Keeping your operations manual updated will help you ensure the success of your franchise
Franchising revolves entirely around the idea of replicability. Usually, the franchisor has developed a successful business system that franchisees can replicate by following the guidelines in the operations manual. Unfortunately, while every franchise has one, too often it's not updated when small changes are made to the system. And given the fast pace at which businesses change nowadays, it doesn’t take long before the manual risks becoming out of date and irrelevant.
When that happens franchisees stop referring to the manual, thinking that it’s no longer pertinent to the running of their franchised business. This is especially common if they’ve run their business for a long time and have some routine doing so.
But surely updating the manual can wait if the franchisor has more important things to attend to? Why does it matter? Well, it absolutely matters. For instance, if a franchised branch changes owners in a resale, then the solicitors involved will want to see the operations manual. Similarly, when recruiting new franchisees to join the network, it’s important that the prospective franchisee can see the manual before making a commitment to join. Naturally enough, a non-disclosure agreement is usually involved in these cases.
But it’s just not when new franchisees join the company that it becomes important that the manual is up to date. It could also cause issues if the franchisor wants to sell the business because whoever purchases it will also want to see it. And if there is a dispute within the franchise, it will be a central part of how it will be resolved because the franchise agreements will contain many cross references to the manual. Additionally, if there is an employment issue within a franchised branch the manual is sure to be needed.
As an example of how it can be done, etyres recently updated our operations manual to include addendums like how to obtain customer reviews and identifying where orders are lost and how to avoid these scenarios. To ensure our franchisees were up to date, we added every new addendum to the Contents of Addendums page and, once updated, we re-issued it. We send out a notification of each new addendum together with a new index. This way we can keep promulgating new information that affects the business, allowing us to keep sharing best practice, improving techniques and maintaining legal compliance.
In summary, the operations manual is a vital part of all properly run franchised businesses. It’s a hallmark of the quality of the franchise and a very effective barometer of how the business is being managed. I would strongly recommend that all prospective franchisees inspect the manual of the franchise that they are thinking of joining. Similarly I stress to all franchisors that it is vital to keep this important document up to date and relevant to the business.
Whether you are a franchisee or a franchisor, your engagement together does not end when the business hits the road. It is an ongoing journey that needs constant navigation and the operations manual – at least if it's updated – is an excellent road map.