Lessons on Franchise Quality Control

Article originally published on FranchiseExpo.com, May 2017.

Many lessons can be learned from John Lee Hancock’s “The Founder,” but perhaps none more important than the lesson of quality control and consistency as the foundation of franchise success. In one particularly humorous scene, Ray Kroc (the “founder” of McDonald’s) finds several units straying away from the company’s beaten path, from selling items like corn on the cob and fried chicken to operating as drive-ins and attracting undesirables.

Prospective franchisors cite this scenario as what’s ultimately held them back from swimming in franchise waters. For those that have worked hard to build their brand, the genuine fear that franchisees won’t sustain the quality standards they’ve established is very real.

All this means is that the prospective franchisor is focused on the right things. Maintaining quality in your franchise system should be a focus for a franchisor, and separates great franchise brands from those that don’t succeed.

The perceived loss of control

When it comes to franchising, an oft-repeated myth is that corporate locations will always outperform franchise locations in operations quality. This misperception is born of a fear that as a franchisor, you lack the control of franchisees that you typically have over hired managers.

This perception, however, fails to consider the motivations of a franchisee to institute a proven and systems-based approach to their business. For a franchisee, poor performance can, in worst-case scenarios, lead to the loss of the entire franchise, in turn leading to the loss of the franchisee’s investment, home, lifestyle, children’s college fund and retirement plans. Aside from the financial implications, franchisees are also motivated by pride of ownership. They relate to their businesses far more than even the best managers, leading to a potentially tighter ship than that of a typically business operation.

Put simply, franchising facilitates improvements in quality at the unit level in many ways. Numerous studies suggest that franchisees outperformed their company-owned counterparts by up to 30 percent, and whether it’s because they’re more motivated, or any number of other factors, the franchise benefits as a whole.

Duplicating success via the operations manual

Documenting systems of operation lend a big hand in a quality control. In franchising, this means a highly developed operations manual. A robust manual has multifold benefits, the most of which is its key role in training franchisees and their employees. The manual not only serves as a blueprint for operation, but as an ongoing piece of reference for even the most established franchisee, becoming the default go-to in most every scenario.

When it comes to “control,” the franchise operations manual is key, as long as the franchisor understands where to draw the line. The greater control a franchise exercises over the franchisee, the greater likelihood they step into a relationship where they become responsible for actions of the franchisee and their employees. So, the key in crafting a well-written operation manual is understanding the line in the sand on control issues.

As a rule, franchisors should exercise any aspects of the business that directly impact consumer perception, but scale back control over issues that don’t have a direct implication, instead providing recommendations and best practices to franchisees.

Understanding the role of support

Ongoing support comes in various forms, including on-site field visits, with the ultimate goal being higher quality and more profitable franchisees. Through field visits, representatives are able to observe the franchisee’s business and reinforce brand standards to prevent a potential fried chicken fiasco. A premium field-consulting program focuses on brand compliance and quality control, making its way through a checklist of brand standards to ensure the franchisee is in full compliance, and taking appropriate actions if not. Remember, the best franchisees not only receive adequate support, but also have condfidence the franchisor cares about their success. That’s a recipe for common objectives in a franchise system.

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