For Franchises, One Size Does NOT Fit All

Posted in internal communications on by Chainformation Team

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 The Ten Spot brainchild and CEO Kristen Wood could be accused of biting off more than she could chew.

The guerilla, no-nonsense beauty bar and salon concept first took off in Toronto, Canada, in 2006, when Ms. Wood was only 24 years old.

To date, the brand has successfully opened 14 locations, 11 of which are franchisees and it’s been a steep learning curve for Ms. Wood. Luckily, she never shies away from a challenge.  

Of her experience “going franchise”, she says:

“I’ve learned that I have two sets of clients: those who frequent our spas and my franchise partners.”

She calls them “partners” now but, starting out, Ms. Wood realized that the franchising model is one that requires more standardization and an increasing level of consideration for franchisee needs.

In other words, she needed to anticipate what they needed and support them in their growth -- sometimes even before they knew it.

And she needed a way to communicate that clearly and consistently.

The holy grail for successful internal operations, business agility and future growth goes something like this:

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For Ms. Wood, her 11 franchisees have grown alongside the growth of The Ten Spot. As she’s worked out the kinks, they’ve been learning the ropes. And, in many ways, her experience supporting her franchisees has guided how the company’s internal communications take place.

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While The Ten Spot has been in business since 2006, its franchising efforts are a mere six years old -- which is to say, they began in 2011. Ms. Wood’s plans for growth are (predictably) daring:

“I’d like to hit 60, then 100 and go from there. Within the next couple of years I would like to be open in the U.S. It’s a big market. My plan is to be in markets such as Miami and California, where it’s summer longer [which is good for business catering to exposed legs and toes], then Chicago and New York.”

– Ms. Wood, speaking to Brenda Bouw of The Globe & Mail

These are audacious goals to have and nurturing a business idea over a slice of pie (Wood’s own story) is perhaps how all humble but visionary would-be business owners take the leap.

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International expansion, however, will require a solid internal system of streamlined communication -- because, let’s face it, Kristen Wood can’t be in 100 locations at once.

Not only will everyone need to remain on the same page, according to their roles in the company, but The Ten Spot’s current franchisee partners will start to have real experience and expertise under their belt.

Which means that a review by Ms. Wood and her team of the internal operations will have to tackle these sticky questions:

How do you support new franchisees in their growth while encouraging mature franchisees to tackle new challenges?

How do you make sure everyone’s on the same page when there are vastly differing experience levels, even under the same brand and company umbrella?

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Different Internal Target Audience

Most franchisors are guilty of this: instead of tailoring training materials, internal communications and operations manuals based on experience or the the number of years in ownership tenure, Ops Manuals are general, built according to a one-size-fits-all template.

A lot of prior information is either poorly explained or a certain level of knowledge is simply taken for granted.

In short, there is a unintentional but clear disregard for the maturity and experience of the franchisee.  

Franchisees may have prior business experience but, just as easily, this may be their first time going out “on their own”. The language required to address these different groups is going to have to differ.

And, to ensure engagement, access to ops manuals and the format of these procedures must be commensurate with that franchisee’s tenure and experience.

This means that senior franchisees might benefit from one-on-one reviews and coaching, while new franchisees can learn when shadowing experienced franchisees in an extended, on-site training process.

If you think of senior franchisees and newly-inducted franchisees as two different parts of one market then you must think about segmenting based on audience and optimizing, just as you would think about the target audience of your brand at large.

This difference between senior and new franchisees could show up in various ways. Senior franchisees, for example, will appreciate the chance to enhance their business such as “growing shareholder value” or “planning your corporate equity” or “hiring Managers”.

The main difference is that they have established daily operational standards and are now looking to go beyond.

New franchisees, on the other hand, need a comprehensive, on-site executive field team that will guide them well past their launch. From a proper set-up to ongoing operations in the first 90 days (and perhaps longer, if that’s what the program promises) sets the stage for a strong foundation.

These could be issues such as “weekly ordering routines”, “handling customer complaints”, or “hiring your first staff”. These issues, as you can see, are not brand specific but are meant to address a certain audience: your new franchisees only.

Essentially, if you deliver the same content to parties in a vastly different context, you risk alienating BOTH groups.

Remember: for your franchisee, the customer...is their customer. But, for you as a franchisor...your customer is your franchisee.

Create A Knowledge Base

Once you have these markers, you’re well on your way to understanding the type of support and information each level of franchisee expertise needs.

Engage your support staff in this task by asking them to put down the ten most common issues or questions coming from each “type” of your franchisees. Document all answers in separate FAQs relevant to each group.

Finally, take your new-found knowledge and create a Knowledge Bank with best practices for each level.

If you run internal audits, make sure to share all required target levels and highlight the best practices that are most helpful for each type of franchisee to reach the next level.

Do remember that much of this Knowledge is at the core of your business concept and so it’s a part of your Operations Manuals and Handbooks.  

Communicating Across A Shared Platform

In this final step, you’re moving from concept to communication: how is this “segmented” information going to be easily accessed by each type without creating information overload and to stay relevant?

Keep in mind that information needs to be made available for franchisees according to their individual level and, because of this, one size does NOT fit all.

As a communication tool, a common platform for communication helps to empower your franchisees to set and reach their own goals. This intranet is also a space where relevant information, support and best practices can be accessed by that particular level.

Giving Franchisees the option to interact with peers in similar position also will contribute to build a community and “we/us” culture.  

When a franchisee is ready to be moved to the next level - i.e. internal audits and reviews reveal that they have surpassed the previously set markers - the only thing that has to change is an upgrade to their profile in order to change or “graduate” their access levels.

Your field agents and HQ support team are of course vital in the support and development of Franchisees. But they also need to understand these differences between Franchisee stages and have access to information and tools accordingly.

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