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Relying on trainers who get their feet wet


“Don’t hire cheap, don’t hire local,” My Salon Suites CEO and President Ken McAllister says. “You always want to go with the best.”

For New Orleans-based My Salon Suites, that means working with field staff all around the country. The development company works with talent in Denver, Baltimore, Charlotte and numerous other cities.

That flexible approach has allowed McAllister to find people with both franchising and salon experience, regardless of where they hang their hats at night. “We’re all remote,” McAllister says. “All of our stuff is Google based.”

Ken McAllister

“Everything’s performance-based. I’ve done it that way for 20 years. It creates more of a team effort.” — Ken McAllister, Suite Management Franchising

In addition to Google, the company uses JoinMe and Go2Meeting to stay in contact (along with phone calls, which seem downright quaint in comparison). It combines a small full-time staff of six or seven with approximately 40 to 50 outside vendors including construction companies, architects, and sales and marketing help.

“I staffed the key positions to manage certain tasks,” McAllister says. “I needed franchise guys, I needed engineering, and I needed ops.”

After those few essential roles were filled, it was a matter of filling in the gaps. To keep so many outside helpers in sync with the company’s values, McAllister and his team rely on very specific job descriptions. Being hired on as a contractor is a process similar to a regular job interview.

“You set up their job descriptions and their benchmarks, just like if you would come in as an employee,” McAllister says. “You define it through the plan. We have to interview and go through the steps.”

To keep employees loyal, McAllister believes in paying based on how the whole team does. Senior management pay is tied to company profitability and sales staff members get bonuses based on sales.

“Everything’s performance-based,” McAllister says. “I’ve done it that way for 20 years. It creates more of a team effort.”

Promote from within is mantra for Vitality Bowls

Tara Gilad, the founder and COO of San Ramon, California-based Vitality Bowls, says she believes in promoting from within. For proof, you don’t have to look any further than her first field manager.

“She was one of the very first employees I ever hired,” Gilad says. “As soon as we franchised she was the very first person to become a field manager.”

Gilad now has four field managers, each of whom has served as a store manager. Their most recently hired field manager still does, keeping an eye on things in Miami when not flying to other stores.

Tara Gilad

“It’s nice that we have corporate stores because then we can take employees from our corporate stores and promote them to field manager.” — Tara Gilad, Vitality Bowls

“He really gets his feet wet,” Gilad says. “I don’t think you can teach other people to do it if you’ve never done it yourself.”

As a result, each field staff member knows how to hire, how to fire, how to train, and how to order. They’re generalists rather than specialists, putting them in a better position to carry the company vision to jack-of-all-trades franchisees.

“They were directly trained by us,” Gilad says. “It’s nice that we have corporate stores because then we can take employees from our corporate stores and promote them to field manager.”

To keep her homegrown talent from leaving, Gilad makes sure to tell field staff how much they’re appreciated—and show them in concrete terms exactly how important they are.

“We try to make it so it’s fun for them,” Gilad says. “We let them travel, we’ll allow them to fly in a significant other and do an extended vacation. We give them any time off that they want.”

For a company that’s only four and a half years old, promoting from within has meant promoting young. This means the field staff skews younger than the franchisees. Half the staff are in their 20s, making them young enough to be the children of ‘zees in their 40s and 50s. Gilad says the two younger staffers have enough passion and work ethic to more than make up for the age disparity.

“In all honesty we were concerned about that,” Gilad says. “But our team is so amazing we have got nothing but positive feedback. They’re better than anyone we would have hired from the outside.”

Young Chefs Academy likes to bring in the experts

For Waco, Texas-based Young Chefs Academy, expertise is key. CEO and founder Julie Burleson intentionally brought in trainers with years of franchise experience.

“My trainer and my operations specialist were brought in from outside,” Burleson says. “They did not come up through the ranks.”

Burleson’s goal is to support franchisees. For her, that means bringing in team members who not only have a passion for Young Chefs Academy’s vision, but also industry knowledge. “To me that’s critical,” Burleson says. “I can train them on my systems and my model easily.”

Julie Burleson

“Next to bringing the right franchisees into your system, right up there with that is a quality training and field consultant staff.” — Julie Burleson, Young Chefs Academy

As a growing franchise, Young Chefs Academy fields a relatively tight support team. Besides the trainer and operations specialist, there is a marketing director and an IT director. Burleson says each member is more than capable of covering his or her current stores but future growth may mean expanding the team.

“With 25 locations that works well,” Burleson says. “We envision when we have 100 franchisee locations, then Jaime my operations manager will have regional directors under her.”

How do you attract experienced workers to a young company? Burleson says staff appreciate that they’ll be able to make a bigger impact by getting in at the early stages.

“They know we’re planning to expand,” Burleson says. “The staff will grow as the company grows.” That means bonuses now and a plan to offer equity in the future.

In addition, Burleson stays flexible about location. “My field consultant doesn’t live in Texas, she lives in Michigan,” Burleson says. “I fly her here for trainings and meetings. In today’s day and age that’s very enticing.”

Ultimately, a strong training staff is a key part of franchisee support. Burleson says it’s one of the most important things a franchisor can provide.

“I think it’s critical,” Burleson says. “I think next to bringing the right franchisees into your system, right up there with that is a quality training and field consultant staff.”

Living Large follows three emerging franchisors all year as they tackle challenges typical to all brands. Send advice or experiences you’ve faced to Beth Ewen, bewen@franchisetimes.com; she will publish excerpts from the best submissions in future issues. Next month’s topic is deploying human resources support while avoiding joint employer liability.

Training trends

Many franchisors take a tiered approach to training, in which they create specialized support roles to work with franchisees based on their status, tenure and performance levels. For example, they might have trainers who focus on onboarding new franchisees; trainers who focus on franchisees who need to improve performance and are running behind brand averages; and franchisees who have purchased existing locations through a transfer.

A related idea is to pair a superstar franchisee as a mentor to new operators, and in turn to have corporate  staff assigned to such groups to provide best practices to all.

A quality assurance checklist is a good tool for franchisors to use when making site visits, but beware using it like a hammer. Rather, make the checklist part of a larger effort to recognize operational excellence, perhaps with a president’s award at the annual conference.

Online portals with training modules on separate topics are popular today.

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