When times get tough, your franchisees will be relying on you to guide them through the storm. If you’d like some pointers on how to be a good franchisor, particularly when it comes to mentoring and developing a great franchisor-franchisees relationship, this article will show you where to start.
As a franchisor, it’s likely you’ve weathered your fair share of tough times during your career. The fact that your business has grown into such a success that you’ve been able to welcome franchisees is testament to your skills as a business owner.
Your franchisees, however, have less experience and are less resilient to sudden, and often frightening, changes within their business. During any time of economic turbulence, it’s vital that you’re there to support your network and teach them the lessons you’ve learned along the way. Not sure how to be a mentor? Here are just a few ways you can get started.
Never stop communicating
The last thing you want your franchisees to feel during a difficult period – or at any time – is abandoned, so make sure you, or one of your franchise team, are checking in regularly. Franchisors with a small franchise network should make the effort to check in personally with everyone via phone, video call or email.
If the situation is new or evolving quickly, try to speak to your franchisees daily, or as often as you realistically can, so you can offer advice and answer questions as soon as things change. Even if your franchisees don’t need your help, knowing you’re there for them will feel reassuring and show everyone that it’s ok to come forward with questions and worries in the future.
If you’re in charge of a large franchise network, it’s impossible for you to call hundreds or thousands of franchisees every day or week. Instead, try and find a more personal way of communicating on a mass scale. You could film a supportive message to be emailed out or posted on your franchise’s intranet, or pen a personal email, rather than letting difficult messages come from a faceless support team.
Making your franchise network feel well-connected will show them they’re not alone and that you care enough to make time for them, encouraging them to fight for their business. It’s a good strategy to implement even if you’re not in a time of crisis to build the most satisfied network you can.
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Share your business secrets
The role of a mentor is not only to support, but to educate and share your experience in your chosen sector. There’s never a better time to do that than during a crisis or slow period. You might prefer a hands-off approach and letting your franchisees learn from their mistakes. However, you’re directly invested in their success, and any stories you can share to help them avoid silly errors could mean the difference between surviving and struggling at a difficult time.
Work out the most efficient way to speak to your franchisees. Small franchisors could look into setting up webinars or video calls or writing blogs to share their advice. The same methods could work for larger franchisors, with information shared via your internal systems after the events. You could send out a survey/poll to your franchisees and work out what they’re most concerned about so your advice addresses the most pressing issues first.
Tailor your approach
Not all franchisees will respond to the same style of mentoring. Some might thrive with a hands-off approach and feel confident enough to come to you with any questions. When you’re dealing with this type of franchisee, forcing your guidance on them isn’t going to be helpful. They may well be an experienced business person in their own right and could feel patronised if you tell them how to do simple things they perfected long ago.
You could create a space on your system for advice and extra resources and inform everyone it’s there, leaving it up to them whether they choose to use it or not. Also, if you’re choosing to send round a weekly advice newsletter, make sure franchisees can opt out.
At the other end of the spectrum, inexperienced or anxious franchisees are likely to need a lot more hand holding. Again, regular communication is key here. Remind your franchisees that you and your head office team are there for them, and that an integral part of their franchise package is ongoing support and guidance. Redirect them to any existing resources you have and try to stay upbeat (yet realistic) when you speak to them to keep their spirits high.
Use tough love
While this might seem contradictory, you can still offer plenty of support and implement tough love successfully. A bad economic situation, particularly one that no one could have seen coming, can deal a crushing blow to a franchisee’s confidence, income and business growth strategy. But the best mentors aren’t afraid to challenge their mentees, so that they can grow stronger and better through adversity.
Don’t let your franchisees wallow in self-pity or fear. Instead, set them tasks or targets that can motivate them to work on their business, even if actual client work is thin on the ground. You could ask them to identify a set number of potential new leads to go after, or to increase their marketing efforts to raise awareness of the business. And just as you would if they didn’t meet your expectations in normal circumstances, make sure there are consequences or discipline if they aren’t putting their all into the business.
It’s a bit like a parent-child dynamic. You shouldn’t use tough love to bully franchisees or make them feel bad amid circumstances they can’t control. Instead, use it as a tool to make them stronger and better and to ensure they come out of the tough times ready to reach their potential.
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Find a mentor yourself
It might sound a bit strange, but some of the world’s best leaders still have personal mentors to keep them at the top of their game. Billionaire Richard Branson has stated he wouldn’t have reached his potential without the help of his mentor, airline mogul Sir Freddie Laker. Franchisors aren’t immune to the emotional and financial impact of tough times, so having someone in your corner to encourage you through the darkest days will give you the strength to support your network.
Whether you seek professional advice, or use fellow businesspeople as a sounding board and support system, reaching out for help can make you an even better franchisor. Besides, mentoring doesn’t come naturally to everyone, particularly if you’re introverted or not great at communicating.
There’s no shame in enlisting the help of a business coach or taking a professional development course to boost your confidence and make you an even better leader. Offering bad advice and fumbling your way through a crisis isn’t helpful to anyone, so invest in making yourself the best franchisor you can be.
Paving the Way
Getting your role as a mentor right isn’t easy, but we hope these tips will help you to guide your network through these, and any future, tough times. If you’d like more advice, we’ve got plenty of articles for franchisors packed with reliable information.
Sophie Cole, Point Franchise ©