The Franchise Consultant of the Future
It's 2017, and you're a franchise consultant. What does your typical day look like? Where is your office - corporate headquarters, at home, in the cloud? How do you connect with your franchisees - in person, by webcam, smartphone, or a drop-in visit on your jet pack?
As part of the Franchise Operations Performance Summit (OPS) held recently in Atlanta, senior franchise operations executives were asked to project their vision of what the role of the franchise consultant will look like in 2017. While the topic of jet packs did not come up, most agreed that greater use of technology and a more personal touch will be required for the successful franchise consultant of 2017.
What prompted the deepest discussion was how to transition today's franchise consultants into tomorrow's. Should franchisors with new job openings start hiring now for the projected future skill set? What about current franchise field consultants? Will franchisors need to start training them now for the new demands of the job? And, if so, what type of transition plan will be needed to bring them up to speed on the anticipated demands for franchise consultants in 2017?
The executives at the event agreed that future franchise consultants will need not only to be technically savvy, but also to be more hands-on and have a greater level of interpersonal skills. But are there enough people with that skill set who also are knowledgeable from a technology standpoint? And, if they possess one of those attributes, can they be trained in the other? Isn't it difficult to find people who are both right- and left-brained?
In terms of the role of the future franchise consultant, executives envisioned the following for the field consultant of the future:
- Individuals who are technically intuitive and knowledgeable, up to speed with current technologies
- More frequent, higher-quality contact with franchisees using a myriad of technologies - Skype, handheld cameras, more interactive, private franchisee websites
- Improved data integration to improve knowledge - predictive analysis, diagnosis dashboards, improved CRM with real-time, meaningful data so field consultants can have more meaningful conversations with franchisees
- Flexibility in work schedules, work location, and working remotely
- Access to training and flexible scheduled training available 24/7
- Awareness of the latest technologies and applications.
While much of the focus centered on technology, attendees stressed the importance of the future franchise consultants to become more like a business coach than an IRS auditor - a pull versus push approach. This change of focus will translate to franchisees being better equipped to train and engage employees to improve morale and retention.
Future franchise consultants will also have to be versatile communicators. The nature of franchising is that it attracts franchisees with extremely diverse backgrounds: Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, corporate refugees, immigrants, recent college graduates, etc. In addition to the age and background differences, franchisees have varying skill levels based on their previous work experiences. Some may have owned their own business or franchise before; for others, it may be their first. Tomorrow's franchise field consultants will have to be able to tailor an approach for each franchisee based on all these factors.
In short, there will be a premium placed on the field consultant getting to know their franchisees in short order and then cultivating that relationship over time.
Beyond enhancing capabilities and improving interpersonal relationships, executives thought that enhanced technology will also provide improved KPIs, such as same-store sales growth; improved franchisee operating profit; improved franchisee satisfaction index (trend); improved compliance (alignment) because the franchisees want to be compliant; and better unit-level growth.
In wrapping up the two days of workshops at Franchise OPS, executives left with a greater understanding of how technology can enhance the role of the franchise consultant and about the increased requirement of interpersonal skills. Even more important, each took away key points that can be addressed today:
- The skill set for the future will be different; franchisors must adjust their hiring now.
- It is critical to get all technology integrated into your franchise system for ease of use and access.
- Anticipate franchisee resistance. Engage your franchisees early in the process to increase franchisee buy-in of the new systems you need to improve your operation.
The franchise field consultant of the future theme will also be covered at the Franchise OPS sessions scheduled for May 2-3 in Boston, and July 22-23 in Denver.
Evan Hackel, CFE, the principal and founder of Ingage Consulting, has 25 years of franchise experience having developed, implemented, and managed three successful new franchise systems. He can be reached at 781-569-5900 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on the Franchise OPS, please visit franchiseoperationssummit.com.
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