Dealing With Disagreements With Your Franchisor

In all good relationships, communication is king, and nowhere is this more true than in business. To succeed in franchising, it is vital that you maintain a good franchisor/franchisee relationship that is built on trust and openness.

This starts right at the beginning of the process, when a prospective franchisee approaches the brand for the first time. Setting expectations and being clear about what is required from both sides from the outset will do a lot to prevent disagreements from occurring in the first place. However, we are all human, and it is wise to accept that sometimes disagreements will happen and having a strategy to deal with them is a good idea.

The Franchise Disclosure Document is a good place to include a conflict resolution strategy, which should detail the steps to be taken in the event that either party is unhappy with the actions or inactions of the other. It should detail the communication, escalation and mediation options available so that both the franchisor and franchisee are clear on how they can calmly and legally escalate any issues that arise once they are in business. Having the document drafted or reviewed by a franchise attorney prior to its issuing will ensure that all clauses included are fair and legally binding.

The franchisor has a responsibility to support and train its franchisees and provide them with the advice and guidance they need to be successful in business. This is important not only for the success and goodwill of the franchisee but to protect the integrity of the brand that they have spent years building and nurturing. The franchisee has a responsibility to take on board the guidance that the franchisor provides and to remember that although they are running their own business, they ultimately have to do things in the way that the franchisor requires.

This is often where personality clashes can occur, so establishing at the outset that the values and vision of the franchisor and franchisee align is important before the business relationship goes any further. People with mutually compatible values will find it easier to maintain good communications, discussing issues informally and arriving at agreeable solutions without the need to employ formal conflict resolution strategies.

The key to effective communication is to speak regularly, preferably in person or by telephone to avoid the ambiguity that can creep in when relying entirely on digital communications. Don't make assumptions; if something concerns you, ask about it. If you are raising a concern or issue, write down the reason you are worried, who your source of information is and how you would like the issue resolved. Being prepared for difficult conversations will allow you to remain calm and analytical.

Always allow the other party some time to propose a resolution, but set a deadline so the issue isn't allowed to drift and foster resentment. Finally, always remember to listen to what the other party has to say.