At the IFA convention a couple weeks ago, I participated in a roundtable discussion about building trust between franchisors and franchisees. A lot of ideas and suggestions were volleyed back and forth about communicating more effectively, giving it time, and showing empathy, but one thought that kept running through my mind: “Would you trust you?”
If by some unlikely twist of fate, you were instantly transplanted from the home office to ownership of your own franchise unit, how would you feel about the direction of the company? What thoughts would be crossing your mind as you read the latest memo from the executives?
Trust is the starting point of a strong organization – it begets comradery, optimism, and everyone’s favorite buzzword: synergy. Your first priority when addressing a trust issue should not be how to increase trust, but how to be more trustworthy. Consider what causes you to trust or mistrust others. Some positive things – keeping promises, being transparent, clearly outlining expectations of yourself and others – can do wonders to improve the foundation of a relationship.
A simplified real-world example of unintentionally hurting the trust relationship: A restaurant franchisor asks the franchisees for their feedback on some ideas for new menu items. The franchisor’s intention is to take the more common themes and use them in conjunction with test market data to determine which items become part of the standard menu. That plan, unfortunately, is not clearly communicated to the franchisees up front. As a result, despite the good intention of involving franchisees in the process and using their feedback to help steer the company, many owners felt that their thoughts – the ones that were not among the most common ones – were disrespected, discarded and only solicited as a false gesture of inclusion. Simply clarifying the process from the beginning would have avoided much of the issue.
Ultimately, the franchisor’s honesty and competence is only part of the question; the perception by everyone else is equally crucial. Once you can answer “yes” to “Would you trust you?” you can begin working to improve that perception and gaining (or regaining) the trust of your franchisees.
Michael Kupfer is the Online Marketing Manager of Franchise Business Review and administrator of Frantopia – a collaborative social space for franchisees, providing free resources and open discussions to help franchisees and their businesses grow.