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Don’t play catch-up with franchisee field support


It seems like a no-brainer to advise new franchisors to think beyond the opening, but amid the flurry of franchise agreement signings and new store development, field support can slip from necessity to nicety, with lasting repercussions.

Regional directors and trainers are the ones who help drive growth and change in any franchise system, working to execute initiatives on the ground with franchisees. So while the expense of creating these positions can seem daunting to young brands, it’s far more costly to play catch-up by having to correct bad behavior or address stagnant sales at a location later on. Determine a realistic field support staff-to-franchisee ratio and then make a plan and budget to build out the team.

Creating a field support team is step one. Step two is educating field staff on the top areas that drive business and providing them regular measurement of these areas. Franchisors need to remember with everything they’re trying to do, the field team is going to need a reliable way to teach the system to franchisees. The field team should understand how the company supports its goals so they can truly support franchisees, versus merely focusing on compliance.

Smart franchisors understand that field support is essential to the overall success of the system—and they invest accordingly.

Rob Flanagan

“If you’re interacting with a franchisee as if they work for you, you’re gonna have some problems.”  — Rob Flanagan, Wag N’ Wash

Communication style matters

At Centennial, Colorado-based Wag N’ Wash, two field reps split the pet store brand’s 14 franchise units and each got their start running company locations, experience President Rob Flanagan says is essential for them to effectively work with franchisees.

“The advantages are huge, they know the company front and back,” says Flanagan of promoting from within the brand. Where companies can fall short, he points out, “is they don’t give that person the right training to support a franchisee.” Field staff need to first understand where each franchisee is at in the lifecycle of their business and recognize their business isn’t structured the same as a corporate store. In launching a social media campaign, for example, “most likely it’s just the franchisee who is doing this versus having a whole corporate marketing team,” explains Flanagan. “You have to modulate your communication to where the franchisee is at.”

The style of that communication is just as important, meaning being mindful of language and not coming across as “condescending,” he adds. “If you’re interacting with a franchisee as if they work for you, you’re gonna have some problems.”

At Wag N’ Wash, monthly meetings with field reps to review each franchise location help in the creation of worksheets used to identify goals and opportunities for improvement—and equip the support team with the information necessary to be effective in their roles. “You don’t want to strand your field rep out there in the cold without the tools they need,” says Flanagan, using an example of a location grappling with high turnover. “Is it a symptom of the franchisee not listening? If so we need to equip the rep with that information.”

Franchisees get a minimum of four site visits each year to go along with weekly phone calls with their field representative through the first year. Ongoing support is tailored to each franchisee’s needs, and Wag N’ Wash also aims to match its reps with owners not necessarily on a geographical basis but who works best together. In Washington, where the brand has two stores, each has a different field rep. Sure, the brand might spend a bit more on travel expenses, says Flanagan, but “if there’s an area to spend money on it’s franchise support.

“I think it’s a role that, in our hierarchy, the field support rep is more important than I am.”

Dan Henry

“A lot of it is checks and balances—you don’t want to be that franchisor who only comes out to be a jerk.” — Dan Henry, Tough Mudder Bootcamp

Presale support at TMB

“We’re a small company, we all wear a ton of hats,” notes Dan Henry, director of franchise sales at Tough Mudder Bootcamp. But that doesn’t mean franchise support takes a backseat. Instead, it’s a team effort, with VP of Operations Josh Reed and Creative Director Eric Botsford heavily involved in ongoing training of franchisees as the company looks to bolster its corporate office.

“We already have our org chart built out for the next one to three years to make sure we’re working to support our franchisees,” says Henry, noting an additional operations hire is likely this year. That person could come from within the ranks of Tough Mudder Inc., “stepping from a studio trainer to a corporate trainer,” says Henry, or from the franchised fitness space at large.

“We don’t need rocket scientists, but we need people with a good fitness background in the franchise space,” continues Henry, with particular experience in membership presales.

That presale area gets special emphasis, as Tough Mudder Bootcamp’s FDD stipulates franchisees are required to sell at least 50 class packages within four weeks of taking possession of their location. A soft opening team makes sure owners are “trained on the intricacies of converting a lead to a sale,” says Henry, and “massive grand opening parties” have included special workouts for social media influencers and incorporated parts of a Tough Mudder obstacle course.

A quality assurance checklist and weekly phone calls are part of field support, along with clear timelines to hit sales benchmarks, plus a heavy dose of encouragement. “A lot of it is checks and balances—you don’t want to be that franchisor who only comes out to be a jerk,” says Henry. A simple secret shop visit can yield insights into a franchisee’s low conversion rate, for example, but without “the negativity around that term,” he continues. “It’s not like we’re going there looking for problems or to lay the hammer down. It’s how those conversations are handled.”

Dan Tarantin

“At this point in our size we are touching base with everyone every week.” — Dan Tarantin, Delta Restoration Services

Add value to support

Even as it was finalizing the acquisition of Delta Disaster Services in 2018, HRI Holdings and CEO Dan Tarantin had a question mark next to the name of the brand itself. “‘Disaster’ is a bit of a harsh word,” says Tarantin, “and suggests we only did disaster cleanup, so this is a better name.” That new name is Delta Restoration Services and a rebrand is in the works across its 36 franchise locations, with franchisees having until the end of 2019 to update their businesses. Owners, says Tarantin, are on board with the change—“They felt the net benefit was greater than the cost.”—and he notes the switch is indicative of the growth plans.

Those growth plans include bolstering field support for franchisees. Delta hired a director of franchise field operations who, along with field coaches, are on weekly calls with franchisees. Each location undergoes a six- and 12-month executive review, and “we do a visit at least once a year in their location,” says Tarantin.

“At this point in our size we are touching base with everyone every week,” he continues, and beyond the standard quality assurance checks and business support Delta Restoration aims to add value to field support by offering additional training in areas such a biohazard cleanup. “This helps them add those services to their business, gives them another revenue opportunity,” says Tarantin.

HRI doesn’t cross-train field coaches from sister brands Chem-Dry or N-Hance because the specifics of restoration work don’t overlap and “you need folks that know the industry,” says Tarantin. “As we get bigger we could look at bringing someone in who’s really good at coaching and train them, but initially we need people with that experience who can be effective right away.”

What the experts say

Educate your team on financials “I believe the most important skill any field support team member can have is to be able to analyze the brand’s financials,” says Steve White, president and COO at PuroClean. “At the end of the day, this is a business and we are all trying to maximize profitability.” When you invest in educating field reps, “you develop a key team member that can see opportunities, troubles and identify success—all of which can be found in financial statements.”

Don’t forget to listen “Nobody on your team is closer to the voice of the franchisee than your field support team—listen to them,” stresses White. “When I first came to PuroClean, I scheduled monthly calls with my regional directors to learn about franchise owners’ performance and issues needing resolution. These calls also helped me to show support for my field support team.” And encourage field reps to connect with one another, so they can share observations from the field, adds White. “When the field support team connects, they can also gain feedback from each other that will help establish best practices for the franchise brand.”

Check in—and keep checking in Corporate leadership can’t rely only on field trainers and regional reps to guide franchisees, says Kyle Zagrodzky, president of OsteoStrong Franchising. Someone from the corporate office should contact franchisees directly every week by phone, which is more personal and gives franchisees the chance to ask questions or raise issues they might not discuss on a conference call. Even if you just a leave a message, knowing they have a real connection to every level of the franchise will make owners and operators feel like part of the team, he says.

Join the conversation in the Franchise Times Insights group on LinkedIn. Upcoming topic is: human resources.

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