Having an open-door policy should be encouraged to build trust and transparency, as well as demonstrate your accessibility as a franchisor
Conversation has become more important now than ever before, with the coronavirus pandemic having changed the way we connect with each other both in our personal lives and professionally. Undoubtedly, the digital age has transformed how we converse, making it more immediate yet less personal.
As lockdown beings to ease and people are gradually meeting face-to-face, it is vital that franchisors communicate openly with their franchisees to help foster a good working relationship. Having an open-door policy should be encouraged to build trust and transparency, as well as demonstrate your accessibility as a franchisor.
Taking into account the uncertainty of the last 12 months, brands have had no choice but to commit to keeping their franchisees abreast of all developments caused by the pandemic, putting the minds of their network at rest and constantly communicating any impacts to business operations. But some franchise brands and suppliers have gone above and beyond to bolster their networks.
Three franchisors explain why keeping the conversation going with their network of franchisees is so important and how it has helped overcome challenging situations during the pandemic.
The heart of the business
Dan Archer, UK managing director of Visiting Angels, has always prioritised the importance of putting his team at the centre of the business. But, since the threat of the pandemic became apparent, he started crucial conversations with his team about the benefits of the vaccination.
As a testament to these open discussions, in February of this year when the care sector’s take up of vaccinations were at an average of 31 per cent across the UK, Dan’s staff had almost reached a 100 per cent vaccination rate. Dan is particularly passionate about ensuring his network of franchisees, their staff and carers are always equipped with all the training and development they need to be able to deliver a considerate and professional service.
“First and foremost, our carers sit at the core of our business – we value their health and wellbeing just as much as that of our clients,” explained Dan. “So, I saw it as my responsibility to ensure they were given all of the information they would need to make an informed decision about opting in for a vaccination. I also made sure that carers felt comfortable to come to me with any queries or concerns, without putting pressure on them to make a decision during the initial discussion – giving them time to discuss their position with their own loved ones. Within weeks of the vaccine rollout earlier this year, this resulted in Visiting Angels having the highest number of care workers vaccinated against any other domiciliary care provider.
“From even before the vaccination had been made widely available, I ensured our carers had access to a local vaccination centre and even provided a free of charge, COVID-secure, patient transport service to ensure they, and local clients, could make it to their appointment on time.
“I had the same honest discussions with my franchise network, encouraging them to communicate openly with their own carers and staff about the benefits of the vaccination. Communication plays a crucial role in maintaining the culture I’ve established across the board at Visiting Angels – it provides a foundation for us as a compassionate and professional care provider.”
Become a community hero
Keeping the conversation going with your own team is important but when you’re hit with economic hurdles like a global pandemic, the level of communication needs to increase and reach every stakeholder. Business coaching firm ActionCOACH had a huge role to play as franchise partners across the country stepped up to offer support within their local business communities. Julie Wagstaff, co-founder of ActionCOACH UK, shared some of the ways in which franchisees tackled uncertainty in British business communities and the reasons behind ActionCOACH winning 2020’s bfa HSBC Community Hero Award.
“One of the biggest decisions we made last year was to open our monthly Big Friday Finish session up to the general public,” said Julie. “The seminar, which was originally only available to franchise partners, allowed business owners from across the country to learn from some of the world’s top voices – our very first guest was none other than Uri Gellar. He kicked off the event in spectacular style and was just the first in our line-up of world-class speakers, which included Jeffrey Gitomer, Marshall Goldsmith and Penny Haslam.
“Extending the conversation was crucial for delivering knowledge and inspiration to tens of thousands of business owners across the UK. Action Coaches hosted free seminars, gifted business coaching sessions and reached more business owners than ever before. Seeing the conversation sweep the nation and take shape in many different forms – businesses surviving and many thriving as they delivered their best trading performances ever – was incredible to witness. There’s little surprise that ActionCOACH had the most finalists in the HSBC Community Hero award, and the winner – Kevin Riley – gifted 15 hours of business coaching every week to help local business owners survive the pandemic.
“To coordinate this collective effort, our UK support team engaged with our franchise partners even more than the usual weekly forums and video messages they’d come to expect. Our franchise partners are naturally a receptive group of individuals, where conversations form a large part of their coaching delivery, but it was important to offer a shoulder to lean on as they received an influx of demand from clients and their local business communities. Of course, the accessibility of technology helped us remain in contact and although it was an existing part of the franchise model before the pandemic hit, we’ve certainly maximised its use over the last year! It’s helped us stay connected and keep our team talking to the benefit of business communities nationwide.”
How to have an effective conversation
Having the right conversations can make all the difference when it comes to making great business decisions. CEO of Why Leadership, Graeme McKinnon, believes that by having conversations that connect purpose, passion and values, both franchisors and franchisees are able to accelerate personal and business growth.
“First of all, it’s important to find a franchisor who is keen to understand what your personal goals are during your search as a prospective franchisee. If they know what drives you - your WHY - then they’ll be able to support you so much better to run your franchise business. This all has to start with a conversation.
“In any business, whether you are a business owner or employee, you only need to look at how your team is feeling and performing to get an insight into how your clients are being served. As a franchisee invested in growing your business, leading conversations in order to understand what your internal audience - your team - is thinking, and then being able to respond appropriately, is vital to inspire those people who you have employed to bring your WHY to life.
“I recommend you set regular one-to-one and group meetings - at least once a month - to discuss standard topics such as progress towards both personal and professional goals, job or task-specific challenges and wider business or industry topics. But in addition to that, let your team know when and how they can approach you to start a conversation. Setting expectations on when you are free to give them your undivided attention will give them more confidence to approach you. Encouraging conversations will ensure you are best equipped to meet the demanding needs of the business world, whilst also retaining the best people to help you achieve your vision.”
Conversation is an essential social skill, along with having empathy and a willingness to engage face-to-face and not just via technology. What these brands have shared is just how important it is to exchange thoughts and ideas and listen to each other – it not only promotes managerial efficiency, but it encourages the all-important human touch that gels people within an organisation.