By Jason Kealey and Stefania Sigurdson Forbes | Originally published in the Fall 2018 issue of The Franchise Voice
When done the right way, field audits can foster franchisee development while highlighting needed business improvement areas
A franchise audit can sometimes seem like a hostile action. Franchisees might ask of field audits, “Why is head office policing the way I do business? Are they looking to find something wrong with my methods?” These are natural questions to ask – especially with the stress of running a business looming over a franchisee’s head. This mentality creates the picture of a franchisor being a cop, rather than coach, and represents the old way of performing audits. But field audits are far from hostile – in fact, they exist to empower franchisees and foster best practices within individual franchise units.
Although compliance will always be a part of a franchise audit, it’s simply a small part of an important process. To succeed in today’s business environment, you want your audits to include a strong coaching component designed to empower your franchisees. The “boost process” is our step-by-step methodology of ensuring efficient, stress-free, and most importantly, mutually-beneficial franchise audits. It includes the following phases, or as we like to call them, “boosts”:
- Day of
- Action Plan
- Continuous Improvement
Below, we go through the five most important boosts for your field audits:
Boost 1: Pre-Visit
There are many ways you can boost your pre-visit process. Any administrative work that can be done ahead of time will help the process move more swiftly and using automation technology will help enormously in this regard. This also allows you time to foster positive relationships with your franchisees. In the end, your visits will be welcomed, rather than feared. During the Pre-Visit phase, be sure to:
- Boost Efficiency: Automate what you can beforehand to facilitate a streamlined and efficient on-site visit
- Encourage Goal-Setting: Franchisees who set their own goals are more motivated than those who merely want to define their goals based on the franchise brand
- Focus on Intrinsic Motivation: In today’s world, the younger generation of franchisees tend to focus on intrinsic rewards, rather than extrinsic
Boost 2: Day Of
The most important part of streamlining your visit is turning your presence into that of a coach, rather than a cop. The stereotypical image of a food-inspector armed with a checklist puts franchisees on the defensive right from the get-go. In reality, there is enormous mutual benefit to be gained from the coach-franchisee relationship that can foster the success of the business. Here’s how you can get the most out of this relationship:
- Consider having your questionnaire follow the flow of the visit
- Ensure you are integrating your franchise sector’s best practices
- “Lead from behind.” Just because a franchisee may be more experienced than you, doesn’t mean you can’t create positive change
Boost 3: Action Plan
An action plan is a strategy developed based on the information gathered from the visit. It can be compliance-based (requiring franchisees to address violations) and/or plan based (linking back to the franchisee-led business plan). Regardless, the action plan has one purpose: to empower the franchisee with the information they need to help them succeed.
As touched on in the Pre-Visit boost, franchisees who set their own plans are more motivated. In the action-plan boost, it’s important to keep that in mind. Here is how you can make it happen:
- Report violations clearly so franchisees can respond appropriately
- Create the action plan alongside the franchisee to facilitate their success
- Be sure to engage in “active listening” while demonstrating that you are invested in helping the franchisee
Boost 4: Post-Visit
Another way to increase the efficiency of field audits is to optimize your post-visit review. Here are a few ways you can streamline the process:
- Automate as much as possible to avoid wasting time of administrative tasks
- Report violations to the appropriate departments
- Share positive stories of appreciation to boost morale and encourage positive franchisee practices
Boost 5: Continuous Improvement
While a defined strategy is an important part of a franchise plan, creating the right kind of culture is essential. Since things are less top down in franchising, culture is even more important than within the traditional corporate structure. Intrinsic motivation becomes essential to mitigate defensiveness and to encourage best brand practices. Here are three tips:
- Culture comes from the top. Encouraging a collaborative culture starts at your franchise system’s home office and is even more important than a defined strategy
- Using the management disciplines of planning, measurement, and improvement will set your franchisees on the right track and reduce violations
- Build strong committees with your franchisees, so you can innovate together. You bring the expert knowledge, and they bring the local understanding
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Kealey is President and CEO of FranchiseBlast, a software development firm producing an integrated software solution for franchisors. Jason co-founded the company in 2007, building it from the ground up. He is a licensed Software Engineer, has a Masters Degree in Computer Science and lives in Gatineau, Quebec. You can learn more about FranchiseBlast at www.franchiseblast.com.
Stefania Sigurdson Forbes is the Sr. Marketing Director of FranchiseBlast. She is an award-winning Marketing professional who has been recognized by Google in terms of best practices for franchisor marketing. She has over a decade of experience in franchising, including at Shred-it and Tutor Doctor and is known for her creative approach. She has an MBA from Queen’s University and lives in Vaughan, Ontario.
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