How Can I Work Better with My Franchisor?

I have been working with franchisees and franchisors for over 25 years now, and if I have learned one thing, they most often do not understand each other. The franchisee needs seem to not align with the franchisor needs, and of course, this does not have to be. The research I have done around what characterizes an effective franchise relationship (Whiteside, 2009 ) revealed four important points:

  1. Expectations versus Perceptions of the Franchisor and Franchisee
  2. Collaborative Communication
  3. Communication Barriers
  4. Trust and its Effect on Franchisee/Franchisor Relationships

Some of these items may sound simple, but how many of these issues are built into the values or mission of franchise organizations? It has often baffled my at how often I see franchisees and franchisors not get along, fight, and end up in court, when there is such a symbiotic relationship between the franchisee and franchisor. When the franchisor had something to offer one day and the franchisee had a need and they both felt that it was the perfect relationship?Then wham; all is forgotten!

This is all too often the case, but it should not and does not have to be like this. I have asked franchisees a question they always seem to have a problem answering: What would happen to your organization if your main focus was on making your franchisor successful? At first, the answers I get are: That’s not my job; They are here to serve us; Hey, why do you ask that; Don’t be ridiculous, they are here to make us successful. However, after franchisees have some time to think about this question and ponder on its merits, they often see many positive outcomes to this. Often, they even say, “Well, if my franchisor was more successful, so would I be.”

So, for this article, let’s look at the first of the above four items I mention that can make franchisee/franchisor relationships more effective. In considering“Expectations versus Perceptions of the Franchisor and Franchisee,” I have found that both franchisee and franchisor are guilty of this infraction, but in different ways. First let’s talk about the franchisee.

The franchisee usually has many preconceived ideas of what the franchisor can do for them and what the franchise they are looking into can make for them. If they did not look into these considerations, they would be wasting their time meeting and looking into the franchise opportunity. So, the whole process is flawed from the start, and I do not think there is much we can do about that. Humans will always be drawn to what they feel is best for them, as it should be. However, the goal for the potential franchisee is to have the ability to drop and forget about all of their preconceived ideas and to start investigating with a blank slate. This process is not easy, but if they take the time during their initial considerations, they will save the potential franchisee a lot of time and anguish if things go wrong.

A franchisee should know what they are looking for and have all of their questions written out in advance before talking to a franchisor or even looking at a franchise. They should not assume that just because they see a great location, it means that they can reproduce the success of this location, and if they see a bad location, the same thing is true: Nothing says they cannot do much better! However, the truth is that no location is important to see until all of your questions, facts, and numbers have been looked over and satisfied.

Now, onto the franchisor. They have one goal, and that is to sell a franchise to the best candidate they can. All too often, a franchisor is looking to impress the best candidate, instead of building the best relationship with that candidate. The fact is, if the franchisor knows this could be a great candidate to own one of their franchise locations, stop selling the franchise and start building the relationship. Invariably, relationships work better than fast-sell opportunities. A great quote is: “Be honest, brutally honest. That is what's going to maintain relationships” (Lauryn Hill).

Relationships are can always be built from trust. Make that a franchisor priority, put this in your mission, make it part of the franchisor vision, live this value, and you will have the most dedicated franchisees in the world. When the franchisor talks only about the good things and forgets to mention the difficult, or builds expectations too high, the franchisee’s perception will only be that of: Everything will be great; all I have to do is put up my money, follow the manual, and all will be good. Well, it does not work that way. Take the best franchise in the world, put in a franchisee who is not ready for the challenge or does not understand the system and the highs and lows, and that will be a recipe for failure?or at least a very unhappy franchisee. Instead, set expectations lower and then over deliver; let the franchisee know all of the difficult truths so the easy ones will be the surprise, then you will build an army of unstoppable franchisees!

This all leads into communication: not regular communication, but what I call collaborative communication as mentioned above as Number 2. In my next article, I will talk about how collaborative communication can not only solve problems, but also stop them from occurring in the first place. Collaborative communication can also help a franchise organization grow beyond most people’s wildest dreams. 1-800-GOT-JUNK is a good example of collaborative communication, and I will share some of their advice with you in my next article.

“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It's like riding a bicycle or typing. If you're willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life” (Brian Tracy).

Steve Whiteside, PhD is an executive coach and consultant specializing in franchise organizations as well as organizational development, leadership, and motivational workshops with small- and medium-sized companies as well as franchise organizations. You can contact him at: