The Key to Retail Franchise Compliance is Getting Buy-in to Your Program

Often our retail training team is approached by franchise companies seeking advice on how to improve compliance around customer experience and merchandising.  Many times these questions are phrased in terms of how to get their franchisees to use all of the tools that the franchisor provides – often free of charge.  These may include free classroom based training, scheduled webinars, and conference calls.  It also includes sending franchise personnel to visit local markets for compliance checks.

The message that the franchisor wants to send is that while they support the independence of their retail owners, they have a proven system for operating a business and an established brand that, if supported, will help their franchisees succeed and earn a healthy living.  But they are frustrated by a lack of participation.  Here are some thoughts on working through these issues.

Do Your Due Diligence

When we are engaged by a franchisor, one of the first things we do is to visit with the retail franchise owners in their stores and shops.  This includes spending time with franchisees that the franchisor views as “team players” and others that are “underperforming.” 

Many times, franchisees are independent business owners who own one or two locations and personally work in their retail locations.  They are heavily engaged in their businesses including covering shifts, writing orders, and handling customer issues. 

We have found that almost universally – whether due to staffing issues, travel expenses, time management problems, or simply being busy many of these franchisees feel that they are unable to take advantage of the resources that their franchisors provide to them.  In fact, they often view the top-down store visits, classes and calls with skepticism because the “home office” people do not understand their local market conditions.

Improving Buy-In Among Retail Owners

Based on our findings as retail consultants, here are our top tips for improving franchisee buy-in to your franchising philosophy, systems and tools:

Manage by Walking Around– Having regional compliance manager is an important part of franchising.  After all, you have likely spend (and spend) huge sums of money on building your brand, but don’t rely on these compliance personnel to deliver your message about why and how to use your systems.  Instead, though our retail consulting practice, we have found that the best franchise leaders spend significant amounts of time on the road and in their franchisees’ locations educating their owners and showing them how to put their systems to use for their benefit.

Prove Your Value…Daily – we have heard the old saying “actions speak louder than words.”  This is never more true than when you are leading a team of independent business owners.  Instead of trying to force your system down the throats of your owners, show them how it can benefit them.  This includes making sure you internally advertise success stories and showing owners how your systems can save them time and money through your helpline calls.

Manage Sideways– Everyone likes a success story and that includes your franchisees.   Whether it is through having top performing owners present at your annual franchise meetings or by creating a mentoring program where you compensate top performers for going on the road and visiting underperforming dealers you will find that a message delivered indirectly may work better than a traditional top-down approach.

Make Training Accessible– Remember when we talked about how franchisees are busy running their stores and, therefore, cannot attend classroom trainings and web meetings?  We have found that franchisors who make their retail training available 24×7 through tools like e-learning, learning management systems, internal social networks and intranets are able to get their training implemented faster and better – often for less cost.

Listen and Take Action – Your franchise organization has built a great brand and has developed excellent systems to help your independent retail owners succeed, but the marketplace is always evolving and changing.  The first people to feel new competitive pressures are your retail store personnel.  One of the advantages of their being independent business people is that they have the flexibility to react quickly!  When you hear of a success story learn everything you can about it.  Then provide public recognition of that retail owner and adapt your systems based on their initiatives.

Would you like to learn more ways to improve your retail franchising operations?  Contact us for a free one-hour consultation and needs analysis.  And don’t forget to tell us what you think by joining our Google+ circle or liking us on Facebook!

Retail Advocacy Groupoffers consulting services for retailers and also offers retail training solutions through its Retail Training Services subsidiary.   You can also learn more about instructor-led, e-learning, and other training solutions for retailers at