Attracting and developing top talent is only half the battle: the smartest franchisors are those that use top-performing franchisees to encourage and support their peers
Every franchise has its superstars and making the most of their efforts will play a key role in ensuring success. But supporting the best performers in a franchise network isn’t just about boosting a franchise’s profits: more important is how it can help strengthen the network as a whole.
Perhaps the first step in making the most of high-performing franchisees is being able to recognise them when they come along. “[They’re] highly self-motivated, ambitious people with a very positive outlook and a can-do attitude,” says Graham Duckworth, franchise sales director at Driver Hire, the transport and logistics recruitment company. As well as attitude, certain aptitudes are incredibly valuable, including being able to manage the franchise’s finances, form close relationships with customers and keep up with the pace of the modern commercial environment. “As a business owner, things can change quickly,” adds Tim Morris, UK country manager for Tutor Doctor, the in-home tutoring franchise. “[They need] tenacity and energy, [as well as] the ability to multitask, prioritise a working day and be adaptable.”
Once a franchisor has identified a potential superstar franchisee, it’s worth knowing how to net these savvy businesspeople. First of all, it doesn’t hurt if they know they can make a healthy return on their investment. “People want to know that they’re going to make good money in a sound business that’s been going a long time,” says Tara Worthington, company director at Countrywide Grounds Maintenance. Given that top performers are more likely to have had a longer track record in the business community, they may be expecting higher margins than their less experienced contemporaries. This means the franchises that offer the best returns are those most likely to net the superstars.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s worth trying to pull the wool over their eyes: Duckworth warns against overselling the opportunity. “It’s important franchisors speak frankly and honestly to potential franchisees,” he says. “If someone enquiring is business-minded and understands the numbers, they’ll see through any chinks in a franchisor’s sales patter.” Instead, having an open approach and encouraging potential high-flyers to learn as much as they can about the business will help a franchise draw – and keep – them in. “We [...] encourage them to speak to a range of franchisees, including our high-performers – those with a £2m+ turnover – to truly understand the potential [of the opportunity],” adds Duckworth.
Whilst offering good returns will certainly boost the efforts of superstar franchisees, this is only the bluntest tool at a franchise’s disposal. “Franchisors should look beyond purely financial benefit schemes as incentives for top performers,” says Annabel Jones, HR director of ADP UK, the payroll and HR services provider. An example she offers is providing access to additional training programmes that will help them augment and develop their existing abilities and maximise their performance. “Franchisees will not only feel that their work efforts are always rewarded but will [also] feel that they have the opportunity to benefit from continuous career progression,” she continues.
When a franchisee is regularly exceeding expectations, it can be easy to assume that they don’t need much in the way of additional assistance. “Quite often top-performing franchisees are likely to flourish, whatever support is provided, as they usually already have a drive to succeed and a winning mentality,” Duckworth says. But this doesn’t mean that franchises should just entirely ignore their franchisees’ operational needs: Driver Hire still has regular contact with its entire network, identifying if there is any targeted support required by franchisees or their employees. “By taking on board their ideas and discussing their needs, we’re able to work together to develop new products and services that will help them to further grow their business,” he says.
Clearly then, there are many things a franchise can do to ensure it is getting the best out of its top performers but it’s important not to just concentrate on the top 10% of one’s network and ignore the rest. “By over-focussing on top performers at the expense of others, it is likely that those who aren’t gaining the same level of attention may feel under-valued,” says Jones. Not only could this actually negatively impact the performance of the rest of the network but it could also cause franchisees to attempt to abandon the franchise entirely. “It is therefore critical that franchisors are attentive to all franchisees, recognising their efforts and investing the same amount of time and money in improving everyone’s performance,” she says.
In fact, the true benefits of having high-flyers in your network is not how they perform in isolation but how they can help rally everyone around them. When top performers in a network are displayed on a leaderboard and recognised in annual awards, franchisees have something to aspire to. Rather than being something in reach of only a select few, every franchisee can see how far they are from the top spot. “All our franchisees want to be top of our [leaderboard] because then they’re being recognised by the whole group as one of our high performers,” Worthington says. “Everybody strives to be up there.”
But it’s not just about creating a little friendly competition: if properly utilised, a networks’ top performers can be an invaluable as mentors, helping to upskill other franchisees in a way that perhaps franchisors can’t. “I’ve always found that when you are trying to develop franchises, they often take what you say as a franchisor with a pinch of salt,” says Dan Archer, franchise director at Promedica24, the live-in care franchise. “When it comes to listening to – and acting on – advice from other franchisees, they are far more open to it.” By creating mentorship networks and encouraging top performers to share their experiences with their contemporaries, franchisors can give franchisees a direct line to someone they’re eager to learn from. “Who wouldn’t want to be coached by a winner?” he asks.
Undoubtedly a franchise’s top performers can have a transformative effect on the network as a whole. But when that franchisee decides it’s time to exit the business, how does the franchisor prevent it affecting the rest of the network? “The exiting franchisee has to spend a lot of time on the handover,” Worthington says. “We have quite a vigorous training programme where they spend a considerable amount of time with the incoming franchisee.” By having a carefully managed exit strategy and on-boarding the new franchisee for an extended period, franchisors can ensure a franchise will have a much higher degree of success. “If it’s a big business, you can’t just hand it over to someone new and expect them to run it,” she adds.