If you have started a business before that has failed, you certainly know what the feeling is like. Your rent payment seems like it comes every week and your customer’s payments get smaller in amounts and longer to collect every month. When a business is at that teetering point and will either fall into oblivion or rise through it to success, it’s easy to lose your nerve as a business owner and maybe throw in the towel on your business venture entirely. Franchisees go through this learning curve when they are working in their franchise business during the first several months of operation. Many franchisees purchased a franchise due to the fact they had never operated a business before and they wanted coaching, support and guidance that can come through a franchise model, so this sense of anxiety may be at all time highs for many new franchisees during these initial months of business.
As a franchisor, sometimes this is easy to forget and hard to relate to when coaching and mentoring new franchises to success. In fact, many franchisors make very poor coaches simply for the fact that they are wired differently than a franchisee and don’t understand the idea of being unnerved by risk. Herein lies one of the most significant issues related to new franchise growth is the franchisor’s ability to coach new franchisees through this initial ramp up phase and get them to maturity. So as a new franchisor, where the initial franchises are critical to the long term success of the franchise system, what can you do to support franchisees being more successful while maintaining that relationship?
- Put yourself in their shoes. They have probably not started a business before and this early venture for them can become overwhelming quickly. If you were a new entrepreneur, you’d want someone to work with you, respect your position and speak with you out of respect and concern for your success. I have found that good franchisors look to their franchisees as they would customers and they make sure they are happy and have a good experience in as many ways as possible within the franchise network.
- Focus on what is important to the Franchisee. Don’t spend time talking through operational, strategic or high level topics with an early franchisee who is consumed with generating revenue to cover their expenses and survive in their new business. It would be like speaking with a drowning person and explaining to them that after several years of swimming lessons, they will be able to deal with this scenario without any difficulty. The swimmer doesn’t care, they feel like they need to be saved from going under. Work with early stage franchisees with a keen eye for prioritizing elements of your discussion to focus on their concerns first. If a franchisee is having trouble generating leads, focus your support on lead generation, ask whether your recommendations worked, assess and continue.
- Relationships matter. So much of the early stage franchisee’s reason for investing in your franchise model was because they believed in YOU as the founder or leader of the company. If it weren’t for you, they most likely would have invested in a larger brand. They saw qualities in you that they were attracted to and pushed them to invest in your franchise. I have seen times where a franchisor who is great in pursuing the franchisee and then not so great at maintaining the relationship after the sale which really puts off the franchisee with a sense of “now you don’t care about me?” Take the extra step, put in the extra effort and spend the time on the phone, in dinners, getting to know people’s families and lives so that you can show franchisees that you care about them and their success.
- Know the numbers. Understand when the business should begin to cash flow and how to reference your corporate numbers and experience. Know what the benchmarks should be for ROI for the business and be able to reference your experience accurately and with specifics. A Franchisee wants facts, details and analysis of where they are as a business and what can be done to help move the business forward. Using generalities or statements like, “You need to spend about a thousand dollars a month on marketing, that should be good for your market” doesn’t help the franchisee’s confidence in themselves or the system. Come to franchisees with a detailed plan that is validated based on your experience. A good way to instill confidence in your franchisees is to use accurate numbers and detailed recommendations.
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