The Seven Deadly Sins of Franchise Relationships

Greg Nathan, Founder, Franchise Relationships Institute

This article appears in the January/February 2014 issue of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand


Over the years I have spoken in some depth with hundreds of franchisor executives about their experiences working with franchisees.

I have found most of these people to be genuinely motivated by a desire to see their franchisees prosper. Yet most, at one time or another, find themselves harboring feelings of frustration or hurt, brought on by what they see as unreasonable or  vindictive behavior by their franchisees.

Although such interpersonal tension comes with the job of being a franchisor, it is in the interests of franchisees and franchisors to work at building good relationships with each other.

In the past I have argued strongly that it is a franchisor’s responsibility to ensure the relationships they have with their franchisees are effectively managed. However this will only work if franchisees also take responsibility for keeping their franchisor on side.

In this article I will share some research findings on seven types of franchisee behavior that gets franchisors off-side and thus damages the franchise relationship. Perhaps we could call them the seven deadly sins of franchise relationships.

1 The Blame Game

Human beings have an uncanny ability to interpret events to suit their own interests. For instance, we like to take the credit when things go well in our work, however, when we are not getting the results we expect we tend to instinctively look for a cause outside of ourselves.

Similarly, when sales are going well the franchisee may attribute this to their own hard work and talent. But if sales drop the franchisor will often get blamed, sometimes unfairly. This only serves to frustrate and demotivate franchisor staff and  certainly does nothing to enhance their creativity or desire to try new marketing initiatives in the future.

Instead of waiting until sales are dropping, why not give your franchisor a call when sales are going well and congratulate them on the excellent marketing support they have provided. You will be building goodwill and reinforcing the franchisor to  continue their creative efforts for your benefit.

2 The Slack Attack

Nothing annoys franchisor staff more than a franchise operation that looks run down and shabby due to a lack of effort by the franchisee.

Franchisees who take the maintenance of standards and day-to-day routines seriously can almost guarantee the respect and support of their franchisor. In a franchise environment, slacking on operational standards gives everyone a bad name and is certainly unlikely to win you many friends or customers.

3 The Frank Sinatra Syndrome

“I Did It My Way” may be a song that franchisors love to sing. But it is not a tune they like to hear from their franchisees.

Experimenting with your franchisor’s concept without prior consultation is bound to get you into hot water so be sure to use proper channels for trying out new ideas.

For instance you might participate in a product advisory team. If you are a particularly creative person, why not arrange to have your business used as a research and development site?

4 The Clingon Reaction

Although businesses must change if they are to remain in touch with their customer’s needs, when changes are proposed in a franchise network, they tend to be greeted with a range of responses.

While many franchisees will consider the changes with an open mind, some will habitually reject the proposals outright without properly considering the merits of the change.

I call this the “Clingon Reaction”, clinging on to the past, without any logical reason, even if it means becoming out of step with your customers.

Rather than putting your franchisor in a position where they feel they have to drag you kicking and screaming, why not investigate the change with an open mind by asking questions and weighing up the risks and opportunities in a logical manner.

5 Bulletin Blindness

A common task for franchisor staff is taking irate phone calls from franchisees who indignantly ask “Why wasn’t I told?”. The response is typically, “Francis, if you read the bulletin that was sent to you last week you will find all your questions have been fully answered”.

Despite being busy and having to attend to 101 urgent details, if you are a franchisee it is vital that you take the time to read the information sent to you by your franchisor.

They will no doubt have been carefully prepared with important information on a range of topics to help you with your business.

6 Blowing Up

If you have ever had a boil you will know how painful they can be.

What happens is the poison builds up under the skin, creating more and more pressure, until eventually it erupts with a vengeance.

Feelings of frustration and resentment can behave in a similar way if they are not appropriately expressed. They build up until they are eventually released in a tirade of poisonous abuse. This makes everyone feel awkward and can damage long-term relationships.

Part of every franchisee’s training and induction should include lessons in how to complain effectively. Saying what’s on your mind in a straightforward and honest manner before things blow up is a more positive and effective way to manage your relationship with your franchisor.

7 Playing Prisoner

When you bought into your franchise you hopefully made a properly researched and informed decision. The franchisor was not pushing you or twisting your arm.

Yet some franchisees, when faced with difficult or challenging times, behave as though they are prisoners of the system or part of a conspiracy designed to take away their sense of responsibility or freedom.

As mature adults we are all responsible for our own decisions. Expecting others to make our decisions for us, or playing the role of victim when things don’t go as we expected serves no-one’s interests.

Franchisors are far more likely to respond in a constructive manner if a franchisee with business problems takes the attitude, “I have some problems and I need some help and advice. But at the end of the day I accept that I have to take my own decisions.”

The franchise relationship is of course a two way street and franchisors are also prone to their own seven sins. But this is another story.

Greg Nathan is a psychologist, Founder of the Franchise Relationships Institute and author of Profitable Partnerships, the world’s most popular book on how to create positive franchise relationships.

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