Every now and then, all franchisees feel that shooting pain that comes with knowing that not everything is going according to plan. But whilst these headaches can cause a lot of suffering, you can simply moan and clutch your head or you can view them as hurdles to overcome. I see every headache that lands on my desk as an indicator of something that isn’t working well enough. It is often a time to take stock, reflect and see how you can avoid problems reoccurring.
Headaches caused by customer complaints
The customer is not interested in you so when you first speak to an unhappy customer leave the excuses and explanations at the door. It is really important to just listen. Don’t assume, jump to conclusions or simply passively hear what a customer is saying; listening is a very active function. Pay attention to the entire scenario, give the individual time to explain everything that has made them unhappy and then when they have finished ask: “Is that everything? Is there anything else that has been a problem?”
Remember it takes a lot for most people to complain. They will have had niggles for a while and the most effective way to run a business is to weed out each niggle before it has a chance to take root. Better still, when making changes or implementing things, ensure that you have considered the possible implications to others. It is much better to do it this way than waiting for it to escalate into a real problem and then a complaint.
If you treat people with respect and understanding while leaving your own feelings out of it then you are much more likely to find a solution. You need to be clearly looking at the facts, not the emotions, whilst still being empathetic to the person’s situation.
Another big lesson is to admit when you are at fault and apologise. However you have to genuinely feel that you are at fault because an insincere apology is worse than no apology at all.
Headaches when your franchisor makes changes
Given that a franchisor started the brand, in my opinion they are unlikely to make changes that are going to be detrimental to it because they have a duty of care to maintain brand excellence. You must be aware that you are not the only member of the franchise network that matters and there are going to be times when you are not happy with everything.
This is may be something that you need to consider when going into a franchise. If you are uncomfortable with change or want to control everything then franchising is not going to be for you.
I would always recommend my franchisees come to me in the first instance if they have any concerns over changes. It is less effective within a network to tittle tattle with other franchisees; in fact, it is much better to avoid playground antics altogether, as they achieve nothing. There is always a solution that can be found to a problem if you discuss it openly.
Unless a business is embracing change, it is not developing. There are many businesses that have got their noses so far into the operations that they cannot see that the tide is turning. So trust your franchisor and, if in doubt, always ask for clarification on the effect of changes to ensure that you feel that you have full clarity and understanding.
Headaches with cashflow
This is a killer for most businesses at some time or another. Having a thorough understanding of the numbers in your business is absolutely critical to your success. Sit down and analyse everything that is coming in and going out. Shave off expenses that are not needed and then look at where your holes are. Drill it down to daily and weekly breakdowns of income and expenditure to get a firm handle on your numbers.
This will help you see who to chase and when, how many more customers you need and therefore what marketing you need to ensure you are breaking even or, preferably, making a profit. The first thing in my day is always my marketing implementation and the second thing is checking the banks and cashflows. It is a good habit to adopt.
Headaches with staff
If you are in business, you are going to have employees. If you have staff, you are going to have problems sometimes. No one will care about your business as much as you do. Don’t expect that they will and you will not be disappointed. Workers are going to get ill and they are going to make mistakes. Get used to it, embrace it and don’t allow it to become a headache because you cannot control it.
However, what you can control is your employees’ happiness, morale and loyalty. You need to lead your staff, not manage them. So take the time to really train them, help them to understand your raison d’être, the bigger picture for the business and their role within your future plans. People that work for you are only human; they have feelings and lives and they are not just cogs in wheels. They need you to trust and respect them at work.
In business, there are always going to be challenges to overcome. That is the nature of the beast. But don’t let the headaches get you down; lying under the duvet certainly won’t solve the issue. Whilst there is no tablet you can take to instantly eradicate the pain, if you treat issues as opportunities to make your operation stronger, those headaches will soon be a thing of the past.