How to Get Peer Groups Back on Track
By John Francis, Next Level Franchise, and Eric Stites, CEO and Managing Director, Franchise Business Review
Peer groups are a recognized and respected tactic used by franchise brands to facilitate internal knowledge sharing and invigorate their system. They are a proactive mechanism for franchise systems that want to truly leverage the collective knowledge and experience to improve unit results and brand performance. But even in the best systems, peer groups can eventually start to lose their effectiveness.
When peer groups lose their effectiveness, people stop wanting to participate, or their level of engagement decreases and meetings become a rehash of the same thing over and over.
It’s okay if the group’s conversations range and depth will change from time to time. Not every meeting will be fantastic, and some will be better than others, but it’s important that everyone is honest and willing to provide feedback to each other and to the group to keep it healthy and positive.
What Causes Peer Groups to Lose Effectiveness?
Oftentimes, the problem stems from individual participants not being completely honest or truthful and uninterested in resolving their issues. When the same person brings the same issue time and time again, the group needs to hold them accountable to either make a change or accept their decision or unwillingness to change and move on to a new issue.
Other times, it may be “creative avoidance”. When franchisees start complaining about corporate, suppliers, or other outside factors, the group starts losing its effectiveness. Issues with corporate need to be elevated to the Franchise Advisory Council (FAC). The priority of the peer group is to focus on one another’s individual issues – not corporate or system issues.
5 Ways to Reinvigorate Peer Groups
1. Encourage healthy competition.
Sometimes group participants can challenge each other in different ways as a new approach. Sometimes franchisees will see a bit of healthy competition within the group, which can create some new motivation.
2. Mix it up.
Groups can get stale, so sometimes it’s helpful to dismantle groups and assemble multiple new groups to spread participants around and add new participants. This gets fresh blood into the meetings and different people at different maturity levels. Older franchisees learn from younger franchisees and vice versa. For example, more mature franchisees may have forgotten what they learned during training, and a newer franchisee could bring the latest perspective. Changing the diversity inside a group can help reinvigorate the chemistry and conversations.
3. Share success stories.
Host a panel at your annual convention to have peer group participants share success stories with other peer groups and non-peer group franchisees. Showcase the wins so they can learn from each other and, conversely, when there’s a problem, provide a solution or new idea to that group.
4. Bring in an outside perspective.
Have a workshop featuring an outside speaker for all the peer group participants and/or have a speaker talk about facilitation techniques to help the group improve the flow and dynamics of the meetings.
5. Survey peer group participants. Get feedback from the group to make sure the meetings are still enjoyable and provide value. Ask for open comments that might provide ideas for improvement.
Inviting New Members to a Peer Group
While there needs to be continuity and commitment within the group, there are always situations that occur where a franchisee sells their business, experiences personal or health issues, or has some other valid reason for dropping out of the group.
In that case, the group decides together whether to add a new member. Everyone in the group must approve the new member unanimously. There has to be a high level of comfort and confidentiality to make the group effective, so every member of the group has to be on board with the new person being added. Conversely, the group can also move to unanimously vote someone out of the group if they’re not actively participating and adding value.
Keep in mind that most peer groups start to get stale after about three years. Monitor whether they’re working and don’t be afraid to make changes from time to time. Have a plan to manage those changes so they happen on purpose, rather than by accident, and potentially, once it’s too late.
Related Content: Increasing Franchisee Engagement Through Peer Groups
Our Franchising By Design workbooks are designed to walk you through how to implement effective, structured peer groups that emphasize efficient, open and meaningful communication and keep both franchisor and franchisees happy.
You can request a copy of Increasing Franchisee Engagement Through Peer Groups for a step-by-step guide to:
- Implementing a peer group program that will inspire and motivate all franchisees, including those already successful and mature franchisees, and give them the tools to take their businesses to an even higher level.
- Creating a peer group format that encourages participation, learning, and actionable results.
- Tracking and measuring effectiveness over time as your system grows and matures, and ensure accountability.