What is franchise support?

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In this article for Which Franchise, Nick Williams (managing consultant at Ashtons), asks what is franchise support and what it means for franchisees and franchisors.

One of the most misused words in the English language, in franchising, is ‘support’.

This article is aimed at both franchisor and franchisee. For the former, it outlines what could be done and should be done; for the latter, it describes levels of involvement that may be important to you.

The dictionary has a number of definitions – I picked out the verb ‘to support’ and saw that it was defined as ‘to help someone emotionally or in a practical way.’

In franchising, I think you could say it should read ‘to help someone emotionally AND in a practical way when establishing, developing and eventually exiting from a franchise business operation.‘

A franchisee reading a Prospectus, or the Disclosure Documentation will see that word support used a number of times and reasonably expect it to be all-encompassing, whereas the franchisor may see their involvement as being fairly well engaged at the beginning but gradually ceasing over time.

Franchisors often talk about the lifespan of a franchisee as being that of child, toddler, teenager, adult, and senior citizen. When we think about it in life’s normal course of events and in any of those 5 situations, we all need support from someone somewhere, but in a different form. As a child, one needs to be completely handheld, nurtured, and encouraged. As a toddler, one looks to have one’s boundaries extended and somebody there to guide us. As a teenager, we look for certain freedom but within a safety net, that means we do not become damaged or damage the family unit. As an adult support is often more about emotional connection or financial in today’s world where young people cannot get on their feet until they are in their thirties, and in senior citizen status it is all about supporting a person to wind down gradually and maintain their contribution and dignity to the end.  At any point on the lifespan, we all need support and from experience, that life-cycle support can also be applied to franchising.

In franchising, support means providing:

  • A listening ear
  • Technical advice
  • Business building tools and marketing collateral
  • Financial guidance
  • New innovations, ideas, and direction
  • Constant encouragement and motivation
  • New products or services to enable the franchisee to remain competitive
  • A strong communication network within which to thrive
  • Recognition & Reward
  • Supply chain negotiation and relationship management
  • Continued training to improve all aspects of a person’s business capability
  • Customer service policies and guidance

I very much doubt that this list is exhaustive, but it is plentiful!

A would-be franchisee should be able to ask the franchisor and operating franchisees in the network what their experience of giving and receiving support looks like in theory and in reality.

A franchisee looks for support, not just from the franchisor, but from a wider network. Here I am thinking for example of support from their family when they are setting the business up and the going is tough, from the bank all the way through the business cycle, from fellow franchisees who are established and doing well, from suppliers and from customers.

No man is an island – we all interconnect, and we all need each other, and support comes in many ways.

So, whether you are a potential or operating franchisor or a potential or operating franchisee, this franchise support discussion should give food for thought.

Now, I’m off to support my football team….. oh dear, it is Norwich City! Never mind, there is always next season!

© Nick Williams

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