Ingaging Leadership

To Transform Your Franchise, Establish a Franchise Council . . . Then Listen to What People Are Telling You

by Evan Hackel

If you were to poll a room full of your franchise owners, it’s likely that a significant majority would express their frustration with a common grievance: “They just don’t listen to us.” While this may seem disheartening, it’s an opportunity in disguise. Addressing this concern head-on by actively listening can result in a remarkable boost in franchisee satisfaction. In fact, the solution is remarkably simple: listen to what they want and deliver it.

Listening is a powerful tool that can transform the dynamics within a franchise system. You don’t need to invest in expensive consultants or exhaustive surveys; your franchisees have already told you what they need – they want you to listen. By doing so, you can significantly enhance their satisfaction.

Enhancing Your Listening Skills

For general business owners, improving listening skills involves fundamental practices such as avoiding interruptive listening and adopting approaches like Ingaged Listening. However, within the unique structure of franchise systems, obstacles often hinder regular interactions between the parent company and individual franchise owners. Conversations are infrequent, inconvenient, and sometimes uncomfortable. Even if you possess excellent listening skills, they are of little use if you rarely engage with franchisees.

Building Structural Bridges

Before delving into refined listening skills, it’s crucial to establish structural bridges between management and franchisees. One effective solution is to create and build Franchise Councils – groups of franchise owners that convene regularly to contribute to decisions steering the franchise’s direction.

Establishing Franchise Councils

Franchise Councils provide a platform for collaborative decision-making and idea generation. Instead of presenting completed plans to the Council, encourage franchisees to share their significant ideas during general meetings. Capture these ideas on a central platform and revisit them in subsequent meetings or delegate them to task forces of Council members.

It’s essential to clarify that the Franchise Council is not a voting body but a platform for thoughtful participation in plan formulation. Breakout sessions without central office executives present can foster trust among franchisees, encouraging them to discuss topics more openly and connect with each other as mentors or friends.

Additionally, creating sub-councils focusing on specific issues such as marketing, technology, training, and branding can yield diverse insights. Importantly, avoid compensating Council members, as their commitment should be driven by a personal dedication to contribute rather than financial incentives.

Managing Council Membership

Rotating Council membership annually keeps ideas fresh and perspectives diverse. Consider seeking recommendations from current Council members for potential new recruits. Regular communication with Council members through newsletters, emails, and surveys ensures their ongoing engagement.

Council Meeting Logistics

The logistics of Council meetings depend on factors such as the number of franchise owners, Council size, and geographic distribution. While video meetings have become commonplace, in-person Council meetings, funded by the franchise, at least once a year convey a unique message – being on the Council is not just another meeting. It reinforces the central idea of the article: creating a space where franchise owners are truly heard.

In conclusion, the transformative power of listening can be harnessed by implementing Franchise Councils. By building these structural bridges and fostering open communication, franchise organizations can tap into the wealth of ideas and insights offered by their franchisees, leading to overall success.


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