There are reasons why franchise field visits are valuable, with key examples being they:
- Demonstrate franchisor commitment to franchisees
- Are the most relevant environment for monitoring performance and identifying improvements
- Help improving franchise relationships
- Are convenient for franchisees and staff training
- Are an ideal location for reviewing franchisee Business & Marketing Plans, and
- Are helpful for gaining franchisee commitments to agreed-upon action plans
Importantly, all franchise field visits should be orientated around helping the franchisee improve a profit objective, whilst simultaneously ensuring good brand alignment and franchisor returns.
Despite great intentions, not all field visits are a bed of roses. In fact, being a field manager is one of the toughest jobs there is in the Franchise Support Office. The reality is the field visit often takes place in a relatively stressed circumstance – where franchisee objectives are never totally aligned, performance may/may not be great, franchisees naturally exhibit a variety of often challenging demeanours, and there are often unpopular policies to uphold and changes to implement.
Not surprisingly, our research tells us common field management challenges are a lack of confidence, time management, gaining compliance, obtaining information from franchisees, prioritising recommendations, dealing with difficult franchisees, and, motivating franchisees to take active steps to improve their position.
Encouragingly and importantly, our research via our consulting and franchise review work (helping established chains) and franchise training programmes on field visits, indicates that field visits can be great (i.e. more productive and profitable for both parties) when the franchisor has the right field visit foundations in place.
In thinking about the right foundations, we refer to our own Iceberg Model of Field Visit Effectiveness. The Iceberg Model recognises that there is much more to a Great Field Visit than meets the eye. Indeed, what the franchisees see is invariably what sits about the surface – say the field manager themselves, along with their car, laptop and maybe even clipboard! But in order to be really effective, and achieve great results, the field manager needs to have a strong foundation underneath the surface.
The strong Iceberg Foundations, in turn, include a) solid Background Knowledge, and b) comprehensive Core Infrastructure. Accordingly, when we go looking for field visit outcome improvements for franchisees and franchisors, many of the opportunities reside in these two areas.
At a high-level, Background Knowledge opportunities include building business, product, brand, marketing, field management role, franchising, relationships understanding. Field managers need this information and it invariably requires good initial franchisor induction, training, and ongoing development opportunities.
Similarly, there are often incredibly impactful Core Infrastructure improvement opportunities – with key examples including a Great Field Manager Toolbox (e.g. manuals, training, benchmarking, marketing initiatives), good processes, other types of franchisor support, and role specificity. But bottom-line, like a mechanic seeking to a fix a car, does the field manager have access to good tools? Often, unfortunately, the answer is simply no.
Great results require good preparations (ideally when starting out franchising a business), but are worth it – and everyone can be much happier.