How to innovate in your franchise

What drives innovation in a franchise? Where do great ideas come from? How much innovation can you adopt?

Franchisors in food and services wrestled with these topics at an FCA seminar panel session last week in Sydney.

On the panel were Carlos Antonius, GM of Chatime; Natalie Brennan, GM of Muffin Break; Andrew McKenna, GM, franchise & business development, Fastway Couriers; and Brendan Green, CEO of Hire A Hubby.

So what were the franchisor insights and tips?

1. Let ideas flourish

Innovation is dependent on a collaborative environment, says Carlos Antonius. “No-one has a monopoly on ideas.”

Everyone from the franchisor to a franchise employee to a member of the accounts department can have a brilliant idea.

Welcoming fresh ideas means having the courage to fail. Not all ideas will work, so accept that failure is part of the process.

2. Show leadership

Once a good idea is spotted, it is imperative for franchisors to show leadership, believes Brendan Green.

“You need to be prepared to make the changes,” he says and deliver. But a word of warning – don’t be over-ambitious. “Keep it simple, don’t do to much too quickly,” he advises.

3. Be open-minded

New systems and new products that change the business may not be focused on bringing in more customers. Drawing on his own experience of reducing overloaded franchisees’ workload, Green says “Sometimes you need to be brave and say ‘we need less, not more’.”

Of course the innovation needs to be strategic. For Green the focus on innovation needs to be about enhancing the resale value of a franchisee’s business.

4. Harness franchisee support

Without franchisee buy-in any innovation is set up to fail. Peer support for a new initiative will help bring it on board, suggests Andrew McKenna. Green agrees. “You need to know who the key people are and what influence they’ve got,” he says.

4. Deliver the innovation

Make it happen. Andrew McKenna says “Our customers and our franchisees are expecting us to innovate. Our franchisees are excited about new ideas. But if you don’t execute, it’s seen as a failure.”

5. Be clear and transparent

Franchisor clarity and transparency about how something is going is really important, says Antonius. And that means calling out the failures. Act swiftly when an implemented idea misses the mark, suggests Natalie Brennan.

“We move fast to protect our franchisees if something fails,” she says.

6. Small can be good

Recognise that not every innovation is a big light-bulb moment…small changes can be powerful influencers on business performance.