Learning the ropes: why training is crucial for franchising success

A comprehensive training package is the best way to ensure franchisees have a real handle on the inner workings of your franchise

Learning the ropes: why training is crucial for franchising success

When first franchising a business, a huge amount of attention is paid to creating the franchise model, running the pilot and trying to get the first franchisee lined up. But during this flurry of activity there is one element that no franchisor can afford to overlook. Putting together a comprehensive training package is fundamental to a new franchise’s success.

There are several reasons why training is so important to the world of franchising. First of all, the health of a franchise’s network depends on its franchisees being able to draw down meaningful returns on their investment. “As a new franchisor, it’s really important to make sure your first few franchisees are going to be successful,” says Tom Meredith, MD of Your FD, the franchise that hooks up business with trained accountants and financial directors. Inevitably their success will be dependent on how effectively the franchisor educates them on the ins and outs of its model. “You’ve got to make sure that you’re getting the basics of the franchise set out from the start,” he says.

But there is a more fundamental reason why an effective training package is a vital consideration for new franchises. “All of the best franchise systems are founded on a proven, replicable model,” says Alan Gibson, a franchise consultant at The Franchising Centre. Creating a consistent standard across its operation is one of the core tenets of franchising, especially when that operation might one day include several hundred franchisees. An effective, systematic training programme is absolutely vital for creating a constant brand.

Given these processes and procedures are very much a part of a franchise’s secret sauce, an operations manual that pulls these ingredients together is a key part of any franchise package. Whilst the operations manual will typically cover a broad range of elements – running from marketing and service delivery to the practicalities of setting up a franchise and business planning – franchisors shouldn’t risk glossing over things just because they seem obvious. “A common trap that new franchisors fall into is assuming franchisees will know things without being taught,” Gibson says. “The training programme should [deliver] all the core skills needed to operate the business.”

But whilst it’s essential franchisors make sure new franchisees have everything they need to get off the ground, dumping a brick of an operations manual in front of a new franchisee is unlikely to make them want to tuck in. As an alternative, Gibson suggests franchisors design operations manuals in a way that’s easy to read and supplement them with online platforms that deliver video guidelines, interactive questionnaires and searchable content. “A well-written, easy-to-digest operations manual is worth its weight in gold,” he says.

Yet even the most engaging interactive ops manual in the world isn’t going to give a franchisee everything they need to run a franchise. For this reason, a structured programme based at a franchise’s headquarters is required. “Delivering training at the franchisor’s head office provides both parties with a number of benefits,” Gibson says. Not only does it help franchisees learn how to launch their business, recruit their team and start delivering the product or service but it also helps them to build effective working relationships with the support team and fellow franchisees.

Whilst headquarters training can offer franchisees a good theoretical overview of a franchise’s model, getting to grips with the day-to-day running of the business requires training that’s a little more hands-on. “The majority of franchisors will deliver a structured programme of on-the-job training,” says Gibson. In allowing them to get first-hand experience of delivering the product or service to the consumer, on-site training helps firmly cement everything the franchisee has learned so far. “It provides the franchisee with an opportunity to put what they have learnt so far into action in a real-life environment,” Gibson explains.

Once a new franchise has opened its doors, it might be tempting to hang up the ‘mission accomplished’ banner and assume your work is done. But expecting franchisees to have absorbed everything first time is a little unrealistic. “The tendency can be to overwhelm new franchisees with initial training and expect them to swallow the elephant in one go,” says Gibson. Instead of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks, franchisors need to be prepared to revisit training as and when required.

Although putting together a comprehensive training package is an important step for any franchise, Gibson is keen to stress that there is room to consult with your first few franchisees and adapt it as you go. “If you’re a brand new franchisor, you’ve got to start somewhere,” he says. “You don’t have to build a Rolls Royce before the rubber meets the road.”

Money matters

Given Your FD is aimed at providing first-rate accounting and financial support, it’s hardly surprising that training forms a vital role in ensuring “it maintains a high-quality service. “We’re allying our brand against high-quality accountancy and tax advice,” says Tom Meredith, MD of the franchise. “Training plays quite a large part in making sure that franchisees are living up to the brand image.””

When the franchise was trying to shape its training package, it started by looking at its model to build up an idea of what things franchisees would be doing each and every day. “We worked out what the franchisee needed to be doing on a day-to-day basis,” says Meredith. “We worked backwards from that to say ‘what training do they need to enable them to do that?'” From this, Your FD created a two-week programme that covered four topics a day, running from basic bookkeeping to advanced corporation tax.

One of the things that Your FD believes is essential to an effective training package is a degree of adaptability. “Be flexible and be aware of franchisees’ demands,” says Meredith. The received logic in franchising is that making the model replicable means sticking to a one-size-fits-all approach. But when training franchisees, Meredith feels it is important to take into account the different ability levels and requirements of those you are teaching. “I wouldn’t want to run a training session whereby I was teaching someone to suck eggs,” he says. “Being able to adapt the training programme is really important.””

Josh Russell
Josh Russell