The unwritten rules that every franchisee should know

It has been proven in many recent studies that engagement is 20% culture and 80% climate.  If culture and climate are so important in a franchise, shouldn’t franchisees understand the rules that were created by and are used to govern their culture?  Every franchise organization has official rules and yes, these rules are laid out in detail and are clearly defined in the franchise discovery document. But while discovery docs cover big ideas and important items, there are certain smaller, yet still important, ideas which are overlooked.


Company culture

These smaller ideas are the unwritten rules of the organization which are created through the development of the organization’s culture.  When new franchisees enter an organization, the culture is probably different from the ones they are used to.  It can be difficult for franchisees to adapt to this new culture because although they know the technical rules of operation, they do not know what is expected of them in terms of behavior.  A lack of understanding of these cultural rules, sometimes called norms, can lead to an unengaged or actively disengaged franchisee.  A new franchisee who feels unfamiliar with the social norms in an organization will feel alienated.  In order to prevent this disconnect with your new franchisees, you must help them to understand the norms from the very beginning so they can adapt.

Taking time to define your organization’s norms is a worthwhile endeavor.  During the process of new franchisee on-boarding, which is very important in itself, you should include an aspect of culture-building which would include defining the franchise’s norms and expectations.  It will make things much easier in the long run if you tell franchisees exactly what you expect of them during the early stages of their involvement with the organization; for example, during franchisee training.


What to expect of your franchisees

These expectations will obviously be different for every franchise.  However, if this concept is so new that even you do not know what you expect of your franchisees, here are some examples of areas you might discuss:

  • The responsibility of a franchisee in terms of reading communication from the company, i.e. do you expect every franchisee to read every email you send?  Do you want a response from them within twenty-four hours?
  • The responsibility of franchisees in returning phone calls from the company.  When should franchisees return calls?  How should they address franchisors when doing so?  Besides communication, idea sharing is another area where expectations need to be discussed.
  • The best ways are for them to share ideas or suggestions.
  • The appropriate method for expressing a complaint.
  • What is appropriate or inappropriate to say to people outside of the organization.  This last norm is especially important to define as things that are spread outside the franchise can be potentially damaging.

Defining company norms and expectations

To be sure that your organization is successful as well as protected, you should specifically define norms and expectations with all franchisees, both new and long-time.  You cannot assume because a franchisee has been with your organization for a long time that they understand all aspects of the culture the way you intended.    Different franchisees might interpret unwritten rules differently and sometimes, long-time franchisees don’t understand the norms at all.  The only way to make sure that all rules are understood is to take the time to explain those rules.  If you have not done so with each of your franchisees, you can hold a conference to define rules for those who have already gone through the on-boarding process.  This practice may be surprisingly enlightening for you as well as for franchisees and you can be sure that it will be successful.

What other benefits, besides improved engagement, might there be in defining franchisee expectations?  Have you had experience with learning unwritten rules the hard way?