A few weeks ago, I introduced the Thriving Franchise Model.  

This model has three pillars:  Commitment to Innovation. Effective Execution and Prime Leadership.

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You can read the introduction to the model here

Today I’m going to delve a bit deeper into Prime Leadership as a two-part series.

Leadership is one of those tricky subjects that everyone thinks they know a lot about.  

I love this quote from Gary Vee which puts it all into perspective:

‘’If you’re a boss realize your work for your employees, not the other way around.  The owner of a business is entirely responsible for everything under that umbrella. If you don’t like how something is happening within your company, it’s your processes or frameworks that created those issues in the first place.’’

In terms of leadership in the franchise space, the same framework is applicable.  The franchisor is there to serve the franchisees, not the other way around. This is a key part of Prime Leadership.

Leadership is about ensuring all major stakeholders within the business are aligned and that stakeholders receive from the business what they need.

People buy franchises as they don’t want to be in business by themselves.  However, it is more than a business, it also connects them to a peer group and personal support network, not otherwise available when you are in business by yourself.  This very idea is the opportunity to build an organisation which provides more than just a paycheque or ROI, but gives the person the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves.  

This is one of the keys to a thriving franchise as the commitment and enthusiasm to the business means that it will be much easier for franchise recruitment. Energised franchisees ensure that it is more likely that customers are serviced in a positive way.

Let’s now visit the key elements, what I call petals,  which culminates in superior leadership according to the research.  They are:

  • stakeholder engagement;
  • clear vision of the future; and
  • strong and respectful culture.


Prime Leadership – Pillar and Petals

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Petal 1: Stakeholder Engagement and Alignment

The first petal in terms of leadership is true and authentic stakeholder engagement.  Franchisee stakeholder engagement is an important issue that came out strongly in the research.  Successful brands find ways to connect with their franchisees in a manner that is of value to the franchisees.  It’s really about allowing franchisees to be recognised as valued and important partners in the business. 

Many of those interviewed talked about making the franchisees the most important stakeholder within the business – and to honour and respect this, strategies were needed to ensure franchisees were consulted with regularly.  The backbone of this process is regular and effective communication and ensuring franchisees have a feedback mechanism. However, the franchisor must be willing to take feedback on board. In the words of one franchisor:

‘’Don’t just communicate, engage!’’ (Franchisor)

Alignment and harnessing the power of all stakeholders came out as a major imperative for Stakeholder Engagement.  This process starts when the franchisee enters the franchise system and it is fully understood by the franchisor what they want to achieve from being part of the network.  

’We want to be able to say that this business is a vehicle for achieving the life goals you’ve set for yourself.’’ (Franchisor)

”I think that the (the franchise systems) that are the most successful are the ones (in which), every single department that touches a franchisee, or an incoming franchisee, is on the same page.’’ (Franchisor)

Strategies for Stakeholder Engagement and Alignment

To really achieve Stakeholder Engagement, the research uncovered a number of different elements

1. Have an effective Franchisee Advisory Committee (FAC) which has a charter and the Chair of the Committee sits on the Board (or Advisory Board).  

2. Communicate with franchisees regularly. 

3. Communicate using a variety of channels.  Do not just rely on email. For example, one franchisor interviewed uses short sharp videos that have to be reviewed before you can gain access into the computing systems.

4. When you are considering making any major changes to the network, ensure that your consultation is broad and transparent and you really listen to what franchisees are saying.

5. Be available to franchisees when they have a concern.  Make sure staff get back to franchisees in a timely manner and preferably on the day the inquiry was made.  This shows respect and courtesy and builds trust. ‘’Everybody gets communicated with before sundown. Everybody. If the office (head office) lets them down, then they look at that as the franchisor.’’ (Franchisor)

6. Support causes and initiatives that are important to the franchisee as this shows your authentic care of franchisee’s welfare.  

7. Provide increased opportunities for franchisees to connect with each other.  One franchisor encourages small clusters of franchisees who operate in close geographical proximity to get together once a month to support each other, particularly as this group of people can feel lonely and isolated.

Listening to Franchisees

Real engagement comes down to effective and regular communication that is a two-way street.  Franchisors need to be prepared to really listen to the franchisees. If they don’t, franchisors run the risk that franchisees will become increasingly cynical and withdraw from future interactions. One of the challenges franchisors have is head office staff who may not really understand what the franchisee goes through and therefore don’t make the franchisee a priority.  One franchisor had a great solution to this by having a franchisee communications day:

”we’ve had a high level of turnover because we’re full of Gen Y’s, and we’ve got a lot of kids in here that haven’t done franchising… but I said to my CEO, we need to go and do a full day, just on how we communicate.’’ (Franchisor)

Engagement particularly important for Franchisees new to Australia

When franchisees are new to the country, they are likely to feel higher levels of isolation and loneliness.  A recent article in The Age reported that 1 in 4 Australian adults are lonely and it’s affecting both mental health and physical health.

If the general population feels such effects, then new immigrants to the country, who are isolated from family and friends, will feel the impact at a much greater level.  Being part of a franchise or ‘family of franchisees’, can help overcome some of these social and emotional issues, providing there is a genuine and authentic connection. A franchisor can assist by providing an Ambassador to mentor new arrivals and having programs to help in the understanding of Australian culture and the Australian way of life. Such programs may really assist in franchisee engagement, not just with the franchisor, but also within the local community it serves.

In my next article, I will talk about the second Element, Clear Vision of the Future.

What do you think?  Add your thoughts about this part of Franchise Leadership in the comments below.