Regular social events can revitalise a franchise network

Socials are a great way to build rapport between a franchisor and its franchisees. And, better still, they can bring fresh ideas to a franchise network

Regular social events can revitalise a franchise network

I love a good knees-up. My mum and I used to spend quite a lot of weekends putting on a ‘lovely spread’ – as my Great Aunt Kath used to say – and maybe that’s rubbed off a bit on how we manage our franchises now. We do like a good get together.

Some of the franchises I know only get together once a year; that just wouldn’t work for us. Here at Diamond, we used to do three events a year: our March catch up, the Summer BBQ and the awards and AGM in November. This year, we have added two additional High Flyer Lunches, which are aimed at the people who really want to make their businesses grow.

We find that the more people talk, the more they build relationships, which is great for inter-trading within our network. We also find they swap knowledge and have a chance to cross train each other, whether that’s the oldies helping out the newbies or some of the newbies giving some of the oldies a kick up the bum to help get them back on track.

Another key part of our knees-up is the 360-degrees constructive criticism that we get to give franchisees and that they get to give us right back – all without umbrage. It’s just a way of making each other’s businesses grow. We get dozens of hints, tips and suggestions, some of which I can honestly say – even with a seven-strong management team of diverse characters – we haven’t even thought about. For us it’s such a welcome opportunity to continually improve our game.

And then there is the not-to-be-underestimated importance of the social. Again, these are a get together of 25 separate business owners who are working by themselves. As many of us know, leading your own business can be a lonely job, so sharing of a few beers and anecdotes is more about relationship-building than anything we could ‘prescribe’ at our meets. For a team to trust each other, they need to bond; to bond, they need to get on; to get on, they need to meet. The more times the better.

Our meets are not just jollies – we always temper it with valuable content including the latest industry news, details on new services and network updates. We always focus on general business development too. This June, our content is all about recruitment – knowing that training and recruiting superstars is the key to making our businesses grow.

We occasionally throw in a theme: on June 7, 2014 we had a D-Day themed event – although I ended up looking more like Colonel Gaddafi than the Winston Churchill I was hoping for. And at November’s, Diamond’s COO Daniel Allin did a great Doc from Back to the Future. It’s good to have a bit of fun with it.

We have evolved the way we do these meets too. It started off being very one-sided, with our team talking at an audience and delivering death by PowerPoint. Now it’s a lot more interactive – we always have guest speakers and a mix of team members contributing different bits from their respective departments. And recently we have found that small group workshops are a great way of breaking up the afternoon. We break by 4pm at the latest and there is always a good social afterwards or a chance to have a good lunch in between sessions so the whole team can chat and bond.

Therefore I encourage you as franchisors, if you are getting together, to get together more often. I know it’s a cost but the more training we can give our team and the more motivated we can keep them, the better we all perform. So it’s money and time well spent.

And, as a potential franchisee, I would say that it’s worth asking about meet-ups as a qualifying question. If the franchisor is investing in getting together frequently and continually educating and updating its franchises, you know it is invested in the long-term success of the network – not just turning the maximum profit in the short-term.

Getting together builds relationships, it gives you a chance to train, retrain and inspire. And, hangovers aside, it’s also pretty good fun.

Kate Lester
Kate Lester