Many franchise owners go into business with or employ close friends and family simply because there is an existing trust factor. As mentioned in one of our previous articles, "Family Business Perspective Matters," you don't have to be blood related to be considered a family business.
The last two months of the year offer more time together with loved ones than any other time of the year. For multi-unit franchisee business owners who view their partners, senior executives, or staff as close friends or family, this means that it often also brings a bit more of a challenge to navigating relationships and work environments. Working with close friends, family, or colleagues who have grown to feel like both, means that you are inheriting all the customary behaviors, habits, and routines that develop between those you care about. Familial-like bonds provide us with personal fulfillment outside of the office and can translate into building management teamwork in the workplace. However, the downside to personal bonds in business is, without clear expectations, role responsibilities, and performance criteria, it is an environment that can harbor attitudes of entitlement and resentment. Personal bonds often make it difficult to hold each other accountable from a business perspective. Even though we make the decision to handle working relationships with intentions of keeping it strictly business, without purposeful facilitation, it never ends up working out as planned.
Let's look at James and Robert: two close friends who decided to go into business together. Each knew they always wanted to be their own boss and found the franchise industry was perfect for their start. For the first several years, everything was working just as they had expected, and some would say probably better than they had hoped. They had expanded their locations and were considering adding a different brand to their portfolio. In addition to expanding their brands, Robert became newly married. Before you knew it, Robert was finding he was not able to spend the same amount of time managing the business. With the brand expansion, Robert and James were suddenly at a crossroads with what direction they wanted to go.
Resentment started to build within James because of what he perceived was Robert's lack of focus on the business. This resentment festered to a point that when Robert challenged the direction of growth, James just assumed it was because Robert's wife was inserting her opinion behind the scenes.
These scenarios happen more than you know and can unfortunately become very emotionally draining when not immediately addressed. The good news is, you can avoid or resolve the issues, if you have the right tools and plans in place before you get to these crossroads.
One of the simplest and most essential tools is a strategic plan. Ensure you have a strategic plan in place with actionable steps tied to management performance criteria. Position the plan as the foundation to conducting and growing your business, and commit to reviewing and updating on an ongoing basis. In addition to strategic planning, develop operating covenants, where both parties identify and communicate expectations of each other. Once both parties find agreement, confirm expectations in writing and have both parties sign the document. This affirms each other's commitment to nurturing the business and personal relationships critical to the success of each other, the organization, and all those who depend on them.
Engaging in the strategic planning process and developing covenants will help protect the personal financial goals and the future growth goals of the multi-franchise organization. Developing and reviewing the plan and covenants will also set forth the combined vision, mission and overall business goals. As time evolves and life circumstances change, alignment remains at the top.
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