaigns.
It is the franchisor’s responsibility to ensure consistency in execution of each franchise and ensure brand standards and operational requirements are upheld and fit outs meet specifications, while also respecting a franchisee’s independence. On the flip side, it is the franchisees responsibility to respect the need for consistency and the important role it plays in the overall success of a franchise chain. It is this consistency that adds value not just to a single franchise but to the brand as a whole and every other franchisee. Consistency reinforces the strength of the brand in the customer’s eyes and is one of the most powerful attributes of the franchise business model.
Overall, it’s important to remember that franchises are a unique and powerful business model. If this uniqueness is properly embraced and respected at all levels, and all parties maintain a sense of cooperation and have an honest desire to see the entire system succeed, then it will - and long-term success is much more likely.
Ian is the CEO for Belgravia Health and Fitness, the largest collection of fitness/health franchises in Australia. He has over 25 years’ experience in running businesses both in Australia and internationally. Belgravia Health and Fitness is a fitness franchise company with over 20 years’ experience in creating active, healthy communities. Its portfolio includes Genesis Health + Fitness, Coaching Zone Group Personal Training, JUMP! Swim Schools, Belgravia Kids and Ninja Parc Indoor Obstacle Courses.