The Power of Focus: Communicating Priorities, Increasing Face Time

On a recent monthly Webinar for the Franchise CEO Network, I was honored to interview Rhoda Olsen, president and COO of Great Clips, Inc. Quickly, the conversation turned to what it is like to lead more than 2,800 Great Clips franchisees, and the challenges that must be overcome to communicate effectively.

Rhoda mentioned that franchisees are distracted now, more than ever before; and that CEOs and presidents must do whatever it takes to communicate better than ever to ensure active dialogue with franchisees and deliver concise messaging of key initiatives vital to building and strengthening the brand. The conversation with Rhoda greatly piqued my interest because I know she is absolutely right!

Franchisees are more distracted now. Most are fighting a recessionary mindset from media reports of layoffs, collapse, and slow expectations for recovery. In many cases, business is tougher to grow than it was a year ago. People are taking longer to buy, and being frugal by not spending is in. With this reality, of course franchisees are distracted. Customers are still out there, but we all have to work harder at getting and keeping them.

This is not the time for distraction; this is the time for clear, concise focus, a well-thought-out strategy, along with a message of strength and hope. This message must come from the top beginning with you as the CEO and president. Here are some steps to seriously consider:

  • Increase voice time from you as CEO/president. You set the tone for the organization. Find ways for the entire organization to hear your voice and your message consistently. If regular webinars or conference calls are not the norm, consider using these powerful and cost-effective Frequent, concise direction and encouragement from you as the leader of your organization is vital. Distraction will increase when leadership grows silent. You will note that I am not suggesting more emails. I am suggesting more opportunities to hear from you--and perhaps from solid franchisees you may want to spotlight and interview to promote best practices.
  • Increase face-to-face time. In our hurry-up, hustle-bustle, email me, leave me a voicemail world, people value face-to-face interaction more than ever! One president recently remarked that instead of conducting the regular yearly franchise convention, her organization changed the format to conducting numerous regional events to reach more franchisees. For larger systems, this may work especially well because it can provide smaller, more intimate settings to better facilitate meaningful conversations. Before committing to such a change, I suggest you conduct a survey to get a feel for whether this would increase attendance overall. And, make it clear that should you conduct the regional approach to the next annual meeting, it would more than likely be for this event only.
  • In addition to the franchise advisory committee, reach out to top and loyal performers for input. Acknowledge that you value input and want to hear directly from them to highlight best practices that can be duplicated throughout the system. Listen for additional ways you can assist and support efforts to better equip steady performers to grow. Be careful not to sugarcoat everything you say. There is a fine balance between showing confidence and hope and coming off as delivering hype or being out of touch with reality.
  • Increase communication with your home office team, especially those in franchise services. As the CEO/president, you are definitely responsible for the morale of your franchisees and home office team. Lack of communication increases anxiety--so do the opposite. Communicate with your team more. As CEO, I conducted a weekly update meeting with the entire home office team, and if a matter of importance came up throughout the week that I knew was valuable and time-sensitive, quick five-minute standup meetings were also called for me to deliver the news directly to them. This built excitement, urgency, and teamwork that became contagious attitudes for helping franchisees as well.
  • Select six top priorities. "First things first," as Stephen Covey would say. When everything is a priority, there are no priorities. Lack of priorities will cause distraction. What six priorities do you want conveyed to franchisees? How does this affect your strategy to help them now and prepare them for the future? If it is true that franchisees are more easily distracted now (and it is), provide focus, not confusion. Too often, we throw hundreds of messages at franchisees to implement. No wonder people get distracted.

There is a reason you have been called to be CEO/president and that is to lead. By providing clear direction and communicating more, not less, you can make a powerful impact. Are you up for the challenge? Of course you are!

Linda Burzynski, CFE, is president of The Franchise CEO Network and also the CEO of VL Service Corp., a franchise consulting service. With over 23 years of franchising experience including leading several franchise systems as president and CEO, her passion is in working directly with CEOs and presidents of emerging and established systems., 512-288-8855.

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