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How franchising united during the COVID-19 crisis

How franchising united during the COVID-19 crisis

The industry has united since the nation went into lockdown, proving that franchising really does mean being in business for yourself, but not by yourself

Whether you’re a franchisor, franchisee or someone thinking about getting involved in franchising, there has never been a better display of an industry pulling together for the common good than in the last couple of months.

For franchisors struggling to think of ways to keep the wheels turning, there has been a wealth of advice and support from the banks, the British Franchise Association and franchisor best practice sharing groups like Franchise Mastermind and our own Franchise Advisory Board, which was set up initially with law firm Harper Macleod to offer help to our shared clients, but has since grown into a group of well over 100.

For franchisees panicked at the prospect of staying afloat, there have been entrepreneurial franchisors working 20-hour days to come up with solutions to their problems.

One of the greatest selling points of franchising is being in business for yourself, but not by yourself. While this has always been true for franchisees, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted that there is a wealth of training and ongoing support available to franchisors within the industry, whether it be through joining groups, associations or simply being engaged with the industry’s media output and networking with peers.

As franchisors, we want to have all the answers and be a rock of support for our franchisees, but we shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to the industry for our own self-improvement and continued education - it makes us better franchisors, which leads to stronger, more successful networks.

If you haven’t had the benefit of this kind of group support over the last couple of months, here’s a flavour of what’s been happening across the sector:

Virtual discovery sessions

Those who are running virtual discovery sessions have reported that they have been well received.

Naturally, the content has been developed to reflect the current market and includes elements such as how franchisees are currently being supported plus testimonials from franchisees showing the strength of both the brand and you as a franchisor, as well as any changes to projections, etc.

Regular communication

People are very much focused on keeping motivation high. A number of franchisors are also circulating weekly timetables showing what a typical working day should look like in this new trading environment, adding in fun, health, mental wellness and fitness elements also.

Lockdown manuals

Franchisors are continuing to produce updated operations manuals to reflect new processes. They’re either updating their main manual with more permanent changes to the system or producing a ‘lockdown’ or ‘temporary system amends’ manual highlighting temporary changes to the system.

Online training

Franchisors are delivering online training programmes to ensure franchisees and their teams are up to speed with any new processes as they continue to evolve, using platforms like Zoom, Teams and GoToMeeting.

Trademark protection

Where new products or services are being developed or where people have added an online or different service delivery model, franchisors are being reminded to check their trademark protection to ensure it includes the new product, service or delivery model.

Cash flow management

Many networks are working hard to help their franchisees plan further ahead with their cash flows, helping them to prepare and apply to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme where required, having firstly exhausted all other measures such as deferring loans, credit cards, mortgages, rent and car payments.

Franchisee recruitment marketing

The general consensus is not to stop franchisee recruitment marketing in order to keep the pipeline flowing and brand profile high, but use updated and relevant messaging, making sure you’re spending your budgets in the right places.

It’s about being seen as a proactive and honest franchisor. Future franchisees are watching to see how franchisors are positioning themselves and supporting their franchisees during these times and will use this as part of their due diligence and decision-making process in the future.

Food and beverage sector

Recently, there has been a flurry of reopening planning activity in the food and beverage industry.

Here’s a selection of what’s being discussed by businesses in this sector. No matter what industry you’re in, there are some useful points to consider ahead of your own return to public-facing trading:

  • Phased openings. This includes limiting the number of restaurant locations opening up. For other sectors, this could be applied in terms of limiting class sizes, limiting the size of teams coming back into the office and so on.
  • Reduced menus. For other sectors, this could be applied in terms of reduced services for a period of time.
  • PPE measures for employees, such as screens, masks, visors, aprons, gloves and hand sanitiser. The cost of this will affect profits. Will any of you be asking your customers to bring their own masks as part of mandatory kit, eg children’s activity franchises?
  • Cleaning procedures. What needs to be cleaned, where, when and by who? This needs to be updated in the operations manual and thorough training provided. Checks and measures need to be adopted to ensure rigorous standards are adhered to.
  • Alternative payment procedures. Cash payments are being eliminated in some businesses. How will this affect you?
  • Employee testing. Some businesses are planning to take employees’ temperatures at the start of every shift. Would this work for you? How would you record this and who would be responsible for doing so?
  • Customer perception. This is a big one for the hospitality sector. Will customers want to come to a less sociable environment and be served by people in masks, visors, aprons and be sat behind partitions? How will you help to reduce the concerns of your customers and clients?

I can’t stress enough how proud I am to be part of this fantastic industry at this time and take my hat off to everyone who has risen to the challenge of supporting franchisees and franchisor clients alike.

Please ask for help - you don’t need to face this alone. Even within our own Facebook group we have a range of franchisors, from the new to some of the biggest networks in the country. They’re all learning from each other and taking comfort from the social interaction and support on offer.

The author

Suzie McCafferty is CEO of franchise consultancy Platinum Wave.

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