What’s Hot in the USA and Lessons for Us

I’ve just returned from conducting a number of workshops in the USA with around 250 franchisor executives from 40 different brands. As part of each workshop I asked the question, “What is hot for you that you would like to talk about?

Here are six topics that kept recurring. These highlight some interesting similarities and differences between the two franchising markets.

1. How to get franchises to re-engage with the business. The USA has a higher proportion of multi-unit franchisees and wage rates are relatively low. When times were good franchisees tended to put managers into their businesses and took things easy. But the GFC put an end to that. So we discussed a lot about the need to reestablish mutual expectations with franchisees – especially around them mentally and physically reengaging with their businesses.

2. How to run effective group meetings. Most USA conferences are still one-way presentations by managers and guest speakers. Where they do attempt two-way communication they tend to use “town hall” meetings with poor results as these usually degenerate in hostilities. They thus loved learning about alternative facilitation techniques such as our “Group Scoop” and other ways to constructively involve franchisees in meetings.

3. How to have productive financial discussions. Gathering and sharing financial data and benchmarks with franchisees is a more common practice in Australia. So there was a lot of discussion around how to most effectively share KPIs with franchisees in ways that promote informed action planning, and increased motivation and performance. Interestingly most USA companies have better technology than us but are not using it as much for this purpose.

4. How to increase franchisee commitment to new initiatives. There were big “Aha” moments around this topic when we discussed the power of transparent, two-way communication and the fact that you can have franchisee trust for an initiative without commitment to implementing it. In other words, “Yes I can see it’s a good idea” does not mean “Yes I will put this into practice in my business.” In depth one on one conversations are the key to gaining commitment. This is a hot issue for both Australian and USA franchisors.

5. How to maintain morale with mergers and multiple brands. Multi-branded franchisors and ongoing changes in franchise system ownership are common in the USA. This raises interesting challenges for maintaining a healthy culture and a high level of brand passion. Franchisees who feel under threat typically hire attorneys to protect their interests and close ranks using Franchisee Associations. We talked about the emotional significance of the culture and brand to franchisees and how to engage people in conversations on issues important to them in non-confrontational ways

6. How to insist on compliance without damaging the relationship. This was a popular topic with the field managers and is relevant to all franchising markets. We explored the importance of asking franchisees their reasons for deviating from the system and explaining the “why” of compliance in terms of brand protection. Also the value of connecting compliance to efficiency and profitability, and the importance of making standards clear and easy to follow.

By the way we will be exploring these and other hot topics at our Australian Field Manager Summits, which commence in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane next week. If you haven’t yet registered all I can say is we have hundreds of smart operations people from nearly 80 leading brands coming. And the program will deliver meaty, practical information that can immediately be put to use. Click here for details. If you have registered I look forward to seeing you there.

A final thought. We are all busy – it’s a fact of life. But how can we urge our franchisees to work ON their businesses if we are not doing this ourselves.

Until next time,

Greg Nathan

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