Published October 31, 2012

The Silent Killer

A few months ago, I wrote about complainers and their negative effect on a franchise brand. Since then, I’ve been hearing a lot about another “C” in franchising – complacency. Seems complacent franchisees are even more of a threat to a franchise brand than complainers.

Complacent franchisees don’t usually complain. In fact, they may not even be dissatisfied. They’re just not anything, which is the problem. Your complacent franchisee may be the 20-year operator who’s not interested in growth or improvement because he just wants to do things the way he’s always done them. Or she may be the 3-year-franchisee who’s making a decent living and doesn’t care to be anything but decent.

No matter who it is or what form it takes, complacency is the silent killer of a franchise brand. And, as one of the smartest leaders in franchising recently told me, “Ignoring complacency is the same as encouraging it.”

Every conversation I’ve had with franchisors lately has somehow turned to termination. I’ll ask how they recruit the “right” franchisee and the conversation will inevitably turn to how they get rid of the wrong ones. Franchisors are writing exit plans into their franchise agreements, and hiring lawyers to ensure their process for disengaging complacent franchisees is legit.

I’d love to be able to provide you with five tips for re-engaging complacent franchisees, but more and more, I’m hearing there’s just one solution that works: Replace them with new franchisees who ARE engaged.

A recent Harvard Business Review blog touches on this topic. “The Coming Collapse of Average Managers and Employees” discusses the Jack Welch-era thinking that companies should spend more time on their best employees and not so much time trying to improve the average. This thinking applies to franchising – the time you spend trying to engage a complacent franchisee eats up valuable time you could spend growing your brand, finding new (and better) franchisees, working with existing franchisees who actually care.

As the HBR blog says, “Average performers — be they bosses or workers [or franchisees] — become relatively less valuable over time. More crassly, mediocre people make mediocre investments. The average is the enemy.”

To be clear, complacency is different from underperforming—you CAN sometimes motivate underperformers and turn them around. But complacent ones will likely never change.

About the Author: Molly Rowe

Molly Rowe is the former Editorial Director at Franchise Business Review and reported regularly on top franchise opportunities and the latest trends in franchising. Molly oversaw Franchise Business Review's research and the publishing of FBR's annual Top Franchises Guide, Top Low Cost Franchises Guide, and many other specialty franchise reports.
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