Ingaging Leadership

You’re Probably Wrong Most of the Time . . . But That’s Good


A funny sign with the word 'Wrong!'

by Evan Hackel

How often do you accept the idea that you could be wrong about something?

If you answered “never” and you believe you are always right, I would like to offer my opinion that you have fallen into a way of thinking that is ungenerously called being “cocksure.” (Let’s not delve too deeply into that.) But if you replied that you accept the possibility of your own fallibility 25% of the time, you have at least dipped one toe into the water of Lake Progress. And if you entertain the idea that you could be wrong 75% or more of the time, you are going to achieve tons more progress in your franchise, in your leadership, and probably in your life.

Wrong, Wrong . . . Right!

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways that franchise leaders can be limited by “common sense” that is really “common nonsense.”

So, what are the common false beliefs that have infected so many of us in the franchise industry? I can’t list them all, there are far too many. But let me explore a few of the most common ones. Think about them. They could be impeding your profitability and success.

  Mistaken Belief #1: “If we let our franchise owners get to know each other, they will plot against us and revolt!”

No! Although this attitude has secretly taken hold in many companies, it is dead wrong. My advice to you is that as soon as you can, invite as many of your franchisees as you can to join a franchise advisory council where they can share ideas, information, solutions . . . and even some gripes. They will not plot and gang up against the main franchise. In fact, they will:

  • Expose critical information from the front lines of your business that you would never hear otherwise.
  • Come up with better solutions to the problems you are facing than you ever will in headquarters.
  • Forge a strong family-like atmosphere where people believe in your franchise . . . and in you, and in themselves.

And when your owners are meeting and communicating with each other at your franchise council conventions and elsewhere, have the guts to NOT be there. Leave them alone and let them report back to you. When you trust them to discuss ideas and find solutions as a group, you prove that you trust them. And trust, if you haven’t noticed, is priceless.

  Mistaken Belief #2: “We have to hide our financials from our franchisees.”

This is stupid. You should open your books to your franchisees – in fact to everyone in your organization. When you do . . .

  • You motivate your franchise owners to cut costs and boost sales and profits.
  • You dispel any suspicions that people in headquarters are “fat cats” who are making a fortune while franchisees starve.
  • You gain concrete benchmarks you can use to inform people of how well your franchise is doing.

  Mistaken Belief #3: “If we train people, they will leave and either buy or work for other franchises.”

All I can say about this is summed up in the following conversation:

Executive A: “What if we train people and they leave?”

Executive B: “What if we don’t train people and they stay?”

You get my point. When you invest in great training, you get back more benefits than you thought possible, like these:

  • People do their jobs better. (This is obvious.)
  • Retention of franchise owners and employees soars because they know they are working for a company that is willing to invest in their success.
  • Potential buyers of your franchise are more eager to come on board because they see that you are willing to invest in them.
  • Your referrals improve, which makes it much easier to sell franchises.
  • You create a culture of learning in your organization, which pays countless benefits you cannot predict.

The better your training, the better your franchise. It’s just as simple as that. And another thing. If you settle for so-so training, you are only going to see so-so results.

  Mistaken Belief #4: “We can’t pay our people one penny more!”

There are many common variants to this way of thinking, including:

  • “We can’t pay people more until our system-wife profits have reached $ _ _ _ “(insert a dollar figure).
  • “We can never attract investors if we are too generous with or franchisees or employees.”
  • “What are we, a business or a charity?”
  • “If our payroll represents more of our outlays than is the industry norm, we are going to look like we don’t know what we are doing.”

But let’s face it. Most franchises are famous for their revolving door of employees – a revolving door that spins faster and faster. You see, we don’t exactly shower our employees with cash. So, they often bolt the minute a better opportunity comes along, like escaping a sinking ship.

But what if instead of pinching pennies, we decided to pay our employees a wage they could actually live on? As in, they can enjoy a more substantial living if they are in your business than they could possibly enjoy anywhere else?

Pay people more. It is a great idea! I have seen it work wonders. Companies that follow this advice:


  • Attract franchise owners and employees with more brain cells to rub together, and that’s a win for everyone.
  • Those higher-quality employees might actually show up for work, shocking, I know.
  • Save a boatload of cash on hiring and training.
  • Develop happier, more secure franchise owners whose employees might provide the kind of great service that earns gold stars, smiles, and repeat business from customers.

If you disagree with those points, I suggest that you hit yourself up the side of the head, which is a colorful Southern expression.

  Mistaken Belief #5: “We have certain high-level plans that we cannot share with our franchisees.”

You’re planning to begin selling franchises in a new state or region of the country. Or you have a killer new product or service in development. Or maybe you’re about to stop selling several products or services that are losing market share. And you’ think, “I can’t tell our franchisees about these plans . . . I have to keep them secret until we are ready to announce them.”

If that is your thinking, why? Sure, there might be some ideas that you want to keep close to your chest. But in general, the earlier you share top-level plans, the sooner you gain benefits like these:

  • You will hear wisdom and real-world ideas from every level of your franchise – insights you will never hear from anyone else.
  • Certain people from inside your franchise organization will step up, want to take part in what is happening, perhaps want to own franchises in the new areas you are opening up. You don’t always have to recruit new owners from outside your organization. Sometimes you can recruit great owners from within.
  • You will identify non-contributing “squeaky wheels” early on, before they can scuttle your plans or sabotage what you are doing. You don’t want negative people hanging around.

You’re getting the idea. The more open you can be about your vision for your franchise, the more successful it will become. You’re not the Central Intelligence Agency. Talk to people.

In summary . . .

As I wrote at the start of this article, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways that franchise leaders can be limited by “common sense” ideas that are really “common nonsense.”

Start by questioning everything, especially yourself, if you want to have a franchise that succeeds and makes a difference in the world.


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