How to get the Most out of your Franchise Training
When comparing different franchise opportunities as a prospective franchisee, one of the critical areas to consider and closely examine is the training systems provided by the respective companies. You can easily determine the difference between a great franchisor that is dedicated to your success and those only interested in selling you a franchise, by their dedication to training.
Great franchisors ensure that before the first customer comes through your door, not only are you as the franchisee prepared, but so are your managers and entire staff. Equally important to the great franchisors is that when system changes and new products and services are added, you and your team have the new skills required to be successful.
Therefore, the role of training in franchising is critical for both the franchisee and franchisor. To impart the details of the concept and operation to a franchisee in such a way that the integrity of the brand is maintained, the franchisor must have a structured programme of training and materials. And, the franchisee’s obligation is to scrupulously follow the ‘roadmap’ provided. Therefore, training forms a substantial part of the franchise package that you’re buying.
However, not all franchisors provide the same level of training to franchisees or prepare them to make a success of their business. At face value, many franchisors’ training programmes looking alike. In general, they provide on average between one and five weeks of training. However, what if during those five weeks of training you only work in an existing operation? Who trains your management team and your line staff? What happens when new products are launched or members of your management team leaves and you need to replace and train new personnel?
For this reason you should plan to spend considerable time with your prospective franchisor’s training department before you sign the contract. Here are some essential elements to look for when researching the franchise that’s right for you:
As a potential franchisee, you should ask to see sample manuals to assure yourself that all aspects of the business are clearly documented in easily understandable terms. If the company is reluctant to share these until you’ve actually been awarded a franchise, at least request a copy of the table of contents to peruse while you’re visiting their office.
Look for the following content:
- Site selection – Your location is critical to your business performance. That’s why it is especially important to receive clear guidance from the franchisor regarding criteria for site selection, including the franchisor’s role in site approval. Look for forms to complete that will help you assess potential locations.
- Start-up – Look for specific information that provides guidance about using contractors and fitting out the facility including specific kinds of equipment, recommended vendors, and timelines.
- Operations – The operations manual should provide pertinent details about service offerings, policies and procedures, hiring, performance standards, job descriptions and scheduling, among other topics.
- Finance – In a training manual you should find guidance about business metrics, reports due to the franchisor, and additional details which clearly define the franchisee/franchisor relationship.
- Local marketing and advertising – Look for guidelines for marketing and promotions. Ask to see sample advertisements and advertising campaign materials and inquire about public relations support from the corporate office.
New franchisee training
Enquire about the people who will be conducting the training and what their role and history has been with the company. Traditionally, various department heads contribute to the training programme, providing direction in each of their areas and reviewing pertinent materials from the manuals.
What will the duration of the training programme be and where will it be conducted. Some programmes last for weeks and combine on-the-job training in a unit, as well as classroom programmes at the corporate office.
Store personnel training
You need to find out whether you will be responsible for providing the practical instruction of your employees, and which training aids and tools will be provided to you by the franchisor. These could include instructional DVDs, manuals, quick reference cards, or on-screen cues on the POS system, etc.
The role which field personnel play in training store personnel is also critical. Will they demonstrate new services to employees? If they provide core training, how often and where will it be conducted? Are there local training centres, or will you need to send unit managers to regional or corporate offices for training? Find out what the typical staff turnover rate is for units. Consider the costs involved if you have to send your staff out of town for training.
Unit manager training
After the location, the unit manager is probably the most critical element in your operation’s success. In many cases, that manager is promoted from the ranks of the unit employees and may have little supervisory experience. If the franchisor does not have training in place to develop your manager in this critical area, plan on investing time to accomplish this. If this isn’t one of your strength’s, you will have to consider an outside management training company.
Multi-unit franchisee training
If it is your objective to ultimately own multiple units, ensure that you enquire about specific training geared to multi-unit owners. The challenges and opportunities faced by multi-unit owner are very different to that of a single-unit owner. Therefore, it will be imperative to choose a franchisor that has carefully developed strategies and programmes designed to support you in your business growth. A new franchisor may not yet have developed this level of training programme.
The frequency which new training offerings are provided to franchisees and general managers would also be important. The way in which new services or procedures are introduced is also important, as is the role field personnel play in rolling out new programmes. Enquire about the way in which this has been done in the past.
Franchisors often use annual franchisee and manager conferences to introduce new initiatives and training. Guest speakers are frequently brought in to share expertise specific to your industry or provide training in areas such as management and leadership.
Further questions you should ask are:
- Training costs. Do you need to pay any additional training costs in addition to your franchise fee?
- Training guarantees? What are the criteria for ensuring you are fully able to operate the business once training is completed? Simply spending time in the franchisor’s training programme may not be sufficient for everyone.
- Can managers and initial staff attend training? If your staff aren’t on board yet (which is fairly typical), can they attend training classes after they’re hired? What would the cost of additional training be?
- The training curriculum? How much time will be spent in classroom training and how much time will be spent in an operating location? Which subjects are covered and how in-depth? Will you only learn how to make the product or deliver the service, or is the programme comprehensive enough to teach you the financial, marketing and operational aspects of the business? How much management training will you receive?
- Who conducts the training? Are trainers line personnel or qualified trainers? Remember, the goal of training is not for you to be impressed by the trainers; the goal is for the trainers to provide you with knowledge. To do this, they must know how to teach. Therefore, find out about the background and qualifications of the training team.
- How comprehensive is the training material? If you’ll be expected to train your own staff before you open your business, which tools and training techniques does the franchisor provide to help you accomplish this task?
Open for business
But what happens once the business is ready to open? Franchisors dedicated to training understand there’s a difference between classroom training, working in a training facility and actually operating your own business with your own customers.
During the initial days or weeks after your franchise has been opened, a training team will be working with you and your staff, honing your skills, reminding you of the lessons you learned at franchise headquarters and, most importantly, teaching you the tricks of the trade they have learned in actually operating a business like yours.
Training does, however, not end there. It’s a continual process for you, your management team and your staff. Great franchisors regularly hold advanced training programmes for management, giving them skills that can only be learned once they have ‘real world’ experience.
They provide regional and system-wide training programmes when new products or services are introduced and expect their field consultants to observe your staff during their periodic visits to your location. This will help you assess the quality of your employees and, when necessary, help you improve their performance.
The goal of franchise training is, therefore, not only to provide you with information on how to run your business to the system’s standards, but to provide you with an understanding of the system’s philosophy so you’ll intuitively know what’s right and what’s wrong.
A franchisor training program is one of the major benefits of franchising. It lets you acquire skills rapidly through the initial training program, and then gives on-site and ongoing training to re-enforce those skills.
But, don’t forget that your business will change over time. New products and services will be added or modified. Will your franchisor be prepared to provide you and your team with additional training as the system changes? How will it be done and what will the cost be to you?
And remember, just because one franchisor has a longer training programme than another doesn’t mean its training is better.