What Every Franchisor Should Know about Franchise Business Coaches

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This article was originally published on franchisewire.com

Franchise Business Coaches (FBC) are key players in a franchise system. These professionals support and coach franchisees, boots on the ground, right there on the front lines. The role has also been called Field Support, Field Manager, Area Manager, Regional Manager, Growth Coach, or Field Consultant. But for our purposes, let’s use the term Franchise Business Coach or FBC.

The role of Franchise Business Coach is near and dear to my heart. As part of the franchisor’s team, the Franchise Business Coach ensures compliance and provides franchise owners with operational support that will directly impact profitability. But, perhaps the most important part of the job is less tangible. Franchise Business Coaches do exactly as the name sounds — they motivate franchisees. To be great at the job, FBC’s need to be one part counselor, one part advisor, and one part cheerleader. They need exceptional soft skills. Here’s what I have learned.

Walking into my first shop on my very first day as a Franchise Business Coach for M&M Food Markets was nerve-wracking, to say the least. I knew the business inside and out, and I knew what franchisees could implement to become more profitable. Even still, I was anxious walking in on that first day.

It didn’t help that I was 20 years old and the daughter of the founder. I had big shoes to fill and I received many eye rolls in my first year as I bounced from location to location trying to convince these mainly older, male franchisees (who had invested their life savings!), that I could help them improve their business.

That first year as an FBC (and the many years after that) presented important challenges and taught me critical lessons. I experienced a whole new understanding of people, leadership, franchisee profitability, and the complex, delicate relationships within a franchise system.

One of these lessons is that in order to motivate people to do what you are asking of them (aka take you seriously and take your advice), you need to establish credibility and trust. How do you do this? I learned the hard way that it was by tapping into your “soft skills,” such as listening, empathy, and compassion.

The Value of a Franchise Business Coach

If you are a franchisor, I’m sure you know that the number-one driver of franchise company growth is franchisee profitability because profitable franchisees become ambassadors to your franchise prospects. At the end of the day, if a franchisee isn’t profitable, he isn’t happy. And if the franchisee isn’t happy, he is not promoting the franchise opportunity to others.

Not only is the Franchise Business Coach role incredibly valuable for franchisee profitability and brand success, but it is also one of the most difficult roles in a franchise system.

I can still vividly remember getting screamed at by an unhappy franchisee for something the home office had said. I sat with franchisees as they cried their eyes out because they came into the system under-capitalized and were running out of money. In every situation, it was my job to help turn the ship around.

The FBC role is unique and deals with critical elements of a thriving franchise. So when you’re seeking and training your FBC, how do you ensure you are setting them up for success?

Attracting the Right Candidates

Setting your FBC’s up for success starts with attracting the right type of person to fit the unique set of tasks this position requires.

FBC tasks may include…

  • Tactfully and strategically helping franchisees with engagement and profitability
  • Keeping the franchisees and headquarters connected
  • Strategically enforcing franchisee compliance

Some of the skills and traits of a successful FBC includes…

  • The ability to take initiative
  • A balance of self confidence and humility
  • Patience and compassion
  • A skilled communicator
  • Excellent at problem-solving under pressure
  • Has resilience and thick skin
  • Has a good understanding of business and finance

Generally, this person is hired and then trained around the business, brand guidelines, franchising knowledge, and other technical aspects of the business.

What is missing from successful FBC training? The key aspect of training that we often see missing is the crucial training of how to connect with, listen to, and motivate franchisees as a part of the corporate team. This includes the relational skills, the active listening strategies, and the language around franchisee/franchisor relationships.

FBC’s too often get frustrated because they struggle to get their franchisees to take the steps they need to take to grow their business. When FBC’s get frustrated, this can result in an authoritative approach — which can be off-putting to franchisees. Instead, a more empathetic approach is more successful and better recieved. With some tweaks in your training, you can set up your FBC’s for success.

5 Strategies to Help Your FBC’s Achieve Success

  • In your FBC training, focus on relationship building and soft skills as well as technical skills. This includes how to create trust and buy-in, conflict resolution skills, empathy, and active listening.
  • Hire an outside expert to provide customized training for your FBC team.
  • Create opportunities for your FBCs to collaborate, and problem-solve together (or send them to the AC Roundtables!)
  • Train your FBC’s on the importance of knowing their franchisees’ “why” and connecting that “why” to their action steps. What is the franchisee working towards? Why is that important to them? Taking the time to get into emotions can help motivate franchisees when times are tough.
  • Put your FBC through the same training your franchisees go through to establish credibility about the technical side of the business.

Successful Franchisees = Successful Franchise System

After working as an FBC, a multi-unit franchisee, and a franchisor, I have come to a conclusion. My time as an FBC, yes, even the times I was screamed at or had someone crying on my shoulder, is where I developed a deep understanding of motivation, people, and the leadership skills required to create trusting relationships.

Having the responsibility of supporting, engaging, and coaching people who had invested their life savings into a brand was a humbling experience. I know the value this role offers to a franchise brand — and I know how valuable proper training is for any role.

My biggest takeaway for you is to look at the training, or hiring process, for your FBC’s and ensure you are providing soft skill training and technical training. After all, successful FBC’s mean successful franchisees, which means a successful franchise brand!

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