Valuing Validation: Franchisee and Candidate Feedback is a Powerful Growth Tool

Years ago, the Mayor of New York City became famous for asking the city's residents, "How'm I doing?"

Your franchisees' comments and their feedback are some of the best measurements of how your system is doing. There are several third-party businesses that are skilled in interviewing your franchisees to determine their satisfaction level; and I do believe this exercise is helpful. In addition to this service, commit to a steady diet of keeping your ear to the ground, so to speak, by staying tuned in to what your franchisees are saying to candidates during validation. There are times when candidates will not share what they hear, but often they will.

There comes a time in every franchise recruitment process when the candidate looks forward to talking with your franchisees to validate your system. For many systems, this is the best part of the process because happy franchisees usually validate well and make it easier to keep qualified candidates engaged and ultimately part of your growing system. In some systems, the validation process is very difficult and poor validation can easily frighten qualified candidates away leaving you to wonder what happened.

As a franchise CEO, I always found the validation process to be very helpful to me in checking the temperature of the organization. Here are four key ways to make the most of the validation stage.

1. Feedback from candidates or a broker concerning franchisee validation is golden to you. Rather than becoming upset with a franchisee who may not have validated as strongly as you would have liked, this could become an opportunity for you to address some real issues causing weaker validation--especially if you are hearing a consistent theme in the feedback. Don't ignore it. Rather, view it as an opportunity to begin a healthy dialogue with franchisees to address the issue at hand. And, when you receive positive feedback, it is equally important to continue to recognize your staff and reinforce those positives. For example, if you consistently hear from candidates that franchisees rave about the excellent they receive, be certain to pass on those kudos to your training team.

2. As a leader, it's key to emphasize that building the brand by adding units is a winning situation for the entire system. A common complaint from candidates in some systems is the difficulty they have in getting franchisees to call them back in a timely manner. If this is a rare occurrence, it may not be a big deal. However, if this is a system-wide problem, your franchise development team may need your help: Leadership comes from the top. As CEO/President, it is critical that you regularly discuss with franchisees the importance of growing your brand and show sincere appreciation for the franchisees who continue to take time from their busy schedules to talk with candidates. Yes, your franchise development team should be doing this as well, but addressing it as CEO/President can really make a difference.

3. Encourage your development team to prepare franchisees and the candidates for the validation process. When franchisees are informed, I find they usually enjoy talking with candidates. Give your franchisees the courtesy of letting them know something about the candidate who will be calling them and why you feel that candidate would be an asset to your system. This can greatly increase the response rate. Also, ask the franchisee to let you know how the call went, and what their impression was about the candidate following the call. Value their opinion and keep it in mind during your qualification process. If a candidate is rude or over-aggressive with franchisees during validation, this behavior will likely show up again, and you need to seriously consider this before forward. At the same time, if franchisees give you positive feedback about the candidate, this is also helpful and adds to your comfort level. I continue to be amazed at the number of franchise development teams that will spend hours with a candidate and then just toss them out to validate without proper communication for this critical part of the process.

4. Continue to be the number-one fan of your franchise development team. It takes a tremendous amount of work and perseverance to complete the recruitment process successfully. Be the CEO/President that remains keenly interested in every aspect of the recruitment process. I am not suggesting that you micro-manage your team. If you have the right team in place, this will not be necessary. I do suggest meeting with the team at least weekly to stay updated and also to learn from the feedback the franchise development team receives. Ask them how franchisees say you are doing during validation. This can give you a huge advantage to responding quickly to the needs of both your franchise development team and those of your franchisees.

Linda Burzynski, CFE, is president of The Franchise CEO Network and also is CEO of VL Service Corp., a franchise consulting service. With more than 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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