Franchise Advisory Councils are a great way to engage franchisees and benefit from their practical insights and experience. But if good processes are not followed, they can backfire and produce frustration and conflict.
Here are seven tips to prevent these unintended consequences, based on discussions with senior franchisor executives at a past FRI Forum.
Practical steps to stop an FAC train wreck
1: Produce an easy-to-read Charter
Ensure you have an easy-to-read Charter that clearly states the purpose of the FAC. This should be related to enhancing collaboration, customer satisfaction, franchisee profitability and the group’s competitive advantage. FACs that go off the rails often forget their purpose and turn into gripe sessions.
2: Create behavioural guidelines
Develop behavioural guidelines in consultation with members that will enhance the effectiveness of meetings. Conduct an FAC orientation training at the start of each year to go through the Charter, and remind everyone of the behavioural guidelines at the start of each meeting.
3: Encourage self-awareness
Use a simple profile such as the DISC to raise awareness of behavioural differences in the group, and to uncover potential biases or blind spots in communication. Every style has a strength and a shadow side. Help members to be self-aware of both.
4: Insist on a focus on facts
Include a requirement in your Charter that members should, where possible, provide evidence or facts to support suggestions or recommendations. Also, that concerns or problems should be raised in a constructive manner, describing the nature of the negative impact and a suggested solution.
5: Clarify the decision-making process
Ensure everyone is clear that the FAC is not a decision-making body, (unless is it). Your company will already have a management team and Board that is responsible and accountable for decisions. Remind franchisees of the need for commercial discipline with decision-making when hot issues are being discussed.
6: Ask for advance agendas
Require FAC members to provide agenda items and proposals in advance so the franchisor team are not blindsided in meetings. There should be a guideline that agenda items need to be relevant to a minimum proportion of the network, so isolated issues don’t consume valuable meeting time and resources.
7: Allow for all franchisee input
Provide all franchisees with an opportunity to have input into FAC agenda items at your regional meetings. Don’t expect FAC members to contact individual franchisees. Also, have the chairperson check in with FAC members prior to meetings to keep their finger on the pulse and flush out any concerns, so these can be turned into constructive agenda items.
This is an edited extract from the Positive Franchising Update from Franchise Relationships Institute.