What is Know-How in a Franchise? How to identify and describe it, so others can understand and act upon it.

turn knowledge into action on blackboard

A sad fact is that many Operations Manuals are obtuse documents at best, leaving front line workers to muddle through their tasks based on word of mouth and whatever understanding of the business is passed on between them.

Here are some insights and Four steps to consider

Your Franchised business has capital assets, human resource assets, possibly technical equipment and more, but the fundamental asset your business possesses is one that you may not give much thought to: know-how. Without know-how, your Franchisees and in turn, their employees don't know how to proceed with the work and all that technical equipment may well go to waste. It is what allows your entire network to operate consistently and in line with your core values along with regulatory, legal and other considerations that may apply. Without that core knowledge of how your business operates – in effect, the sum total of experience and expertise that you have acquired over time as a franchisor – your Francisees are operating in the dark. 

Now, you hopefully have an Operations Manual, that brand bible which is supposed to encompass all that business know-how you have built up and guide your franchisees and they, in turn, their employees. But it's a sad fact that many Operations Manuals are obtuse documents at best, leaving front line workers to muddle through their tasks based on word of mouth and whatever understanding of the business is passed on between them. In an effort to be clear and inclusive of all the elements at play, Operations Manuals are often written in hard to follow prose that rivals legal documents in its complexity and verbosity. Others lack organization and are difficult to follow. Many Franchisees and employees have great personal treats; to sell, serve customers, perform tasks etc – but read and disseminate large text volumes are seldom one of them.  

Even if you already have an Operations Manual, it's worth the effort to revamp it and update it on a regular basis and certainly as soon as procedures or aspects of the franchise and its operations change. Unless you operate in a stale business sector without competitors or other external influence, you need to update frequently to reflect the current business environment your franchisees have to navigate. Sometimes your Ops.Manual need to be updated on a daily basis, even by Managers in the field if they encounter things that needs adjusting.

Here are the four most important issues to consider.

1. Plan
It is best to begin with an outline that will list all the elements you want to include in the Operations Manual, and has to be in sync with your Franchise Agreement. It sounds like an easy task but this initial step can be fairly complex. It means breaking the business into separate functions – sales, support, accounting and so on – and then, within those categories, the various duties that go into them. For example, when it comes to sales, functions may include managing product displays and promotions as well as day to day sales to customers. There are record keeping functions and communications that need to take place. You'll want to take note of any equipment that comes into play and be sure to include complete instructions for its maintenance as well as daily use.

2. Write/document
The Manual should be written in language and in terms that the end user will understand. That means clear, unambiguous and plain language. Legal and technical terms should be avoided unless they are the terms that the employees themselves will use. Break each function down into its simplest components and create a step by step list for each of them.

  • You need to be clear on WHY each procedure is important.
  • You need to describe HOW the task or procedure is to be performed step-by-step
  • You need to describe WHO (which Role) is responsible for this specific task/procedure (Site manager, sales clerk, shift manager etc)
  • You need to describe WHEN this task/procedure is to be performed. Does it have fixed recurring periods e.g every day before opening, once a month etc or “when needed”.
  • You definitely need to describe the quality required, the STANDARD, what is “A job well done” according to your Brand and Conceptual standards. The person performing must be able to take a step back and evaluate their result according to a common standard. This is also the standard ALL Units are measured by. 

If possible, use video and pictures, snap a short video of a procedure, show Before/After or OK/NotOK to clarify. Videos and images can be shot with a modern smartphone, no need to hire a team of producers etc, just get it done. A video can not be misinterpreted the way a text can.

Knowledge sharing

3. Organize
There should be a master Manual that does include all aspects of the business, but you will want to consider the amount that eventually makes its way into employee hands. Do the various functions of the business integrate and work together? Or, do some aspects operate virtually on their own? Does everyone need to know all the procedures for every eventuality? Or, could many employees or departments work better from a smaller, filtered version of the Manual that addresses their functions only? Information on a need-to-know basis. It reduces information volume and increases information integrity and secrecy.

The organization of an Operations Manual should be both logical and intuitive. The sections relating to the usual functions of any one job should be grouped together and easy to find and descriptions of specific procedures should come in a natural order – the order that the functions would follow in real world situations. The table of contents should be clear and logically laid out based on Task and Process and if working in a digital environment, all topics should be dynamic Tags which can be attached to every relevant procedure and task.

Having your Manual structured like a "book" with fixed chapters is more than a little "old shcool". Staff turns to the manual when they need answers to a emmidiate question or a  problem, so it has to be Task oriented and highly searchable. When did you last look at the "Table of contents" for the Internet?? Right, get my point! Getting relevant information is all that counts.   

4. Share
The last step is to get the Operations Manual into the hands of your franchisees and by extension their employees. While a printed Operations Manual can go astray and be sitting in the back office and a shared file server with pdf-files can be a rats-nest to access and find, a Franchise Intranet like the one fromChainformation presents the ideal solution by providing a comprehensive digital version that is easily accessible on any device 24/7 by anyone within the franchise given access. Information can be targeted by Role and Job function and accessed by anyone in a franchise network at the same time without worrying about distribution timing at the end of the line. As a franchisor, you can also keep track of when franchisees and employees actually do – or whether they don’t – access the information and can take proper action.

Completing an Operations Manual from scratch is an involved process but well worth the time and effort when it results in consistent and uniform operation of your business model through all its franchises. With an updated, relevantOperations Manual available in the Cloud you will se significantly shorter implementation of new Franchisees, employess and there will be less pressure on your central support staff.

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