There are things that can trip you up at every stage of the franchise lifecycle - from the tricky first year to the scaling or growth period to remaining relevant for years to come. Here are five of the most important factors of success you need to know about during every stage of the franchise lifecycle.
There’s no one formula for success when it comes to franchising. However, at every stage of the ‘franchise lifecycle’ - a term used by Deloitte in its 2017 report - there are obstacles to avoid and hurdles to jump over. How you respond to these challenges will either propel your franchise to success or hamper its growth. Whether you’re a franchisor or franchisee, here are the top five factors of success that you’ll need to consider at every stage of the franchise lifecycle.
1. Setting great standards from the top down
The role of the franchisor in every franchise agreement is to offer a robust template that franchisees can build a strong business from. Everything - from marketing to day-to-day operational standards to customer data protection - needs to have been considered so there is no room for error if franchisees follow your guidance to the letter.
If you’re at the very beginning of the franchise lifecyle, it’s vital you dedicate a good chunk of your time to setting out what you expect from franchisees and how you’re going to make sure they’re adhered to.
As a franchisor, you need to be a role model for your franchisees and help them navigate the complex process of becoming a business owner. On the other hand, you’ll also need to strike a good balance between being supportive and overbearing, leaving your franchisees feeling as though they have an unwelcome business partner.
Make sure your franchise information pack includes all the legal guidance your franchisees will need, as well as best-practice examples covering everything from digital customer safety to marketing to in-store standards. If you fail to make sure your franchisees are following certain regulatory protocols, in areas such as data protection for example, you could also be included in any legal action taken against them.
2. Leading in a crisis
The longer your franchise is around, the more likely you are to run into a scandal of some description. Even if you’ve taken all the steps to avoid one, human error has a way of creeping into the most watertight businesses - KFC’s 2018 ‘Chickengate’ and the founder of Papa John’s highly offensive comments in 2017 are just two examples. Knowing how to navigate reputation-testing times at any point in the franchise lifecycle is a vital part of running a franchise.
In many cases, the actual scandal, controversy or error is less damaging than a bungled cover-up or mishandled apology. A small or isolated incident at one of your franchised locations could infect your franchisees across the world by association, so it’s vital you act swiftly in the event of any controversy. Issue an apology that fits the gravity of the situation and take decisive action quickly to stop it happening again.
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3. Maintaining strong franchisee relationships
Your franchisees are the heart of your business, so make sure you find the time to show them you value the relationships between you. After all, without franchisees, no franchise on earth would have managed to reach as many customers and expand as rapidly as it has.
Maintaining a good relationship with each of your franchisees is a key aspect of building long-lasting partnerships - here are five reasons why a strong franchisee-franchisor relationship is so important. Even if you’re at the head of a huge franchise with hundreds or even thousands of franchisees, it’s vital to put together a support team that can check in and answer franchisee questions on a regular basis. You may also need to go a step further and establish national or regional teams to make sure everyone’s concerns are being heard and dealt with.
Nurturing franchisee relationships can make the difference between losing your best franchisees at the end of the first contracted agreement period and retaining a talented entrepreneur for decades. Regardless of whether your franchisees are rookie businesspeople or experienced business owners, establishing convenient channels to connect via will allow them to quickly resolve any niggles. And as a result, you, the franchisor, will be able to keep your relationships healthy and profitable for years to come.
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4. Adapting to market changes
Your franchise has been thriving for a number of years, but you’re noticing new trends start to emerge in your sector. Should you sit tight and hope they’re fleeting or move with the crowd? If we look at what we can learn from the world’s oldest franchises, adapting to change is one of most important things any franchise needs to do.
If you’re a franchisor, it’s your responsibility to stay up to date with key changes and customer habits within your sector. Let’s say you’re a food franchise that has resisted offering delivery services up to this point. Refusing to adapt to changing customer habits (particularly in the middle of exceptionally challenging times) could see you lose business and risk becoming obsolete.
And if you’re a franchisee, it’s still important to keep your eyes open to anything your business could be doing even better. Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions to your franchisor if you believe adapting, changing or introducing new products or services could take the franchise to the next level.
5. Ability to make tough decisions
Everything won’t always be rosy with your franchise. A franchisee might not be performing well, or a staff member could be dragging the rest of the business down. As both a franchisor and franchisee, you won’t be able to truly succeed if you’re not able to make tough decisions when it counts. Occasionally, that may also include knowing when a franchise venture isn’t working for you and walking away (though less than 1% of franchises close due to commercial failure) to take on a new opportunity instead.
Sustainable success in franchising
We hope that these five factors will help guide you to franchising success, whether you’re a franchisor or franchisee at any stage of your journey. While they won’t guarantee that you’re able to build a multi-million-pound business, they’ll certainly give you the best chance of doing so. You can check out our other articles for even more business advice, or browse our UK franchise directory to find your next, or first, franchise.
Sophie Cole, Point Franchise ©