Empathy, Definition, And Compliance: The Recipe For Strong Franchisee Relationships

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Empathy, Definition, And Compliance: The Recipe For Strong Franchisee Relationships


Steve Adams, JUSTJUNK Director Of Marketing (White Shirt), enjoying a dinner out with 3 Franchise OwnersMike Thorne

If you put in the work, the lifelong relationships that can be forged between the franchisor and franchise owners can be one of the best parts about owning a franchise. Despite both parties being business partners with defined roles and a common goal, the relationship is dynamic with many ups, downs, twists, and turns. In Canada, headlines are dominated by the issues between a select few Tim Hortons franchisees who take their beefs with the franchisor public, airing their grievances on a national stage.

Fortunately, at JUSTJUNK we have been very lucky to have an amicable, tight-knit working relationship with all of our franchisees. Part of this is luck but, actually, most of it is by design. Within our organization or other franchise systems, most issues can be boiled down to three things that, if better articulated and understood, will save both the franchisee and franchisor a tonne of time, energy and frustration.

Compliance – The Dreaded C Word

Many franchisees despise this word and, to be honest, so do I. It is a very misunderstood word amongst franchise systems. Although they get into business to be their own boss, franchise owners are part of a larger network of multiple owners under a national brand and with that comes oversight and expectations. Adhering to predetermined standards is critical to maintaining superior service levels and a great brand image in the eyes of the customer.

For instance, the only way to ensure local truck teams and owners are delivering on our brand promises is to “inspect what we expect”. Most franchisees don’t love the idea of big brother looking over their shoulder, however, if we don’t ensure that all members of the business are compliant with policies and procedures it could put the brand at risk. I had one owner who wanted to change our logo, brand colours and truck decal design. Had we not enforced strict compliance to the franchise system, who knows what we would have ended up with.

Key performance indicators, annual inspections, mandated online training, random audits, structured meetings, and uniform and truck cleanliness standards exist within our franchise system and franchisees must comply with them. When a franchise owner isn’t compliant with a particular policy or procedure we work with them to understand whether there were factors beyond their control that led to them not being compliant. We’ve also added into our newest franchise agreement the exact steps we would follow as a franchisor if non-compliance continued so there would be no surprises on how the issues would be analyzed and handled if non-compliant behaviour repeats.

We don’t invest the time, money, energy and effort as franchisors to enforce compliance as a make-work exercise, we do it because it is proven to boost local franchise performance and profitability. To disavow them will affect your business regardless of how big or small the act. Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, famously said: “Our aim was to ensure repeat business based on the system’s reputation rather than on the quality of a single store or operator.” Compliance needs to be embraced and rallied around by everyone in the franchise system. Our compliance culture continues to improve year after year to a point where neighbouring franchisees now reinforce the importance of compliance with fellow neighbouring franchise owners.

Defined Roles

I’ve found when franchise locations are not growing at the rate they had hoped, fingers begin pointing. The Franchisee asks the famous old question” “what have you done for me lately?” and the Franchisor in return, goes through a list of 101 initiatives they rolled out to improve the business and the question turns back around to the franchise owner, “what have you done to grow your franchise?”

Clearly articulating and defining each party’s roles and responsibilities will eliminate – or at least reduce – the responsibility debate. If a franchise owner knows the top ten most impactful activities they can perform to boost their business, the first place we drill into when business slows is to those activities. We ensure that as the franchisor, we are able to check every box detailing what we are doing for the franchisee.

Making roles and responsibilities very black and white makes it super simple for both parties to determine where improvements need to be made and use that as a starting point for moving forward.

Empathetic Problem Solving

I find in today’s society, people have strong negative reactions; people can be too quick to judge, condemn and criticize – so too can franchisees and franchisors. I’ve witnessed franchisors being too quick to dismiss their franchise owners’ concerns and franchisees that have been too quick to the trigger, dismissing the judgment of the franchisor without all the facts at hand.

Creating an empathic culture where everyone is aware of and attentive to one another’s differences and seeking to understand all aspects of an issue before passing judgment goes a long way to fostering a healthy franchise relationship. I’ve had many conversations over the years with franchise owners requesting they take a “cooling off period” before they respond to a situation and recommend they only reply once they have all facts at hand.

Typically the way they handle the situation once they have all the facts is radically different from their initial reaction.

Our corporate team diligently analyzes all negative incidents that our customers report, however, we always strive to first understand both sides of the story before weighing in on the resolution. Approaching issues in a non-combative manner first, with a genuine curiosity to understand what might have gone wrong builds trust, strengthens morale and creates a collaborative culture for continual improvement.

I am a strong believer that all franchise systems need to take a hard look at what is and isn’t working between the franchisee and franchisor relationship and develop an action plan to squash any recurring conflicts or redundant debates that continue to surface between them. The secret to successful franchise systems stems from the organization’s ability to align all franchisees and corporate team members so everyone can channel their valuable time into positive and fulfilling customer-focused activities.

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Steve Adams, JUSTJUNK Director Of Marketing (White Shirt), enjoying a dinner out with 3 Franchise OwnersMike Thorne

If you put in the work, the lifelong relationships that can be forged between the franchisor and franchise owners can be one of the best parts about owning a franchise. Despite both parties being business partners with defined roles and a common goal, the relationship is dynamic with many ups, downs, twists, and turns. In Canada, headlines are dominated by the issues between a select few Tim Hortons franchisees who take their beefs with the franchisor public, airing their grievances on a national stage.

Fortunately, at JUSTJUNK we have been very lucky to have an amicable, tight-knit working relationship with all of our franchisees. Part of this is luck but, actually, most of it is by design. Within our organization or other franchise systems, most issues can be boiled down to three things that, if better articulated and understood, will save both the franchisee and franchisor a tonne of time, energy and frustration.

Compliance – The Dreaded C Word

Many franchisees despise this word and, to be honest, so do I. It is a very misunderstood word amongst franchise systems. Although they get into business to be their own boss, franchise owners are part of a larger network of multiple owners under a national brand and with that comes oversight and expectations. Adhering to predetermined standards is critical to maintaining superior service levels and a great brand image in the eyes of the customer.

For instance, the only way to ensure local truck teams and owners are delivering on our brand promises is to “inspect what we expect”. Most franchisees don’t love the idea of big brother looking over their shoulder, however, if we don’t ensure that all members of the business are compliant with policies and procedures it could put the brand at risk. I had one owner who wanted to change our logo, brand colours and truck decal design. Had we not enforced strict compliance to the franchise system, who knows what we would have ended up with.

Key performance indicators, annual inspections, mandated online training, random audits, structured meetings, and uniform and truck cleanliness standards exist within our franchise system and franchisees must comply with them. When a franchise owner isn’t compliant with a particular policy or procedure we work with them to understand whether there were factors beyond their control that led to them not being compliant. We’ve also added into our newest franchise agreement the exact steps we would follow as a franchisor if non-compliance continued so there would be no surprises on how the issues would be analyzed and handled if non-compliant behaviour repeats.

We don’t invest the time, money, energy and effort as franchisors to enforce compliance as a make-work exercise, we do it because it is proven to boost local franchise performance and profitability. To disavow them will affect your business regardless of how big or small the act. Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, famously said: “Our aim was to ensure repeat business based on the system’s reputation rather than on the quality of a single store or operator.” Compliance needs to be embraced and rallied around by everyone in the franchise system. Our compliance culture continues to improve year after year to a point where neighbouring franchisees now reinforce the importance of compliance with fellow neighbouring franchise owners.

Defined Roles

I’ve found when franchise locations are not growing at the rate they had hoped, fingers begin pointing. The Franchisee asks the famous old question” “what have you done for me lately?” and the Franchisor in return, goes through a list of 101 initiatives they rolled out to improve the business and the question turns back around to the franchise owner, “what have you done to grow your franchise?”

Clearly articulating and defining each party’s roles and responsibilities will eliminate – or at least reduce – the responsibility debate. If a franchise owner knows the top ten most impactful activities they can perform to boost their business, the first place we drill into when business slows is to those activities. We ensure that as the franchisor, we are able to check every box detailing what we are doing for the franchisee.

Making roles and responsibilities very black and white makes it super simple for both parties to determine where improvements need to be made and use that as a starting point for moving forward.

Empathetic Problem Solving

I find in today’s society, people have strong negative reactions; people can be too quick to judge, condemn and criticize – so too can franchisees and franchisors. I’ve witnessed franchisors being too quick to dismiss their franchise owners’ concerns and franchisees that have been too quick to the trigger, dismissing the judgment of the franchisor without all the facts at hand.

Creating an empathic culture where everyone is aware of and attentive to one another’s differences and seeking to understand all aspects of an issue before passing judgment goes a long way to fostering a healthy franchise relationship. I’ve had many conversations over the years with franchise owners requesting they take a “cooling off period” before they respond to a situation and recommend they only reply once they have all facts at hand.

Typically the way they handle the situation once they have all the facts is radically different from their initial reaction.

Our corporate team diligently analyzes all negative incidents that our customers report, however, we always strive to first understand both sides of the story before weighing in on the resolution. Approaching issues in a non-combative manner first, with a genuine curiosity to understand what might have gone wrong builds trust, strengthens morale and creates a collaborative culture for continual improvement.

I am a strong believer that all franchise systems need to take a hard look at what is and isn’t working between the franchisee and franchisor relationship and develop an action plan to squash any recurring conflicts or redundant debates that continue to surface between them. The secret to successful franchise systems stems from the organization’s ability to align all franchisees and corporate team members so everyone can channel their valuable time into positive and fulfilling customer-focused activities.

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