Conflict Resolution: 5 strategies you can use

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Conflict Resolution: 5 strategies you can use

As a franchisor, you'll have to learn how to deal with conflict in a quick, practical and polite way. A good working relationship between franchisees and their franchisors is integral to the success of a business, which means nipping conflict in the bud before it escalates. Not only is it important for franchisors to resolve conflict with franchisees; franchisees also need to know how to resolve conflict among their employees.

Here, we take a look at how franchisors can work to resolve conflict before its too late.

Why conflict develops

In the vast majority of cases, conflict arises as a result of one of the following factors:

  • A perceived lack of support, guidance and assistance

Usually, the amount of support and guidance offered reflects the franchise fee set by the franchisor. In theory, this fee covers the materials, tools and tutors needed to equip franchisees with the skills and know-how to make their business a success. However, if franchisees feel they are not supported as much as they should be, there could be issues. Resolving them doesnt necessarily involve laying on extra educational courses or splashing out on more learning materials; just being at the end of the phone and available for regular catch-ups may be all the franchisee is looking for.

  • A franchisors unrealistic expectations / a franchisees poor performance

Launching your own business can be overwhelming, especially if you havent done it before. Many inexperienced entrepreneurs may turn to franchising as an alternative to starting a business from scratch, so they may feel lost from time to time. Dissatisfaction can turn to frustration and even panic if the franchise doesnt perform as well as anticipated in the first few months. Therefore, franchisees who struggle to turn a profit in the few year or so may feel that their franchisors expectations are unrealistic. Business partners may also feel at a loss if they fail to reach performance targets or attract a certain number of customers.

  • Concerns about royalty, management or marketing fees

Like weve said, the first few months or even years of franchising can be extremely stressful. Being expected to pay fees in the form of royalties or contribute towards management and marketing funds only adds to the pressure felt by franchisees. As a result, some business partners might feel the fees are too steep for them and approach the franchisor to reassess them. Often, this is impossible, as the fees are set at a fixed percentage, but its worth listening to the franchisees grievances and being understanding.

  • Issues surrounding standard operating procedures

From time to time, franchisees may dispute the franchises operating processes. Often, these have formed part of the business model for years, and so the franchisor will be reluctant to change them unless there is good reason to.

This issue may arise simply because the franchisee isnt particularly suited to the franchise model. To work successfully within it, you need to be willing to follow instructions closely and adhere to a strict set of guidelines that have already been established. However, if the franchisee has a bright idea and suggests a way of changing operating processes to boost the business productivity, its worth listening to it and considering how you could implement it.

  • Lack of communication

The franchisor should set the precedent for a good working relationship. This means establishing a dialogue with the franchisee. Regular communication is key, as it will put franchisees at ease and demonstrate that the franchisor truly cares about their franchise journey. By keeping in touch, franchisors can increase the likelihood that franchisees highlight issues as soon as they arise, rather than waiting until they escalate beyond repair.

Although conflict can arise for any reason and at any time, the five factors mentioned above are probably the most common reasons for disputes. Most franchisees will start by trying to resolve an issue with a telephone call, followed by a face-to-face conversation. If neither of these options offer resolution, theyll begin filing an official written complaint. Finally, if theres no other course to take, theyll resort to legal action.

How to resolve conflict

Most successful franchises have a set of conflict resolution procedures that will be followed in the event of significant issues. However, they arent always the most practical or useful procedures. Franchisors will typically have to rely on their communication and management skills if theyre to prevent a conflict from rapidly escalating into something more than it should be.

Here, we take a look at six ways you can try to resolve disputes before they cause problems for the franchise.

1. Take a preventative approach

Rather than having to worry about conflict resolution, try to stick to a policy of conflict prevention. This may be easier said than done, but it will help minimise headaches in the long run. The principal means of preventing conflict is through open and honest communication. Be a franchisor whose franchisees are happy to ring up and talk to them. Let them know youre willing to talk about any concerns or issues they may have.

Also, recognise that avoiding and preventing conflict are not the same thing. If you brush crucial issues under the carpet, theyll only fester. Prevention is about communication. Avoidance is just delaying the inevitable.

2. Dont always refer to the franchise agreement

Although the franchise agreement is the document that defines the franchisor-franchisee relationship, you have to resist the temptation to refer to the franchise agreement every time theres a complaint. This is because the franchise agreement is overwhelmingly loaded in the franchisor's favour.

This means that, no matter whether youre in the right or wrong, its incredibly frustrating for franchisees if you use the franchise agreement to justify your actions every time there's a complaint. It appears as though you're not willing to engage in discussion and that you don't respect the franchisees enough to give them their say.

3. Dont let it get to the point where you receive written complaints

Once a franchisee starts putting their complaints in writing, its time for you to try to rapidly dissolve the situation. Written complaints are one step away from legal action and usually signal that the franchisee is taking formal action, preparing a case that can be used against you at a later date.

While it may be necessary to take legal action against a franchisee, you need to ensure this is a last resort. Not only is it a long and drawn out process that takes you away from running your business, but it can also be damaging for the franchise's reputation.

4. Look for things you agree on

No matter how good the franchisor-franchisee relationship appears to be, theres always going to be some things you dont see eye-to-eye on. While some of these issues may cause conflict, its often useful to look to the attitudes you have in common to form the foundations of a solution. Let your shared interests, beliefs and ideas direct the conversation and look for ways that these common ideals can be introduced as a way of progressing the conflict resolution process.

If youre at constant loggerheads, you have a bigger problem. But if you can find something that unites you, de-escalation has already begun.

5. Try to find a solution or compromise

This may sound obvious, but it's incredible how often neither the franchisor nor the franchisee is trying to find a solution or compromise. Instead, both stick to rigid and unhelpful attitudes that prevent either from backing down or even trying to come to an understanding. If you want to prevent and resolve conflict, it's necessary to act as though you do. Don't get stuck in unresponsive attitudes; try to find a middle ground and understand where the franchisee is coming from. Remember, a positive and cooperative franchisor-franchisee relationship is beneficial for you both.

6. Listen

Finally, one of the critical skills a franchisor can learn to develop is the ability to listen. In far too many cases, franchisors only hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest. If you're going to resolve a conflict, the best way to start is by really listening to the franchisees issues. You may feel theyre being completely unreasonable or clearly want something that violates the franchise agreement, but you still need to hear them out. Just listening demonstrates that you care about them as a business partner and value their time.

Conclusion

If the franchisor is to become a talented conflict manager, they need to ensure that they're always on the lookout for potential problems, are willing to listen to their franchisees and want to try to find a solution or come to some sort of compromise. If conflicts and disagreements are allowed to get out of hand, they can cause enormous damage to a franchise and its reputation. In turn, this can discourage future entrepreneurs from choosing to join the business, lowering its profit potential and perhaps even your paycheque.

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