Ongoing Development

by Simon Lord

last updated 22/09/2019


Education - who trains the trainers?

by Simon Lord

last updated 22/09/2019


March 2019 - If franchisors want to help franchisees build better businesses, they need to invest in themselves

In a recent article in NZ Business, I looked at how buying a franchise can enable someone with no previous experience to create a business that is not just successful but world-class. The example I used was that of Kevin and Sheryl Jones, the Taranaki couple who are the current Westpac Supreme Franchisees of the Year. Their Speedy Signs outlet was judged by international quality standards, making it one of the best-run small businesses on the planet.

Although Kevin and Sheryl can take the credit for the hard work, commitment and vision they have put in to growing their business, they are quick to acknowledge the training and support provided by their franchisor. After all, that’s the role of a franchisor: not just to provide the opportunity, the brand and the systems, but also the guidance to help each franchisee to develop the skills they need to succeed.

But how does a franchisor learn to provide such assistance? How do they deliver it, and how do they train their own staff to provide it, too?

Starting a franchise is hard enough, but managing and growing it once you have the first franchisees on board is a very different challenge – and one for which most new franchisors have little training. Franchisors may know their operation inside-out and be able to teach new franchisees how to run an outlet, but teaching business development, goal-setting and change management requires a completely different set of skills. The challenge is multiplied by the fact that franchisors are dealing not with employees but independent business owners, all at different stages of their own journey and all from different backgrounds and with different skills. Franchise management is something that no university course will teach you.

It’s therefore up to franchisors to educate themselves and their staff, not just at the beginning but on an ongoing basis to ensure that they have all the knowledge, tools and resources they need to help franchisees like Kevin and Sheryl Jones achieve outstanding results.

Fortunately, while New Zealand universities might not offer franchise education, the sector itself has developed some excellent training courses based upon real-world experience. Auckland-based Franchize Consultants run a series of workshops twice a year, including sessions which equip field managers with the knowledge and resources they need to help franchisees. The same organisation also runs a two-day seminar on managing a franchise system. The Franchise Advisory Centre from Queensland brings a series of events to Auckland once a year covering such topics as organising franchise conferences, recruiting franchisees and managing resales, while Australia’s world-renowned Franchise Relationships Institute will also be holding workshops here this year and sharing information from its researches (all these are listed here).

In addition to these events, there are a number of seminars every year run by service providers who have specific franchise experience in areas such as accounting, employment law and HR. The Franchise Association also runs meetings around the country, often with presentations and case studies, as well as the National Franchise Conference (being held in June this year).

All of these can help a franchisor to upskill themselves and their staff, to improve the performance of themselves and their franchisees, and to compete even more effectively with the managed outlets and corporates that dominate so many sectors.

New Zealand franchisors, then, have plenty of resources available – and yet, as I know from having worked with many of these educators, getting franchisors to attend such events is really hard. All too often, once they get beyond the initial stages franchisors seem to get caught up in operational matters, the urgents-and-importants, without looking at the big-picture aspects that can make a long-term difference. And, sadly, they often don’t allocate budget for franchisor-specific training. As a result, too many franchisors are learning on the job – precisely the opposite of the preparation and systems that they promote to their new franchisees.

Given the size and maturity of the franchise sector, I’d like to think that this is starting to change. Events in Australia in recent years have shed a spotlight on poor practices from which wise New Zealand franchisors are learning. The annual Franchise Conference has been sold out for the past two years and is growing in stature and value all the time. Franchisors are investing in better management systems using new technology. But are they investing enough in people – the people who make the difference?

As we approach the start of a new financial year, then, franchisors of all sizes should look at what they’ve allowed for their own training next year. Upskilling themselves and their staff could be the best investment of the lot.

This article was first published in NZ Business March 2019

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