All business leaders should draw inspiration from the franchisees at the coalface. David Glover, managing director at Caremark, reveals how to get it right
At Caremark, we have regional franchisee meetings twice a year. Quite simply, these meetings offer our franchisees the opportunity to meet, share best practises, discuss developments within the social care industry and generally spend time networking with their peers. Last year, we asked how we could make these meetings more productive. After some consideration, the franchisees came up with the idea of electing a franchisee to chair each meeting.
I thought it was a great idea and, in all honesty, I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t thought of it myself. Traditionally, our regional development managers (RDMs) would lead the meetings, plan the agenda and organise a venue. The franchisees were now proposing that, each month, the network elects a franchisee to lead the meeting. That franchisee would chair the meeting, just once, and then pass the baton onto another elected franchisee.
At Caremark, we like to encourage a culture of thought leadership. We’ve often found that the best ideas come from our network because they’re learning from their own experiences in a demanding sector. For me, the best thing about being part of the Caremark network is we all have so much we can learn from one another. Some of our franchisees come with decades of experience in the health and social care field, whilst others come with business acumen and, therefore, a more analytical approach. These life experiences are shared during times of collaboration and discussion, so encouraging these business leaders to manage the regional meetings could only lead to good things.
We formally introduced the idea, alongside other innovative processes we would be rolling out across the network, at our annual conference in January. The response was very positive. A buzz quickly filled the room with franchisees discussing who would chair the first meeting. Once that person was elected, we spoke with them about the responsibilities of the role – planning the agenda, the talking points and maintaining the timing of the meeting. To ensure franchisees get as much as possible out of the meetings – and to also make sure the responsibility of leading didn’t take too much time out of the daily operations of their own franchise – managing the logistical aspects of location, timings and refreshments would remain with our RDMs.
We have recently completed our first round of franchisee-led meetings, which went phenomenally well. Attendance has increased significantly, as franchisees felt intrigued by this new process and were looking forward to sharing insight with their fellow business owners. They were engaged, which encouraged a wonderful atmosphere for breeding innovation. I’m confident this initiative will stand the test of time because our franchisees work best when they’re collaborating – after all, isn’t that why they bought into the franchise system in the first place?
It’s important to note that not all suggestions from our franchisees make the cut. Whilst we always consider, test and evaluate every idea from within the network, nine out of ten ideas just aren’t suitable. As a franchisor, we’re looking for that golden nugget – that one idea or concept that, when put into practise, will improve process, procedure and productivity for all. We understand why franchisees might suggest an idea which hasn’t yet been implemented but, more often than not, they’re ideas we’ve already thought of and ruled out. Whilst this might be the case, we always explain why an idea won’t work, so as not to dampen the franchisees enthusiasm. Their next idea could just be that golden nugget – the answer to a problem we didn’t even know existed.
The same consideration and process applies when we get a great idea from our franchisees – like the franchisee chairs for regional meetings. As a franchisor, we take time to consider all possible outcomes from the idea, before going back to the franchisee and explaining how we think it might work in practise. Also – and quite rightly so – they deserve the recognition for the idea they’ve brought to the table. It’s a real pleasure to acknowledge innovation within our team and it exemplifies our values and culture: one team, one goal.