A supportive culture, celebrating success and the personal touch can ensure your network performs to its full potential
I’m a seasoned franchisor and have been in franchising for more than 25 years, initially as an editor of a national franchise magazine, before developing a successful property search business with my husband and family.
We launched X-Press Legal Services, which provides property search reports for conveyancing solicitors, in 1998 and franchised the business in 2005. Now, as well as supporting franchisees, we operate our own franchise, practising what we preach in every respect.
We’re a family-owned franchise and that is at the heart of what we do. We’ve developed an empathetic, collaborative and nurturing approach, which is reflected across our 27 franchise offices.
But it’s not only about the ethos of your franchise. You must continually develop your business support, help new franchisees hit the ground running and develop their territory and provide new products and services to encourage growth for existing franchisees.
I think it’s so important to motivate and support franchisees in numerous ways from day one. Many new owners entering the world of franchising come from a place of discontent with the corporate world, needing a change of direction and looking forward to reaping the rewards of being their own boss.
But you also must remember that having worked in the corporate world they will have had a company support structure around them. There would be a HR department, marketing, technology and training and development scheme in place. All of a sudden, they’re wearing many different hats while trying to launch a new business - often from home - and attract new clients.
Ensure franchisees know they’re not on their own
We always emphasise the fact that just because someone is setting out on their own, they’re not doing so alone. It’s crucial to seek support from fellow franchisees and from across the network to help new owners and share their learnings, experience, successes and top tips.
Across our franchisee network, 50 per cent have been with us since day one, so we have a wealth of experience for new owners to tap into. New franchise owners need to feel connected and supported, even before they sign on the dotted line.
2020 has brought us all into the digital world and the opportunities it brings, with many discovery days, open days, interviews and even training being conducted virtually.
It felt initially as if this was not how it should be done, but as we’re more likely to be remote working we have all adapted to this new way of attracting new franchisees and supporting existing ones.
Communication is key to a successful franchise network. We’ve had various franchise forums and groups from day one, which have evolved over the years into the management board we have today.
This, coupled with an X-Cellence Club and X-Cellerator Group and weekly newsletters, ensures everyone within the network is consulted, kept informed and updated with best practice.
Keeping franchisees engaged with head office is paramount. We manage that through practical and ongoing professional support. Franchisors should not just onboard franchisees and then leave them to it.
For example, our owners receive a comprehensive suite of business support from our head office, including unlimited access to a central IT team. Support, mentoring and comprehensive training are also provided for the life of their business through the X-Press Academy.
Continued investment into your suite of products, services and technology will enable franchisees to have a competitive advantage, which of course benefits everyone.
Keeping franchisees engaged and inspired
We all love being rewarded and we motivate and engage our franchisees through a number of easily deployed initiatives.
We celebrate success and provide owners with gifts for winning new clients. We hold an annual awards event, as well as nominate owners for external awards to recognise their efforts and initiatives. At the start of the pandemic, we provided each owner with a lockdown survival hamper, which was fun and a much-needed distraction.
Providing owners with something valuable to share with clients and prospects, such as offers, discounts and new products, encourages engagement and collaboration in their local communities.
During lockdown, we coordinated free virtual professional CPD webinars and networking events on behalf of our owners. Normally, these are organised locally and held face-to-face for owners’ conveyancing clients, which of course wasn’t possible in 2020.
Getting to know your franchisees is key
All franchise networks differ in size and the more franchise territories you have the more difficult it becomes to maintain that personal contact you had in the early days.
But it’s vital to encourage everyone in your team and across the network to continue to know each other personally and try and come together as frequently as you can. We usually try for a minimum of three times a year with a roadshow, conference and social event.
During lockdown, we’ve continued to keep in touch using Zoom and Teams, so that we continue to foster the feeling of being connected.
Knowing our franchisees personally - including the names of partners, children and even pets - is essential. After all, we’re all people with lives outside of our day-to-day business activity.
Equally important to us is being approachable and available when franchisees are having a tough time - either personally or professionally - and offering practical support if necessary.
We often talk about being part of the X-Press franchise family and it’s that feeling of connection and support any good franchise network should offer to its owners.
Lynne Lister is co-founder and managing director of X-Press Legal Services.