Let's face it, if you are looking into franchising, there's a pretty good chance that one of the reasons is that you are in search of a "culture" or leadership style that is a better fit than your career has been providing you thus far. Maybe you're coming from a background of working for a heavy-handed boss or a system that rejected forward thinking. You're beginning to see that strong leadership and a good cultural fit are important for your personal and professional success. Many franchise brands can offer this.
When you begin searching for a franchise that might be a good fit for you, you will definitely want a sense of the system's culture and its leadership style. For example, when you begin dealing with the sales person, take careful note of their attitude, tone, and overall personality dynamic. Do they seem to really believe in the brand? Do they seem truly interested in telling you about the brand and determining if you would be a good fit? Chances are these "gatekeepers" are a reflection of the entire system.
Read industry and trade publications - and even blogs - for more insight on how a particular franchise brand operates. You're likely to find some "patterns" of behavior that will help you decide if the brand is right for you. For example, some franchise systems are very centralized and require strict adherence to rules of operation. This could be because of a highly complicated product or service or simply because that is the management's style. If you like to follow rules and don't mind executing directives, then this kind of franchise system might be perfect for you. Other systems may offer more flexibility and allow you to set some of your own rules and operate a little more freely as long as you produce results. This model is much more attractive to the entrepreneur type who likes to operate a little more autonomously and at his own discretion. Of course, it's still imperative to follow the franchise system.
One of the best ways to find out what a franchise's culture and leadership are all about is to visit with existing franchisees. These people know how the company operates day in and day out. They interact with the franchisor and franchise support departments. These franchisees can share with you how priorities are set and how various issues shape the franchise's operations. It's always a good idea to talk to some of the franchisees provided by the franchisor for validation, but look beyond that list for a franchisee in your area who might give you additional insight.
When speaking with franchisees, ask them specific questions about culture and leadership. Find out if the franchise mainly dictates down from the top or engages franchisees to share ideas and work closely through franchise advisory councils and other feedback tools. Is there any trace of fear or uncertainty with the existing franchisees you talk to? It goes without saying that when you find franchisees who seem positive and happy - and are making money - the franchisor? is probably doing things right. Likewise, something may be wrong if the franchisee is struggling. Be careful though, because sometimes, an underperforming franchisee has no one to blame but himself. If the franchisee can tell you that the franchisor is available whenever they need help that's a good indication of strong franchise leadership. You're looking for a sense of unity and team spirit. A successful franchise is built on a strong relationship between the franchisor and the franchisees.
Next week we'll look more closely at the important roles of leadership and culture in franchising and how this can help you make a better franchising choice.
13.3: Nontraditional Locations
13.5: Franchise Culture