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“Oh, I just will do it my own way” is a gigantic step toward trouble. When I hear a prospective franchisee announce something along those lines, I have one bit of advice for them. “Don’t buy a franchise.” Recreating the wheel is not a good idea in the franchise world. Sure, there are examples of products derived through franchisees. However, those examples are few and were accomplished under the direction of the franchisor.
Running the franchisor’s program isn’t just an exercise of power. By following the rules of the franchisor’s system, the brand is consistent across all locations. And, consistency is the vital key to success of your location as well as the entire brand.
Strong franchise chains with consistent products and services generate brand awareness in their customers. Customers know what product or service they will receive just by seeing the sign on the door. That Big Mac will taste like a Big Mac wherever it is purchased. This consistency of the products and services is the most important asset of the franchise chain. Consistency creates brand awareness. Brand awareness attracts and retains customers. Brand awareness drives new customers to your location because they know what they will get even if they have not visited your location.
If a location varies from the product or service offered in the franchise chain, customers become confused. They expect “x” but receive “y”. This confusion undercuts confidence not in the renegade location but in all locations. This uncertainty of consistent products and services drives away customers.
Consistency is obtained, primarily, by training. A strong franchisor has a solid training program and a continuing support plan in place. Training should encompass every detail of importance in running a franchised location. It is more than how to serve up those burgers. It is more than an Operations Manual or “Training Manual. Training should reach into areas such as corporate philosophy, keys to customer service, operational procedures, vendor relationship, reporting requirements and valuable hands-on experience. Furthermore, a strong franchisor will have methods in place for training and assistance throughout the franchise relationship.
My advice to franchisees is get as much training as possible whenever possible. During that training, make sure you understand every aspect of it. Use training opportunities to their fullest. Then implement that training in your business faithfully at every turn. Attend annual or regional conferences if offered by the franchisor. Make monthly call-in opportunities offered to franchisees. These types of interaction are valuable in both acquiring knowledge, but identifying successful trends or potential problems. They are also opportunities to interact with your franchise peers.
Finally, if a problem develops at your location, ask the franchisor for assistance. I find that some franchisees are reticent in calling franchisors with a problem. Don’t be. They are the gatekeepers of the system and know what works and doesn’t. If a problem exists, the franchisor has probably encountered it before and help.
While there is an allure to owning your own business, there must be a commitment by you that you will follow the system. That commitment ensures consumers recognize and identify your products and services with the franchise brand. And this, in turn, translates to more sales. And that, of course, is a great thing.
Debra Hill is a partner at the FisherBroyles, LLP, practicing in the area of franchise and intellectual property. Ms. Hill can be reached at email@example.com or 904-612-3780.