The operations manual is a must-read for franchisees wanting to grow a successful business, Brian Duckett, chairman of The Franchising Centre, says
Franchise operations manuals have changed. They used to come as printed documents; the biggest made excellent doorstops, the smaller ones were good for levelling wobbly tables and they all looked impressive on the shelf of the new franchisee’s office.
Nowadays they are mostly online and can be accessed only by authorised people behind secure passwords. But why should franchisees bother reading them once they’ve been used as the basis for initial training?
An investment of £350 in a coffee machine would see most people studying its ‘quick start guide’ to get it going, then scanning through the instruction book to learn how to care for it and make the best coffee.
An investment in a franchise could easily be a hundred, or even a thousand, times that, so it follows that a franchisee should be even keener to study their franchise operations manual. That’s how to discover how to look after and get the most benefit from the system they are now leasing.
Leading franchisors recognise that franchisees want and deserve manuals that are more instructional than the boring ‘rule books’ of old. They will have put a lot of time, money and effort into creating franchise operations manuals that can help franchisees become more successful than they could through training or their existing knowledge alone.
A good modern manual will be professionally written in a narrative style that’s designed to inspire, guide and provide reference. Online publishing techniques mean it can be kept truly up to date without expensive printing and distribution costs. These days, even video sections can easily be incorporated, which helps to get consistency across the entire network, particularly if training of franchisees’ staff is required.
While you won’t be able to study the manual in detail before you sign your franchise agreement, let’s consider some of the reasons why reading it carefully is in your interest once you become a franchisee.
Legal aspects of your commercial relationship
All franchise agreements contain clauses that refer to the ‘manual’ for more detail on what can be significant aspects of your relationship with the franchisor.
Have a look at the agreement and you’ll find clauses that could ultimately lead to termination if you don’t ‘follow the standards and operating practices in the manual’, ‘attend training and send your staff to training as detailed in the manual’ or ‘deal with complaints and submit the details to us, as set out in the manual’ and so on.
Your franchisor links the agreement and manual because best operating practices and specific terms of your relationship naturally need to change over time as your network learns to do things in better ways.
By making the manual an extension of the agreement, they can simply change things in updated versions of the manual without the need for a new agreement. If you don’t study each update of the manual, you won’t know if you’re running the risk of breaking your agreement.
Doing what you do
More positively, as well as continuing to communicate how to operate a good business and stay in a good legal relationship with the franchisor, a modern manual will go into substantially more detail about how to offer the franchised products or services than could be imparted in, or remembered from, training.
Paying attention to the sections of a manual that tell you how to do what the franchise does will benefit you. Whether it’s serving the best coffee in a coffee shop, merchandising in a retail franchise, preparing for an installation in a technical business or even something as mundane as cleaning up at the end of a shift - the manual should help you learn standards, tips and tricks that can make the business easier and more profitable, so you don’t need to waste time reinventing them.
Many franchisees are more comfortable with providing the products or services of their franchise than they are selling them. But, as someone once said, screwing widgets to whatsits all day will only make you money if you can sell the resulting thingamajig.
A good manual will thus concentrate as much as a third of its content on marketing, promotion and sales and will lead a franchisee step by step through proven processes for building their businesses and generating more cash.
Manuals usually contain guidance that has been proven and a good franchisor will continually update manuals with new sales methods that have worked for other franchisees. This means that by following the manual, your sales will be easier, you will use approaches that are more likely to work and you don’t have the pain or expense of trying things that are less effective.
Making the most of support from your franchisor
All good franchisors want to support their franchisees and that support is paid for through franchise fees. Support includes monitoring franchisees’ performance and it’s a lot easier to have performance related discussions when standards are clearly defined in the manual. Where they are not being met, causes can be established and training needs identified based on facts rather than opinions.
Franchisees could choose to ignore the manual and just ask the franchisor for help and advice when they need it. But consider how frustrating that is for a franchisor when those issues are already covered in the manual and what a waste of franchise fees it is to spend valuable support time discussing things that could have simply been looked up.
By reading the manual, you’ll be able to develop an even better relationship with your franchisor, receive more valuable support from them and so get far greater value for money.
Yes, the old-style manuals may have made good doorstops, but studying a modern one will open the door to a more successful business.