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High 5

How the highly successful communicate


A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Brian Schnell, a franchise attorney at Faegre & Benson.

Brian introduced me to the firm's "Five Habits of the Highly Successful Franchisor" program. You've come to realize, then, the title of this article is not my own, though I did add "communication" in there to highlight the habits as they relate to the topic of this column.

It's a new year. It's time for resolutions and for becoming better professionals. Here are the Faegre & Benson habits, with communication tips sprinkled in there to help you become highly successful in 2009.

Habit No 1:

The highly successful franchisor has an undying devotion to the brand.

We know brands in all aspects of our lives. What's the first thing you think when you hear the following?

  • McDonald's
  • Starbucks
  • Southwest Airlines
  • The Disney Company
  • Arment Dietrich Inc.

These companies all have brands and immediately conjure images or ideas in your head when you hear their names.

The core to effective communication is having a brand, consistently talking about the brand in the same way every time, and having an undying devotion to it. So it's important to not only have and define the brand and listen to what your customers say about your brand, but also to communicate that brand and its promise with franchisees, who become your best brand stewards as they talk to the customers. If you aren't effectively communicating your brand, franchisees get confused and say what they can to sell more. And the experience isn't identical, no matter the location.Something you want? No.

Habit No. 2:

The highly successful franchisor is keenly aware of the competing interests of the franchisor, franchisee, and system as a whole - and balances them properly.

The Faegre & Benson habit states the role of the franchisor is to develop, evolve, and enforce the system, while the role of the franchisee is to provide capital and unit management and to follow the system. My addition is to also do it with your communication efforts.For instance, the role of the franchisor is to develop, evolve and enforce the brand, the messaging and the internal and external communication efforts. The role of the franchisee is to follow the rules by engaging in the brand, the messaging, and the system created for internal and external communication.

What happens if you have a franchisee who doesn't follow the rules? The one who thinks communication their way is better and in the process ruin the reputation of the brand? Warren Buffett said it best: "If you lose money for the firm, I will be understanding. If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless."

Habit No. 3:

The highly successful franchisor stacks the deck with "ace" franchisees.

This habit is written for franchisee sales vs. recruiting, but it makes sense for communication, as well. You also want "ace" franchisees acting as your local spokespeople.

When you look for franchisees to speak on the company's behalf, look for qualities such as:

  • Listens effectively and answers questions without being verbose
  • Is ethical
  • Responds to requests within 24 hours
  • Doesn't have a problem saying "I don't know" if they don't know, but are willing to find the answerÉand quickly
  • Has the ability to build relationships in person, on the phone, and through online methods

If the franchisee has these qualities, they're likely willing to understand the importance of the brand and are willing to help with media interviews, events, social networking, speaking engagements, charity sponsorships, and other external avenues. Stack the deck with the ace franchisees who effectively communicate your messages.

Habit No. 4:

The highly successful franchisor is obsessed with the franchisee's bottom line.

I'm going to plagiarize part of this habit to make a point: The true franchisor is only as successful as its franchisees.Why?

  • Unsuccessful franchisees are especially motivated to get a free ride.
  • Unsuccessful franchisees go out of business.
  • Unsuccessful franchisees create conflict within the system.
  • Unsuccessful franchisees lead to adversarial franchisee associations.
  • Unsuccessful franchisees badmouth the franchisor to prospects.
  • Unsuccessful franchisees file lawsuits.

I'll bet you know where this is going. If the unsuccessful franchisee is all of these things, do you want this person being a brand advocate for you? If the franchisee is badmouthing the system to prospects, what do you think is being said to employees, customers, and within the community?

Habit No. 5:

The highly successful franchisor empowers its franchisees.


Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich Public Relations in Chicago.  Gini can be reached at 312-787-7249, or dietrich@armentdietrich.com

I love what Faegre & Benson has to say about this: One way to empower your franchisees is to build regional advertising cooperatives in a way that fosters collaboration without giving up control. The idea is that you provide ways for franchisees to share ownership in their future by giving them tools to succeed in their local markets.We have a client who was looking for ways to empower its franchisees to communicate locally and within the communities they serve. Last year we created a toolkit that provided steps and tools for developing relationships, finding speaking engagements, serving on boards and councils, writing letters to the editor and developing a corporate social responsibility campaign. We've enhanced that this year with a communication hotline once a month where franchisees can call and ask questions about their toolkit and share best practices with one another.

Like all things, some franchisees do really well and others don't want to try, but if you stack the deck with ace franchisees and empower them to improve your brand, your culture will be one others want to join, especially in a tough economy when many professionals are looking for ways to become self-employed.

Gini Dietrich is chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich Public Relations in Chicago.

Gini can be reached at gdietrich@armentdietrich.com or 312-787-7249.

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