Published October 2, 2019

What’s Keeping Franchise Operations Up at Night?

Three Major Takeaways from the IFA Franchise Operations Conference

It’s not often that franchise operations executives get the opportunity to dedicate a few days to put their heads together and hammer out the challenges and best practices. Fortunately, the IFA’s Franchise Operations Conference is a forum to do just that. 

As the moderator of the event for the past two years, I have been in a position to get a unique perspective on what’s keeping operations teams up at night and what they feel are the most important areas to focus on. 

Here’s what franchise operations leaders are talking about: 

1. Relationships are the foundation for EVERYTHING else. 

If franchisees view the franchisor (corporate executives, field staff, support center staff) as “them” vs “us”, your #1 priority should be to realign the brand. Otherwise, you waste time forcing things on franchisees, and they push back. If they don’t believe you have considered their best interests, or that you are looking out for them, they’re going to buy in. 

Some ways to start making progress:

  • Obsess over culture. Create a great corporate culture by making sure all of your staff understands their role is to support franchisees. (Check out our Creating & Maintaining a Positive Culture ebook if you need help getting started.)


  • Emotional Intelligence is a powerful tool. The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions can make work relationships strong and productive, even when there are heated conversations.


  • Teach people to be great leaders. Not just those on your corporate teams, but teach franchisees leadership skills and how to involve their employees to create strong cultures within their organizations.


  • Meet franchisees where they are – both in the franchise lifecycle, and in their lives. Focus on THEIR “why” to help tie personal goals to their business success. Our franchisee vision planning exercise can help you do just that. 


2. Financials before growth.

Making sure your franchisees understand their financials, and supporting them to grow both revenue and profitability, is a key responsibility of the franchisor. If you don’t have strong unit-economics, you shouldn’t be growing. Here are some of the tips that were shared: 

  • Do frequent reviews of franchisees’ P&L statements with them. 
    Top Quartile Performance 2018

    These KPIs are a place to start to if you want to make significant improvements.


  • Create clear KPIs, focused on leading indicators for success in their business if you want to make significant improvements overall.


  • Be transparent and share benchmarks across the system. 


  • Share examples from top performers to make sure franchisees are setting realistic goals.


  • Encourage collaboration with other franchisees. This creates accountability and gives them visibility to others revenue and expenses. (One way to do this is through peer performance groups. Message me for a copy of our step-by-step workbook on creating and enhancing peer groups.)


3. Your field support team are the rockstars of the organization.

They have the greatest opportunity to build relationships with franchisees and create the most value in the business. Here’s a list from the group (which included franchisees) on the crucial things to keep in mind: 

  • Be a coach, not a cop. Yes, it’s important to protect brand standards. But be an advisor first. Instead of starting with a checklist of what’s going wrong. Find ways to talk about business improvements and address their challenges. 


  • Do what you say you’re going to do. Franchisees need to know that when you have had it handled, it’s handled. They need to move onto the next fire in their business, so deliver what, and when, you say you will. 


  • Continuous follow up creates accountability for franchisees. This can be with regional meetings, one-on-one monthly check-ins, or facilitating peer/mentor relationships. 


  • When you are with franchisees, do some role playing. It makes everyone uncomfortable, but also makes them all better at working through challenges and practicing good habits. 


  • Align your goals and theirs. You may have different priorities between corporate and franchisees, but you should be able to align big picture goals so everyone is moving in the same direction.  


If you didn’t get the opportunity to attend, I hope you’ll consider joining us next year. In the meantime, I’m happy to share insights on tackling any of these challenges or connect you with one of the many FBR clients who attended to share their best practices. Drop me a line at [email protected]

Related Resource: 

Franchise Report CardThink you know how your franchisees would rate you in the areas critical to their success – and yours? Rate your system with this free report card.

About the Author: Michelle Rowan

Michelle is the president of FBR, the former Chair of the International Franchise Association’s Women’s Franchise Committee. and a Certified Franchise Executive. She is the recipient of the 2022 Crystal Compass Award, has facilitated CEO Performance Groups and Executive Networking Groups and is also a mentor of UNH college students. When she is not at work she is usually reading, playing outside, or hanging out with her husband and daughter.
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