Why No Is Not A Dirty Word

I’ve just returned from a two-day lock up with 20 field consultants. We begin these field management workshops with a simple question, “What will make this program useful and interesting for you?”. Usually 10 to 15 hot issues emerge, mostly around how to maintain credibility and deal with resistance or push-back from franchisees.

I always learn a lot from these sessions, particularly from seasoned operations executives like Bill Russell, Head of Franchising for LJ Hooker. Bill is an intense guy who takes his franchisor role seriously. Ask him a question and he will pause for reflection before giving the sort of straight forward, honest response that makes you nod and mumble “That makes sense.”

Prior to his 30 years in franchise operations, Bill worked as an undercover detective with a special squad that kept tabs on the New South Wales underworld. While he never drinks alcohol, he smokes like a chimney. He told me he took up smoking so he could more easily blend in with the underbelly environment he used to find himself in. I’m sure as a policeman he also learned a few things about communicating with all types of people.

Three Simple Responses

I asked Bill how he recommends his field team respond to franchisees who make requests that push the boundaries of the franchise system. He replied with such clarity and conviction, and his answer made so much sense, I asked him for permission to include it in this tip. Here’s what he said.

He explained that when a franchisee wants to do something, there are just three responses: “Yes you can.”, “No you can’t, because …” or “Let me get back to you with an answer by …”.

He continued: “It’s important not to give false hope to franchisees on issues that you know are non-negotiable as this just undermines your credibility and wastes everyone’s time.”

I absolutely agree with Bill on this. If franchisor executives followed this simple approach there would be far less cynicism by franchisees, who often tell us they don’t mind getting a “no” to a question as long as there is a sensible reason given and the response is delivered in a respectful way.

Straight Talking

Remember, you are running a business, not a political party. I suggest you leave the spin and waffle to the politicians who, by the way, have one of the lowest credibility ratings of any occupation, mainly because of their inability to give straight “Yes”, “No because …” or “I don’t know but let me get back to you by …” responses.

Straight talking with facts and respect — it’s a great formula for successful communication in a franchise system.

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