Franchising · 16 June 2016

Franchising A-Z: Engagement – communicating clear values and vision

Communication is a vital component of successful engagement
Communication is a vital component of successful engagement

Continuing on with his A-Z of the franchising world, David Burton analyses why engagement is crucial to maintaining a good balance between franchisor and franchisee.

The word engagement has quickly become a bit of a “buzz” word in today’s business culture and many organisations are vocal about efforts to improve employee or customer engagement.

Franchising your business creates a need for an additional and essential layer of engagement, which is the one that needs to exist and evolve in the relationship between the franchisee and the franchisor. This layer needs to exist to ensure energies are focused for the development of the franchisee and it needs to evolve for the benefit of the brand’s ability to adapt and maintain market appeal for products and services offered by the franchise.

With new investors in your brand working remotely, how do you successfully engage with them to help them grow a business, whilst following your model, and see a return on their investment?

Engagement is about an emotional response, and in the context of franchising, engagement is about franchisees feeling pride and loyalty in their franchise brand, product or service delivery so that they continue to be brand ambassadors and in the process maintain and strengthen brand integrity.

Here at ServiceMaster in the UK, we’ve been working with engagement expert Stuart Baldwin of The Positive Company to address what he refers to as the “engagement gap”. He believes that engaged people are 43 per cent more productive but only one-in-five is fully engaged in their work.

You’ll understand from previous articles that the franchisor/franchisees relationship is unique. Franchisees are not employees and yet you are not in partnership (in the context of a legal entity) with them. However, you both share significant interests in the development and integrity of your brand – but you are the brand leader. It’s important to remember that a significant proportion of franchising is about the brand. Any company can flip burgers, fry chicken or clean carpets, but your investors haven’t necessarily approached you to offer the service. They’re looking for a return on an investment and a proven franchise with a brand name should be able to offer a realistic and sustainable return on investment. This relationship with, and mutual reliance upon, the brand immediately creates an empathy between the franchisor and franchisee.

Values and vision

You’ll see engagement when franchisees have a clear understanding of how the brand is achieving the values and vision the franchisor created and how they can be a part of the bigger picture. Franchisee engagement is about them having a voice to offer ideas and express their views. Facilitating communication between franchisees is an important step to improving engagement and therefore productivity. Creating a forum or channel through which franchisees can share ideas, successes, thoughts and views is integral.

Communication

Implementing a regular and relevant communication strategy is also key. Communication shouldn’t just be propaganda but real-life examples of challenges faced and overcome – where a franchisee has achieved a great success, delighted a customer or seen a return on their investment through an innovative activity. Demonstrate your vision in action and offer solutions to problems through a timely and regular communication process.

Support

Providing franchisees with the right support is key to helping them achieve pride in their work and ultimately, a return on their investment. Business coaching, operational and marketing support can help franchisees feel empowered to achieve more and gain confidence in their role as a business owner.

Lead by example

As the franchisor, you’re expecting all franchisees to follow the business model to the letter but do you really expect your investors to follow your example if the example set has room for improvement? Your credibility as a franchisor and brand leader is, and always will be, under scrutiny.

Here are five things to ensure you lead by example:

  • Do what you say you will do – ensure you can fulfil all activities before announcing them
  • Be consistent in your advice and support
  • Communicate openly with all franchisees – share good news and bad news with everyone
  • If you ask for constructive feedback, act on it, don’t ignore it
  • Recognise highly-achieving franchisees on a regular basis

Remember that engagement is about empowering franchisees to achieve more as an investor in your brand. Provide everything they need to achieve great things – celebrate with them and communicate it to your whole network and you’ll reap the benefits.

David Burton has already covered A-D of the franchising world, so have a look at his other posts.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

David Burton is the communications executive at ServiceMaster, one of the UK’s longest established and largest multi-brand franchisors. With a background in public relations, he provides communications support to the 350+ ServiceMaster franchises and is an advocate for franchising as a proven route to business success.

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