Keeping it fresh: field manager tips

Every franchisee starts as an idealistic rookie — enthusiastic and open to learning. How can a field manager keep them engaged? 

Over time many of these people will become seasoned veterans, with a toughness and self-assurance you only get from hard earned experience. They are also likely to harbor a degree of skepticism toward the inevitable new initiatives that flow from head office each time a new senior executive joins the franchisor team.

The challenge for sincere field consultants wanting to add value to mature franchisees is how to keep them engaged and growing at the personal and business levels. So we’ve been asking mature franchisees, and the people who support them, what’s useful. Here is FRI’s seven tips for keeping mature franchisees green and growing.

1. Revisit their motivations and goals

A franchisee’s personal and business goals change over time. What motivates them now is likely to be different to when they started. Quality conversations about what is happening in their life and what they now want can be useful. This is largely a listening conversation. Ask what they are enjoying about the business, what’s going on in their broader life, what they are looking forward to and how they think the business can best serve this.

2. Draw on their knowledge and experience

The knowledge and experience in a typical franchise network is astonishing. Also the corporate memory in many franchise networks exists more with its mature franchisees than with the relatively newer members of the franchisor team. Seek the views of your seasoned franchisees and include them on expert panels, in task forces and when pilot testing new initiatives.

3. Acknowledge and recognise their contributions

People like to be recognised, particularly if they have given years of loyalty to a brand. Yet one of the most consistent complaints we hear from franchisees, especially mature franchisees, is a lack of appreciation from their franchisor. While most networks hold formal franchisee awards, a sincere note or phone call thanking or acknowledging a franchisee and their team for doing the right thing can be more appreciated.

4. Provide advanced professional development opportunities

There is a deep drive in all of us to master new knowledge and skills. A franchisee may go off the boil simply because they no longer see ongoing opportunities for learning and personal mastery. Participation in study tours and advanced professional development courses with outside experts, senior executives or other seasoned franchisees, can challenge and expand their thinking.

5. Conduct a detailed business review

We all understand the value of reviewing goals, monitoring data, and implementing good systems. While you might assume a mature franchisee does more of this, there is no correlation between tenure and a tendency to work ON one’s business. In fact many mature franchisees are in a rut. Taking them though a detailed review can stimulate fresh thinking and a renewed commitment to their business.

6. Show them the Sigmoid Curve

You may have seen the lifecycle model, known as the Sigmoid Curve, which charts the initial struggle, growth, plateauing and decline of almost all areas of life. Share this with your franchisees so they understand their business will also follow this trajectory, and the only way to avoid the plateau and decline is to start a new lifecycle while the business is still relatively healthy.

7. Discuss an exit or succession plan

Sometimes, despite underperforming or damaging the brand, a mature franchisee is still comfortable with the business the way it is. In other words, they’re happy but you’re not. This calls for straight talking. Once you have agreed maintaining the status quo is not an option, you can start to explore other possibilities, which might include preparing the business for sale. Ironically as a franchisee works through this process they sometimes fall back in love with the business!