Your DNA is in the franchise operations manuals. For any franchisor, system manuals along with training and internal communications are the foundation that allows your franchisees to consistently deliver on your Brand Promise. Think of them as the DNA of your franchise system.
Documenting your business serves multiple purposes. The process of developing your operations manuals library requires your team to come to agreement on how you want franchisees to operate, the standards that are important to you, and the organizational culture you want to convey to your franchisees. Having a well-designed set of operations and other manuals assures you that there is one central source of standards, requirements, and processes for your franchisees to be guided by.
Manuals need to be written for your targeted audience, including franchisees, multi-unit operators, master franchisees, headquarters staff, field staff, and also for your company-owned operations. Your manuals library also serves as the core documentation for your initial franchisee and other training. You have to secure so only the relevant manuals and information will be shared with the correct target group, otherwise you have a problem.
Extension of the agreement
Franchise system manuals are also an extension of your franchise agreement and disclosure document. While franchise agreements are static documents, manuals have the capability to convey the evolution of your franchise system to meet the competitive needs of the market. Your manuals library will change frequently over time, while the terms in your franchise agreement generally will remain the same, until your franchisee enters into a successor agreement at the end of the term.
Care must be taken in how your manuals are developed and written. While in company-owned locations you have control over your staff, in a franchise you set standards and it is up to the franchisee to manage their business to meet your standards, including managing their human resources.
Though the franchise agreement refers to an Operations Manual in the singular, practically speaking, franchises have a complete library of manuals to use as references and training tools.
For most brick-and-mortar businesses, new franchisors start out with two manuals. The first is the Start-Up or Pre-Opening Manual, and the second is the Unit or Franchisee Operations Manual, which in turn can be separated into the Concept Manual or Rulebook and the Operations and Routines Manual. Depending on the nature of the business, there may be several additional manuals you may require; for example, in the restaurant industry the initial set of manuals will also include materials such as recipes, meal preparation, and food safety guidelines.
Franchisees will use the set of operations manuals as part of the material they use to train their own personnel teams, so it is essential the manuals be properly constructed. Each industry is different, and the basic set of manuals will reflect this reality.
Finally, none of your Manuals will be any better that the ability for franchisees and staff to access that content when needed. Keeping manuals as printed hard copies will guarantee that they are neither read nor updated and current. Stashing them as pdf-files on a Dropbox, internal server or stale intranet is only marginally better. Today there are clever and specialized cloud solutions available and affordable “off the shelf”. These systems allow for centrally controlled and role-based access, online updates in real time, mobile platform access, mandatory read tracking, multi-language support and powerful statistics and insights. There are also built in interactive checklists, allowing the franchisor to actually monitor so daily routines and changes are implemented and get real-time live reports on any deviations or non-compliance.
A basic set of manuals for a franchise system may include:
For Franchisees, Multi-Unit Developers and Master Franchisees
- Franchisee Unit Operations Manual
- Start-Up or Pre-Opening Manual
- Unit Manager Manual
- Employee Position Manual prepared for franchisee adaptation
- Brand Guide
- Local Marketing Manual
- Multi-Unit Management Manual
- Master Franchisee Manual
For Franchisor Personnel:
- Franchise Sales and Compliance Manual
- Field Consultants Manual
Tell them, then tell them again and doublecheck they got it - it’s franchise training time.
The other DNA strand of your franchise system
Your investment in your manual library will be leveraged even further when you use them as your reference materials for new franchisee training - clearly another essential to launching franchisees. Assigning sections of the manuals as pre-work or homework gets franchisees in the habit of using the manuals and conveys the critical information they need to know. A cloud based system with mandatory read tracking for Manuals allows for easy access 24/7 at any location.
The new franchisee training program should impart the vision of the franchisor as well as the nuts and bolts described in the manuals. Typically, the program consists of “pre-training” webinars, corporate office classroom training including in-store hands-on sessions, as well as on-site training at the franchisee’s location immediately preceding and during the launch week(s).
Franchisee training enables franchisors to create consistent delivery of their Brand Promise from location to location regardless of the market. While your library of Operations Manuals is the primary reference material for training franchisees, effective training programs use an array of methods and activities to enable franchisees to launch, operate, and grow their businesses effectively.
You need to identify and define the knowledge, skills and abilities that each member of the franchise system needs to perform their job to brand standards. Then determine which training approaches will be the most effective and cost-efficient for each group requiring training. You can go all the way to staff certification that are legally compliant and better allow the franchise system to achieve consistent and sustainable locations.
Some of the training programs that could be relevant are:
- Franchisee and general manager training
- Employee training for franchisee adaptation
- Franchisor field consultant training
- Train-the-trainer programs to enable franchisees to train their own personnel
- Train-the-trainer programs to enable field staff to conduct training
- Unit manager training
- Multi-unit developer training
- Franchise sales compliance training
- International and domestic master franchisee and area representative training
Everyone in your headquarters office needs “Franchising 101” to learn the differences between working with employees and working with franchisees unless they’ve worked for a franchisor before. And even then, a brush-up doesn’t hurt, since the legal landscape is always evolving and there can be legal ramifications for the franchisor if someone who works for you takes the wrong tack with a franchise or their employee.
The Franchise Development Manager will be recruiting franchisees and representing the franchise opportunity to prospects. There is perhaps no position more vulnerable to legal retribution than the Franchise Development Manager since he or she is representing the franchise offering and fielding questions about potential sales and support.
Your Franchise Development Manager should also have basic knowledge of how your units operate so that prospective franchisees can get proper answers to operational and other questions they may have.
Field Consultants usually come from the ranks of seasoned operators within the system. This may be a corporate general manager or, in the event the franchisor has only one corporate store, it may be the founder who functions as the Field Consultant for the first few franchisees! Field Consultants generally already have the operational expertise, but may need training in presentations skills to provide training, business analysis, and consultation skills (e.g., establishing credibility, building trust, and providing advice in a manner that is well received).
It’s your goddamn responsibility
Again, to have franchisees properly supported over their entire life-cycle with you, it’s imperative to have all your know-how and best practice well documented, currently updated and easily available. That is actually one of the most important responsibilities of the franchisor - to set the rules and enforce compliance and police the entire system.
Technology offers an array of options to follow up on training to verify that franchisees actually got it. Online tests and questionnaires goes a long way, and if you have the budget there are complete LMS-platforms available. (Learning Management Systems)
Parts of this article comes from MSA