How does your business delegate power to franchisees? If just reading that question caused your anxiety to spike, you’re not alone. One time management study discovered nearly 50% of companies are concerned about their employees’ delegation skills. Despite this, only 28% offered any training on the topic. Solving the delegation puzzle is critical for franchise business owners. That’s because franchisees are more than just company employees. They’re stakeholders, managers, brand ambassadors, local marketing managers, and innovators all at the same time.
In order to inspire success and create growth, franchisors need to strike a balance between providing support and knowing when to step back to let franchisees take the lead. Balancing on that tightrope isn’t easy, but it’s a lot easier when you know which responsibilities should be placed in the hands of franchisees. While those responsibilities will vary from business to business, there are a few ways in which every franchisor can give their franchisees managerial and creative control:
Local Franchise Business Marketing
“Building a strong brand requires that the franchisor and all franchisees send a consistent message to prospective and current customers. For this reason, franchisors must set strict rules for the use of their trademarks, and control the use and creation of marketing materials,” says Matthew Jonas, President of TopFire Media.
“Of course, most franchisors have comprehensive marketing plans in place for the overall franchise, but local marketing from the franchisee is essential. Approval should come from the franchisor, but execution should be in the hands of the franchisee, assuming that they’re in strict accordance with the franchisor’s established guidelines.”
In other words, franchisors should give franchisees more creative power over their own local marketing. However, the process can be tricky. It’s important for franchisees to be able to adapt messaging to engage local audiences, but the collateral they create has the potential to threaten brand consistency.
This is why dedicated Brand Marketing Centers are crucial tools for successful franchises. Through a Brand Marketing Center (or BMC for short), franchisees can easily access up-to-date marketing collateral. Marketing Templates make it easy for them to edit creative materials to appeal to their local audience, without threatening brand compliance in the process. BlueSky ETO’s Brand Marketing Centers can also integrate with outside vendors, so franchisees can order print collateral through corporate or through their own local vendors.
A Brand Marketing Center can also serve as a repository for great marketing ideas from one franchisee to others. Many of our clients have added a “success stories” section to their BMC’s which lets them share the best local campaigns with the rest of their franchisee network.
Another field where franchisors should cede some control is local hiring. “Franchisors should leave hiring decisions in the hands of the franchisee,” says Ian Atkins, Financial Analyst and Staff Writer for FitSmallBusiness.com.
“In most cases, franchisees will be the best suited to make local hiring decisions. Making the right hiring decision requires intimate knowledge of the local laws, local clientele, and the location’s team chemistry. It is unlikely that the franchisor will be able to add significant value by controlling the hiring process.”
Franchise Attorney Tom Spadea agrees. “Franchisors are the coach and the franchisees are the players. Franchisees are in charge of executing the game plan laid out by the franchisor. The number one thing that franchisors need to leave in the hands of franchisees is the hiring, firing and managing of employees. It makes better business and legal sense for franchisees, the local voice of the brand, to handle employment matters. It’s also important to remember that from a legal standpoint, franchisors who over-step the employment boundary risk being held liable as co-employers.”
Ron Holt was wary of this legal liability when he founded Two Maids & A Mop. “One of our biggest challenges during the early days of franchising dealt with personnel decisions,” says Holt. “With our franchised units, we were not able to control any personnel decisions due to joint employer concerns. Although we legally needed to put this responsibility in the hands of franchisees, many of them desperately wanted advice or counsel regarding personnel decisions. At Two Maids & A Mop, we have addressed the potential for joint employer liability by breaking our operations manual into two distinct sections: Required Systems & Best Practices. All personnel-related actions are included within the best practices section and can be executed by a franchisee if they choose to utilize our 10+ years of operations.”
For legal reasons, franchisees should handle hiring and firing of their own employees. However, franchisors can follow Ron Holt’s lead and provide best practices documents. These can be included in a physical manual and made available in digital format through the Brand Marketing Center.
Along with hiring best practices, franchisors can also share secure documents on brand consistency, messaging, daily operations, and more. Digital Asset Management makes sharing and accessing these documents easy. With brand guidelines and best practices available 24/7, franchisees are empowered to make the right decisions quickly, without playing telephone tag with corporate.
Inventory of the Franchise Business
“Franchisors should leave non-brand related supplies and inventory management to franchisees,” says Ian Atkins, Financial Analyst and Staff Writer for FitSmallBusiness.com. “Relinquishing control over the purchasing decisions on non-brand-related or system-related supplies to the franchisee, will help ensure the franchisee trusts they aren’t getting a raw deal from the franchisor.”
A franchise business can also benefit from giving franchisees greater control over vendor relationships. “Being locked into vendor relationships on non-brand-related products will make a franchisee feel unfairly trapped,” says Atkins. “Resentment and distrust might grow if the franchisee thinks they have access to a better or more affordable solution but aren’t able to pursue it, even though it wasn’t brand-related. Where franchisors must control system and brand related vendors, they should communicate clearly with franchisors about why there is a need to assert control over that area, and, when possible, make clear the value the franchisee is gaining in return for ceding that control.”
In order to give franchisees the power to choose vendors, franchisors first need to ensure that their current systems can integrate outside, additional vendors. When software integration is easy, franchisees have more freedom to choose local vendors that work best for them.
The Importance of Brand Leadership
Franchisees certainly have their fair share of responsibilities, but there’s one that should always be left in the hands of franchisors–-brand leadership.
“Franchisors must never abdicate their responsibility of brand leadership,” says Franchise Attorney Tom Spadea. “They need to understand why consumers buy from their franchisees, where the business is trending and how to make it better. This includes ensuring the franchisees are maintaining brand standards and monitoring the satisfaction of the brand’s customers.”
Franchisors are in a unique position to lead their brand. By leveraging the experiences and feedback of their franchisees, they can form a detailed “map” of how their brand is viewed and experienced. Using the insights of their franchisees, their sales data, and information gleaned from tools like Google Analytics, Hubspot, automated marketing campaigns and more, they can learn which brand traits engage consumers most. Using what they’ve learned, they can return to franchisees with a fresh perspective and refined approach. It’s an ongoing process, but it’s made much easier with the right software and digital tools.