We recently spoke with Dave Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training, about why Sandler surveys with Franchise Business Review. He shared his thoughts on why franchisees find it valuable as well as how Sandler uses their feedback to make continuous improvements and grow the brand.

FBR: Could you please tell us where Sandler Training sees the value in Franchise Business Review’s survey data?

Dave Mattson:  Sure, I think a couple different ways. 

One is from the franchisees’ perspective. It gives them a voice. We have a good amount of people who fill out the survey, which is my first checkmark because it shows they’re engaged.

The positive reaction to surveying our franchisees was an unintended consequence. Franchisees came up to me and said, “Dave, I appreciate you giving us the opportunity anonymously, to tell you what we think or we could put our name on it. We don’t necessarily have that opportunity where we came from in corporate America.”

When we get the data back here at home office, we look at the benchmarks between how we did this year and how we did last year, where were we improving and if we slipped, where we slipped.

We benchmark between us and the industry. It’s nice to know where we stand compared to other franchises because all franchisors are islands amongst ourselves.  All franchisors worry about growing their franchise organization, but most never really try to figure out where they stand against the industry.

Because we are accountable and are able to do something with the data, we go through and look at every single number that comes back and say, “Have we improved, and what do we need to get it to the next level?”

I print out our survey data and give it to individual department heads. They have meetings with their departments. They talk about things that they’re doing well, which we want to repeat. They talk about things that we saw on the survey that show there’s room for improvement.

Just reading all the great things about your company is one thing, but to take a “see no evil, hear no evil” approach is worthless. I want to hear where the issues are and then address what we are going to do about them.

I want to know what our franchisees like, because I want to repeat what they like and I want to fix any issues there are. As an example, I read all the franchisee comments. I read them and I send them to the department heads. Then I say, “I’d like a plan of action of how you’re going to deal with these issues,” and they come back with one.

Because I read all the franchisee comments, when I saw two people at our last conference who had written they had an issue about something, I sat them down. I told them that they matter. I told them I appreciate their comments, and here’s what I plan on doing to take that problem away from them. They loved it. They were in shock, actually, that I read their comments. They said, “I can’t believe you read all those.” I said, “Of course, that’s why we do it.”

Also, as a result of our survey we added a committee that attacked an issue which was for franchisees who have been in the business 20+ years. They felt like they needed some more coaching and mentoring in a specific area.

We set a group up to do that, and that’s really important. There’s certain categories that we spend more time on, because that’s where we get the nitty‑gritty as far as feedback on what we should be thinking about in the future and what do we do to make our franchise organization stronger and stronger.

I’ve talked to another franchisor who surveys with Franchise Business Review as well. They seem to read their results and talk about them at one meeting. To me, that’s a disservice to your franchisees and it’s a disservice to your company.

You really should take that information and say, “Let’s look for the truth. Let’s not deny what our franchisees are saying because obviously they think it’s true, even if we don’t.” Look at the franchise from their perspective, not your perspective as the franchisor. Dig down and create action steps with timetables, and who’s responsible.

Every year that we’ve done this, our numbers have increased, and increased, and increased. We don’t use the Franchise Business Review survey as an ego tool, we use it as a franchise growth tool.

Read more from Dave Mattson in our FBR Research Insights Report: The Smart Ideas Project and learn more about surveying with Franchise Business Review here.