5 hands-on tips how to cascade across your franchise network when one outlet finds a good solution/improves services.
Any Franchisor in today’s fiercely competitive market has to be agile, open minded and prone to change. Standing still is actually moving backwards, and as Mother Nature rules; “That which does not evolve gets extinct”. And, Yes, as a basic rule, non-compliance is not to be accepted – but there are exceptions.
Best practice refers to a commonly agreed upon way of doing things that is superior to known and available alternatives. As such, it is something that all Franchisors should aim for.
Doesn’t that just sound like common sense? Surely every organization should strive to implement best practice in all of its locations?
Actually, achieving best practice across a franchise network isn’t as simple as it might seem. Firstly, you need to establish what exactly is the best way of doing things, whether you make burgers, sell IT equipment or fix mobile phones. Then, you need a way to transmit the best methods to all franchises. Finally, you need to ensure that this information is acted upon, and that any new ideas are cascaded to head office. Put it that way, mainstreaming best practice requires a little work.
Here are some ideas about how to handle and transmit the information about best practice across your franchise network.
- Learn from Your Competitors and Assess Your Processes
The first thing to do is to formulate a basic code of best practice. This is the starting point for creating a company culture based around best practice, not a fixed document, but it has to be comprehensive and honest.
Research how other companies work and analyze what your most effective franchisers do well. Visit your branches and model your processes to find out how your products or services can be delivered, marketed and sold in the most efficient manner.
For every link in the business chain, write up a brief description of the standards you expect and the methods used to achieve them. Set some goals regarding revenues for branches, employee performance and customer satisfaction metrics, and lay these down as a marker.
- Transmit Best Practice to Every Branch
Your best practice documents need to be communicated clearly to every single branch. A good way to do so is by including them prominently in your franchise operations manual. Require that every employee is tested on the standards as part of their induction, and table audits of every branch to see whether they are being met.
A Company-wide intranet is a good way to reinforce best practice, so use your newsletter, video conferences and weekly updates to stress your standards. However, don't go too far. Franchisees won't welcome incessant micro-management, and it's a waste of your time too. Just focus on creating a strong manual, share it and setting out clear assessment processes.
- Create Channels to Feedback New Ideas
Your franchisees are a major sources of information about what works and what doesn’t. At the end of the day, they are the ones interacting with customers on a daily basis. It’s a good idea to set up specific channels that franchisees can use to contribute their ideas. This could be a dedicated telephone line, an email form or of course, a dedicated Franchise Intranet. Whatever you choose, it has to be taken seriously and be accessible to all branches – regardless of geographical location.
Another good idea is to incorporate information sharing into company-wide events. When you convene for real or virtual conferences, include an agenda item on innovations and best practice. That way you can come up with updated codes of practice that include the latest information.
However, resist the temptation to issue continual updates to your best practice code. That will only lead to confusion. Table an annual update, and turn its announcement into a key event in your corporate calendar.
- Accept Differences When Necessary
Best practice won’t necessarily apply in the same way in all of your locations. For example, you might operate a mixture of diner style restaurants and kiosks, and their food preparation or customer service methods may differ. There could also be seasonal variations, or differences based around different national cultures and markets.
It’s important to find out when these differences apply, and whether they are necessary to provide a good service to your customers. Sometimes, you may need to enforce company-wide changes. In other cases, local knowledge can be included as part of best practice. So stay flexible at all times. Again, implementing the right communication tools and platforms will allow you to segregate information to each of these different target groups.
Create a Culture of Best Practice
These ideas are leading up to a bigger point. To really implement the best possible practices across a large franchise network, companies need to create a culture of achievement and enforcement.
Individual branches need to be incentivized to improve, rewarded for success and listened to when they have something to contribute. On the flip-side, they also need to understand that poor performance can lead to penalties.
Striking the balance between interfering too much in franchises and being too hands-off is not easy. However, it is much more achievable when franchisees know that they are joining a network with a culture of achievement and improvement. If franchisees feel valued and respected, they may also welcome more interaction with central office, helping to roll out changes when they are needed.
But again, ending with the first question – You, the Franchisor owns the concept, set the rules and You decide what is to be Best Practice or Non-compliance.
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