No Fare: How To help the Wrong People Off Your Bus

It's a smooth ride when you have the right franchisees in your system. But what do you do with those frustrated franchisees that "aren't making it happen?" The ones who don't fit your formula and, realistically, will never turn things around? How do you make the best of a bad situation?

Be responsive and take the lead. Clean house where necessary by providing exit strategies for unsuccessful operators. Struggling or problem franchisees are simply a drain on themselves and their franchise systems. They're not happy and are often resentful, worried, and have lost their motivation. They face growing financial difficulties, and have stressed-out families who share the burdens of their failing business.

Do nothing and you fuel the fire

Unfortunately, some franchisors tend to sweep these owners under the rug, hoping they will somehow go away by themselves. The less they hear about these unwanted stepchildren the more they procrastinate in confronting the issues. When calls come in from these operators everyone runs for cover. Defenses spring up on both sides.

Documented conversations and formal letters cross paths. The franchisor and franchisee have lost confidence, credibility, and trust in each other. Not a good situation.

Embrace the problem with solutions

Franchisors who proactively address failing locations minimize strained relationships and ugly conflicts with poor operators. Provide options and exit strategies to assist failing franchisees and help these owners cut their losses and move on as quickly as possible. It's your obligation to make this offer, if they haven't asked already. The why, what, and who is at fault makes no difference at this point and helps maintain respect for one other. Use a straightforward approach, whether your owner is still in compliance with your agreement or not. It certainly could head off painfully slow deaths or lawsuits that might ensue.

Establish a resale referral program so your struggling owners can turn to you for guidance in preparing, positioning, and selling their business. (Make sure you consult with legal counsel on how to advise these franchisees and avoid any potential liabilities.) Franchise owners sincerely appreciate a well-structured exit program. It's a significant franchise benefit you can sell when they are considering entering the business.

The payoffs are well worth it

Those of you with successful resale programs know the value to both the system and the existing owners. I've used testimonials from former franchisees when recruiting new owners. In fact, I sold a new franchisee referred by a previous owner who struggled in managing her business! Our operations team had spent a lot of time helping her make her business marketable, and then we found her a buyer. She still believed in our program, but recognized the business simply wasn't right for her.

De-branding has become a franchisor alternative for resolving problems at certain locations. Simply stated, both franchisor and franchisee releases of liability and agree that the undesirable operator may convert the location to an independent business, eliminating all signage, identity, products, and proprietary procedures that are identifiable with the franchise brand.

This article is an excerpt from best-seller Grow to Greatness: How to Build a World-Class Franchise System Faster by Steve Olson. For ordering information, go to

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