Why a good manual can make or break a Franchisor

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Most people in franchising know that the franchisee should have a manual by which to operate the business and conform with the legal agreement and requirements of the franchisor.  Many consider that it is almost only an operational function, yet used well, it becomes a cornerstone of the essential control of the network. A good manual can make or break a franchisor.

A good manual not only benefits the franchisor but, equally, the franchisee because the franchisee needs the detail – written rather than transferred verbally or by demonstration – of the operational activities, but equally important is the business operations aspect. Many new franchisees come into franchising with no real business experience having come from an employed background. Even those who have run their own business can benefit from having best practice underlined and reinforced by the franchisor.

It goes without saying that it is in the interests of the franchisor to ensure that their franchisees have the best possible chance to get established, succeed and grow, because that produces revenue for the franchisor, makes for a happy franchisee/franchisor relationship and demonstrates to potential new franchisees the attractions of that franchise system.

Franchisors also have an interest in controlling the relationship with their franchisee and their activities – for the benefit of themselves, the brand and of others in the franchise network. Strong businesses have strong controls, strong systems and strong management. An existing franchisor or somebody planning to franchise their business should take advantage of every way of becoming strong and ensuring they have and maintain an effective manual.

You would be surprised how many franchisors set up a manual but do not keep it up to date – leading to terrific difficulties later on when perhaps they wish to reign in a franchisee, or where the franchisee is expressing dissatisfaction at the level of support received from the franchisor.

A question that all potential franchisors ask is ‘how can I control what the franchisees do with my brand?’, and this is no less a concern for master franchisees who have an obligation to maintain standards.

The concern that franchisees can use the brand and operate the business without any regard for the franchisor’s wishes can best be answered by ensuring that all Franchisees are properly equipped with franchise agreements that lay out clearly the obligations of the franchisee, and carefully constructed franchise and operations manuals that explain and amplify the terms of the agreement in operational detail.

Manuals are therefore the most important document that the franchisor or master franchisee requires to train, control and, if necessary, rein in the franchisees if they go astray.

The manuals will:

  • Safeguard the franchisor’s intellectual property. Ideas, know-how and trade secrets will be protected by copyright.
  • Satisfy the franchisor’s obligation to provide a copy of the manual, on loan, for the duration of the franchise.
  • Strengthen the terms of the franchise agreement.
  • Be the basis for the franchisee training course.
  • Define quality standards.
  • Provide consistency of standards across the network.
  • Be the point of reference in case of legal dispute.
  • Set the way in which KPI.s and targets will be monitored.
  • Allow the Franchisor to update systems.


  • Up to date – although the franchise agreement cannot be changed, the manuals are a constant work in progress, developing as the franchise network develops.
  • Detailed – the agreement talks about contractual obligations, the manual spells out in detail the actual way in which the obligations are to be met.
  • Specific – written for the franchise, not a generic one-size-fits-all handbook.
  • Readable – franchisees will use the manual as a training and reference work, therefore the lay-out needs to be in an easy-to-read format.
  • Clear – the franchisee needs to be in no doubt as to the requirements. Jargon should be kept to a minimum or explained, sections should be clearly labelled, and easy to find.


Well-constructed manuals will help to achieve benefits for both franchisor and master franchisee, providing a stronger link between the franchisor, master franchisee and the franchisees. They will ensure the franchisee’s complete understanding not only of the business, and the obligations in the franchise agreement, but also the statutory requirements of running any business. This is as much for the protection of the franchisee as for the franchisor who needs to protect his reputation and brand credibility.

Manuals will also be the basis of the training course, and the franchisees go-to for all queries on procedure and systems, substantially reducing calls to the master franchisee or head office.


The Franchise Manual – this manual sets out in detail how to run a franchise business, and will typically include general sections on marketing, selling, recruiting staff, training staff, HR and health & safety, looking after premises, statutory requirements on employment, employee sick pay, annual leave and all the 1001 things a responsible business owner has to keep in mind to run a successful business.

The Operations Manual – this is how to run the specific franchise. The operations manual contains the detail of the way in which the franchisor’s system is to be operated in order to discharge the obligations contained in the agreement.

It will contain the history and development of the franchisor business and brand, the know-how, business systems and procedures, the day-to-day operating requirements and the on-going development of the business. It may also be the text-book that the master franchisee uses when training new franchisees.


  • Document the main operating requirements.
  • Document the main management requirements.
  • Identify the responsibilities of the franchisee.
  • Define the core values of the franchise.
  • Set benchmarks for quality.
  • Define KPI.s, reporting and monitoring procedures.
  • Cross reference with other documents, manuals and training aids.

It is possible to combine these two into one manual if the franchisee is the only user – however if the operations part of the manual is also to be used by employees there needs to be separation as some of the franchise manual contents are for the franchisee’s information and use only. In retail situations, there may also be a need for handbooks for the retail assistants covering simple instructions on, for instance, attendance, dress, sickness and so on.

To get the best out of the manual consider:

  • Easy to read type face, short sentences, lots of graphics.
  • Appropriate medium – might be hard copy as a book, loose-leaf for easy page changes, electronic format, disc, memory stick.
  • Comprehensive index making each subject easy to find.
  • Cross-reference system showing where other information may found.
  • Common style with all other documents.


Simply because gathering all the necessary information, writing it down in an easy-to-read format, and ensuring that all statutory requirements are included is a time-consuming business, and often best looked at from the outside to get an objective underpinning of the franchise agreement as well as a guide to replicating the franchisor’s business.

Professional manual writers have franchise consultancy experience as well as authoring, editing and publishing skills. They have the software that turns a lot of words into an interesting reference guide, and the expertise to ensure that the manuals are consistent with all the other documents that define the franchisor’s business.

Ashtons Franchise Consulting have been writing and updating manuals for many years and

can not only help a franchisor satisfy the legal obligations set out in the legal agreement by producing clear concise manuals, but also ensure consistency and compliance across the franchise network.


By Nick Williams, managing consultant, and Richard Langrick who heads the manual writing team at Ashtons Franchise Consulting.


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