Remember, the key to building a win-win relationship with key partners isn’t just about you liking and trusting them, they need to feel the same way about you too
It’s no secret that most, if not all, franchisors dream of their franchise system going global. However, running a franchise brand across borders is not an easy task. You’ll often hear that to operate a successful international franchise, the product or service must be phenomenal, translating easily into numerous cultures. While this is true, even the best business models will struggle without a great team and that’s where franchisors often turn to building relationships with master franchisees or area developers.
But what is a master franchisee or area developer? Simply put, a master franchisee becomes the franchisor in the country a franchise chooses to expand into and is responsible for recruiting and training their own franchisees. An area developer is a franchisee who can expand a region by either appointing sub-franchisees or managed outlets. When done properly, both are extremely effective ways to grow your business internationally. So, here are my three top tips to ensure you too can create a win-win relationship with your master franchisees or area developers.
1. Take your time to find the right person
It’s crucial to take your time to ensure you’re recruiting the right person when looking for a master franchisee or area developer. Franchisors often get caught up in the financial forecasts, bringing in franchise fees and selling territories to anyone with the money to invest. Taking on the wrong profile of master franchisee or area developer at the start of your international franchising journey can be the beginning of the end for some brands. Remember, you are relying on this person to represent your franchise and achieve your company-wide goals.
When searching for a master franchisee, it’s like any job interview – imagine you’re interviewing to replace your own role. It’s your job to determine if that person is competent and whether you can trust them to take the reins of your brand. Establish if they have a good knowledge of franchising, ask if they have a business development plan and what experience they have in similar types of businesses. Then, once you’ve established their qualifications, ask yourself the all-important question - will you get on with them? Signing a contract with a master franchisee or area developer isn’t just selling a system and walking away. There will be many phone calls and visits to provide support and to check operating standards, so make sure the personality fit is right to create a win-win relationship.
2. Establish good channels of communication and keep them open
Communicating effectively is crucial to creating a win-win relationship with anyone, let alone your master franchisee or area developer. Ensuring you have a team to support someone who potentially will be operating in a different time zone to you, or even in a foreign language, is crucial. Good communication allows you to agree on practical rules on implementation of the brand in new territories and feel confident to raise issues without concerns of damaging the relationship. It also helps you adapt to new trends and identify new territories suitable for franchise expansion with your team.
To safeguard successful communication with a master franchisee or area developer, make sure you have a team dedicated solely to the communication and support of your international relationships. This strength of support goes a long way to guarantee that both parties are on the same page regarding vision, success and growth for the brand. Offer ongoing support and follow-up engagements. Supporting them and keeping a close eye on team morale is vital to achieving success in the relationship. You’ll have the support structure to deliver on the expectations set at the beginning of your relationship and help create a thriving business.
3. Think location, location, location
Finding a qualified master franchisee or area developer for international expansion can save a franchisor the cost – and headaches – of setting up an infrastructure overseas to sell, train and support franchisees. Partnering with a qualified master franchisee or area developer also solves skills gaps when it comes to linguistic and cultural differences. They’ll also be best placed to find local employees, suppliers and real estate.
When franchising internationally, think location, location, location! Your franchise will only attract customers if it addresses a need in that community. Once you’ve decided which countries or territories you’d like to target, you may find you need to adapt your business model for it to work well there. This is when you should listen to the advice of your master franchisee or area developer and trust their local knowledge. They can help your business adapt and work better by implementing small changes to the products or services you sell, the strategies you use or how you advertise to suit the new location. By taking time to listen, you develop a more personal connection, ultimately leading to a strong and lasting relationship.
Franchisors who are passionate about their business, have excellent leadership skills and the ability to listen are often the best at building a great relationship with their master franchisees and area developers. Remember, the key to building a win-win relationship with key partners isn’t just about you liking and trusting them, they need to feel the same way about you too.
Chris Elms is the business development manager for multi-skills football franchise BabyBallers.