What Makes a Good Field Adviser?

by Greg Nathan, Managing Director,
Franchise Relationships Institute

Defining the Role of the Field Manager

In this extract from the book “The Franchisor’s Guide to Improving Field Visits”, we will examine the role of the field manager and the knowledge, skills and attitudes a person needs to succeed in this challenging role.

The purpose of the field manager’s role is to help franchisees maximise their profitability and local market share while building their commitment to the values of the brand and the franchise system.

With this in mind the field manager has eight primary functions to perform.

The Ambassador: The natural evolution of a franchisor company means that initiatives are regularly introduced into the field. Franchisees need not only to understand these initiatives, but to be prepared to support them. Easier said than done. In the role of ambassador the field manager acts as a middleman communicating franchisor initiatives in a diplomatic manner in order to gain support for them.

The Business Consultant: Because franchisees are often so embroiled in solving day-to-day problems they may neglect to step back and analyse how their business is tracking, what is referred to as “working on the business, not just in the business”. As a business consultant the field manager uses data and financial information to help the franchisee gain insights into the profitability and performance of their business. In one study we asked a group of franchisees to describe the most important attribute of a field manager. At the top of the list was “an understanding of what drives profitability in a small business”.

The Operations Expert: As a franchisor you must maintain a high level of knowledge and expertise in your particular industry or market sector. Newer franchisees in particular will expect practical help with the business, over and above having access to an operations manual. Field managers need to be able to provide a certain level of practical advice and support to help franchisees improve the efficiency of their operations.

The Marketer: Marketing is the engine room that drives customers into a franchisee’s business. While most franchisees would like the franchisor’s national marketing strategy to do all the work for them, the reality is that much of the marketing grunt work needs to occur at the local level. Because many franchisees lack marketing expertise a field manager can add enormous value in this area. Your role here is to guide and support franchisees to grow their sales and local market share in a way that is consistent with the company’s brand and marketing strategy.

The Coach: From time to time franchisees will become bogged down in their work, confused about their goals or discouraged about the performance of their business. A field adviser with good coaching skills can help a franchisee to rekindle their enthusiasm for the business and focus their attention on achieving higher levels of performance. Business coaching has emerged as a discipline in itself over recent years. Field managers would be well advised to learn the basic coaching skills including active listening, powerful questioning and goal setting.

The Trainer: Irrespective of how long a franchisee has been operating their business there will always be areas where their knowledge or skills can be improved. In the early stages of the business the focus will usually be on mastering technical or product related skills. However the development of higher-level skills such as strategic planning, team management, marketing analysis or the psychology of selling are just as important. Most field managers are required to assist franchisees to continually improve their knowledge and skills in these topics, either one on one or in small groups.

The Facilitator: Most franchise systems conduct regular area meetings to keep franchisees informed of new initiatives and encourage them to share ideas and network with each other. Franchise Advisory Councils are also used to encourage a constructive two-way flow of ideas and information. Field managers will frequently be required to organise and/or facilitate these meetings.

The Inspector: Consistency lies at the heart of franchising. Customers expect it, as do other franchisees who have invested in your brand and franchise system. An important function of the field manager is thus to remind franchisees that compliance is a marketing issue designed to protect customer satisfaction and the integrity of the brand. It is not an excuse to make their life difficult. The field manager needs to communicate and reinforce compliance to minimum operational standards in an objective and balanced way. In doing this they need to watch that they do not take the route of least resistance, which is to be either too easy and turn a blind eye to inconsistencies, or to take an authoritarian approach and treat franchisees like employees.

There are a number of specific competencies associated with each of the above eight functions and a field manager should aspire to master these. Note that I deliberately use the word “aspire” as there is no way you are going to master all these competencies in one lifetime!

Where to From Here?

For more information on improving field visits try the following:

  • The book, “The Franchisor’s Guide to Improving Field Visits”, is devoted to this topic and contains significant sections on the above functions and their associated competencies.
  • The book, “Profitable Partnerships”, has a chapter devoted to field visits titled Maximising the Value of Field Visits
  • We have developed a specific training program for improving the skills and confidence of Field Managers. Contact us for details.
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