Name it to Tame it!

I’m just back from the IFA Convention in Las Vegas where I gave a talk on how to increase franchisee engagement in group meetings and conferences. In this Tip I’m going to share the most important point I made, which is to identify what’s important to the people in your audience, and then name it.

In the 1960s, Ursula Le Guin, a talented science fiction writer, released an influential book called “The Rule of Names”. It was set in a mythical land inhabited by wizards and dragons. Her basic premise was that everything in life has a primordial name that reflects its essential nature, and a wizards power comes from knowing the true name of things. For instance, while a dragon can kill or maim you, discover its true name and it falls under your control.

Photo of dragon.

I have always loved this idea because fears are like dragons. Once we get to the underlying truth behind a fear or a concern, and name it, we can better control and manage it. This applies to individual fears and concerns — our own or others — and the fears and concerns of groups.

Franchisees will always bring shared hopes, fears and concerns to group meetings and conferences. If you know what these are, and can name them, you’ll be in a better position to work with and manage these in a constructive and creative way. While this may sound a little risky, by not talking about what’s on people’s minds, you just lose credibility.

We all want to be understood and taken seriously. By showing you understand what’s on the minds of your franchisees, in a respectful and empathetic way, they will be more likely to trust, connect and work with you. On the other hand, if you avoid talking about issues important to them, or just talk about what’s important to you, they will disengage.

This means you need to get out and about, and talk to people before you address them as a group. Ask what they’ve been working on, what’s bugging them, and what they’re trying to achieve. Also listen to your field team as they will have their ears to the ground, and carefully read the comments in your franchisee surveys.

You might like to also name important issues when announcing or inviting people to meetings. This sets the tone that you’ll be talking about real stuff that’s relevant to them. For instance, “We know you are wanting more information about…” or “We’re sure you will enjoy learning about…”.

Here’s a few things most franchisees care about. How to improve profitability. How to get staff to work harder. How to attract more customers. How to save money. How to reduce stress. And what other franchisees are doing to increase sales and profits. While these are a good place to start when thinking about how to increase engagement, make sure you also identify and name the issues that are frustrating them.

To summarise, if you want to increase franchisee engagement in your meetings and conferences, take the time to understand what’s on their minds. If there are concerns, name these along with what you’re doing to address them. Going back to our dragon analogy, name it to tame it!


Greg Nathan is a psychologist, author and an international expert on the franchise relationship. Connect with him on Google+ or Linkedin.

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