When Culture is Out of Alignment

Recently, in a discussion about culture on the IFA’s FranSocial site, the discussion was quite robust and included the following statement… “The challenge becomes determining where things might be out of alignment and methodology to realign.” My response was as follows:

To me, the development and management of culture is much like that of a brand…

It must be planned.
It must be nurtured.
It must be allowed to grow.
It must be invested in.
It must be protected.
It must be promoted.
It must be cherished.
It must be the center of the universe.

I believe it’s fairly easy to determine when and where things are out of alignment in a franchise organization – disgruntled franchisees, frequent franchisor employee turnover… just to name a couple that would be very apparent. Obviously, these are the results of, but not the root of the problem that caused things to move out of alignment. Mostly the problems occur (and fester) due to poor communications and lack of transparency between franchisor and franchisees. Inconsistent messaging adds fuel to the fire. Basically, similar problems to a marriage or other types of relationships that fail.

As for methodology to realign that takes full commitment from all parties to the relationship. However, in a franchise relationship it takes the franchisor to take the bull by the horns and lead the charge. It takes full commitment to open, honest, transparent communications. Even through difficult scenarios. After all, franchisees have made a significant investment and they do need to understand the good, bad and ugly. The precarious issue is, how much is too much? do franchisees need to know everything? Getting back to square one, a benchmark of sorts is critical as emotions running high will dictate more rather than less.

I talk a great deal about positively memorable experiences and I believe it applies to the franchise relationship as well. I won’t get too deep here as I’ve authored an article on the topic in the IFA’s Franchising World magazine. But I will share my thoughts on what I refer to as, “The Emotion Circle”. This circle could be looked at in any transaction or relationship.

Emotion CircleThere are seven key steps within the circle. Think in terms of a clock with the top being the starting point. That’s where the relationship begins. Once something occurs that doesn’t meet expectations the first step is surprise. From there it may escalate to the next steps of disappointment and doubt. Or, it may not escalate but the next “incident” moves the needle along. Sometimes an unaddressed issue moves it. Now, it’s inevitable things happen and expectations aren’t met or even understood. Which is why open, transparent communications are paramount. If the issues are discussed openly and frankly in a respectful way, the needle can be moved back to the 12 o’clock position with no or minimal chance of fueling a fire.

However, if not addressed in a timely and respectful manner the fire burns rapidly and on occasion to the point where it’s out of control. And, just like wildfires in the forest, these fires can jump across roads from house to house and community to community with devastating results. In the case of the Emotion Circle burning out of control, the next steps, often in rapid order include frustration, anger, hostility and remorse (think “buyer’s remorse). The end result is typically broken trust and as we know, trust is the backbone of ANY relationship.

So, in order for there to be realignment, trust must be rebuilt. It’s not easy but it can be done, but it takes a huge commitment.

Strengthen Franchise Relationships by Starting with “Thank You”

imageTo celebrate Labor Day I posted on the International Franchise Association’s FranSocial site the lyrics to the Alabama hit song, “Forty Hour Week” as my way of expressing gratitude for the many, many workers that make our great country run each and every day. We take so much for granted when things run smoothly, almost seamlessly. And then, it hit me as I reread the last verse of the song…

There are people in this country who work hard every day
Not for fame or fortune do they strive
But the fruits of their labor are worth more than their pay
And it’s time a few of them were recognized.

Wow, how could I miss something that should be standing out front and center? Is it obvious? Do you see it yet?

Okay, let me make it easier to spot. In the verse above, change “people” to “franchisees” – Ah, there it is!

There’s so much discourse today about the franchise relationship and it really doesn’t need to be the case if we truly focus on relationship basics, and that starts with appreciation. Do you agree?

Think about when a franchisee signs their franchise agreement and remits the franchise fee – we tell them, “thank you” and recognize them in our newsletter as a new franchisee.

Now, ask yourself, Is that the last time they’re actually thanked or recognized? Sadly, often it is. But, I’m not just referring to systemwide accolades. I’m talking about picking up the phone, planning a visit or, at the very least sending a hand-written note just to say, thank you and that you appreciate the investment they’ve made in the brand, how they’re committed to the brand and in how they represent the brand.

So, why not jumpstart an improvement in your brand’s culture by starting with, “Thank you”? After all…

There are franchisees in this country who work hard every day
Not for fame or fortune do they strive
But the fruits of their labor are worth more than their pay
And it’s time a few of them were recognized.