Field managers are typically employed to inform, inspect and inspire franchisees to higher levels of performance. And most franchisors spend 10% to 20% of their royalty revenues on this important franchisee support function.
Yet, unfortunately there is often little to show in terms of return on investment for the franchisor or business benefits to the franchisee. This is certainly not through lack of trying on the part of the field managers themselves.
They have a tough job, often working alone out on the road, and they don’t always know what they are going to face when they walk through a franchisee’s door. Not surprisingly this role has a high burn out and turnover rate (which also contributes to a franchisor’s costs).
On the positive side in recent years we have seen a big shift in the focus franchisors are putting onto the field management function with better training and support for these “unsung heroes of franchising” and more commitment to recruit and remunerate higher calibre people.
Here are 11 tips to help field managers deliver greater value and improve the effectiveness of their visits.
- Work up a joint agenda with franchisees prior to your visits. Collate a list of the things you both want to cover. Once the agenda is agreed don’t deviate from these topics. If they weren’t important, you or the franchisee would not have raised them.
- Have a clear purpose for every visit. Ask yourself “If the visit were to go as well as it reasonably could, what would be achieved?” Imagine yourself achieving this result and how you would feel as a result. Review this in your mind just before you start each visit.
- When making initial contact give people your complete attention. Only after you have greeted the franchisee and their staff, and checked that everything is still on track for your visit, should you raise any compliance or business issues. You never know what has happened prior to your arrival so don’t jump to conclusions.
- Be friendly but never friends with franchisees. If you decide to socialise, for instance by having a meal together, always do this with a business purpose in mind. If you are spending time with a franchise just because you enjoy their company you may be opening yourself and your company to a complicated relationship which is likely go unpleasantly sour.
- Arrive at decisions together regarding the meaning of data trends. Although you may have done your own analysis, initially keep your conclusions to yourself as these may be incomplete without further information from the franchisee. A great outcome is arriving at conclusions together, which may be different and better than your own.
- Make it clear to franchisees how and why data is being collected. They can sometimes be defensive or even a bit paranoid about how you intend to use their business information. Draw out any concerns and remind them your analyses are for the purpose of improving their profit.
- Explain compliance checks in terms of brand protection. If a franchisee becomes defensive remind them how much money and effort has been invested in building the reputation of the brand and how quickly this can be undermined to the detriment of everyone.
- Keep conversations constructive. If a discussion goes negative stay solution focused by asking “What” questions. What do you want to see happen? What has been working? What can we do to help you move forward? Draw attention to what has been achieved and build on this.
- Finish visits on a positive note. The tone of your next visit will commence from where this visit ended. If the visit has been challenging, acknowledge this but also point out any positives that have been achieved. It is a good idea to make a short call a day or two afterwards to thank the franchisee for their focus and attention and reiterate the progress made during the visit.
- Look after yourself and keep your energy high. The energy you give out, which is a product of how you are feeling, will have more bearing on the effectiveness of your visits than any other single factor. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly and keep an adequate quota of fun in your life. Also spend time with positive people who care about you.
- Finally, always ask the MAGIC QUESTION at the end of every field visit. “What could I do to make my next visit more useful for you?” This is a powerful question that demonstrates you care about the franchisee’s success. And you are likely to learn a lot about how to improve your own performance.
Note: If you are interested in this topic, Greg's company has just launched a new initiative to support field managers called the Franchise Operations Network. See www.franchiserelationships.com for more information.