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With the New Year upon us, the current ÔÇ£doom and gloomÔÇØ scenario simply has to stop. We know that times are tough but sitting back and wringing your hands in despair is hardly likely to solve the problem. As a member of South AfricaÔÇÖs franchise fraternity, you enjoy several significant advantages. Consider this:

1. It is true to say that South Africa is not immune to the current financial crisis. Seeing that we are an active player in the global economy, this is understandable but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. Indeed, the prudent financial discipline applied by our Minister of Finance and his team has ensured that we are significantly less affected by the current crisis than:

      a. Most other developing countries;

 

    b. Practically all developed countries.

While the Americans and their counterparts in the EU grapple with the aftermath of the worst bank crash the world has ever experienced, South AfricaÔÇÖs banks remain stable. Granted, some of our export-dependent companies are taking a knock and foreign direct investment may be affected but the effects of these backlashes will be short-lived.

Overall, our economy continues to be in relatively good shape. Infrastructural projects already in the pipeline will see to it that it stays this way during 2009 and beyond.

2. The FIFA World Cup in 2010 will provide an additional, and most welcome, fillip for our economy. The inflow of visitors aside, international television channels will see to it that for an entire month, the eyes of the world will be upon us.

The South African World Cup Organising Committee has committed itself to putting on the best soccer event the world has ever seen. Not only South Africa’s government but also the entire nation are supportive; this leaves us in no doubt that we will rise to the task. This will cement our standing as an organiser of major events. It will also turn us into a tourist destination of note.

3. Following several decades of strong growth, South AfricaÔÇÖs franchise sector is well developed. This means that franchisors enjoy a head start over their independent competitors. How come?

Well, instead of having to rely on a band of (often mercenary and/or incompetent) managers to win the battle for customer loyalty and market share, franchisors can rely on a dedicated group of franchisees who have a vested interest in driving the brand forward. ThatÔÇÖs the theory, anyway; in practice, franchisees are only human and prone to become scared!

Are you up to it?

This creates a challenge for franchisors: Should you show even the slightest sign of uncertainty regarding South AfricaÔÇÖs future and the strength of your network, your franchisees will become jittery. Once this happens, things tend to unravel faster than you can imagine. After all, franchisees look to you for leadership. Provide it and we can virtually guarantee that your network will not only weather the current economic downturn, it will be stronger when the upturn starts.

Easier said than done?

Not really! We at Whichfranchise? donÔÇÖt just preach, we actually follow through by suggesting practical solutions. In this particular instance, we believe that you could not do better than to draw on the combined strengths of your network of franchisees to propel your network forward.

While researching this notion, we were inspired by a column written by Jack Welch and reproduced in the Business Times section of the Sunday Times. Always quick to respond to the latest happenings, Welch suggested that when it comes to leadership, entrepreneurs could learn a lesson or two from the way Barack Obama conducted his recent election campaign.

Of course, neither Obama in his speeches nor Welch in the above-mentioned article referred specifically to franchising. We took it upon ourselves, therefore, to analyse the lessons that could be learnt from ObamaÔÇÖs approach and adapt them to the needs of local franchisors.

Leading franchisees through a crisis

1. Offer your franchisees a clear, consistent vision.

2. If you want to galvanise your franchisees into action, you cannot change the message at every turn. Nor must you confuse or scare them. What they need is a clear policy with a positive spin, a sense of purpose and a clear commitment towards urgent implementation.

3. Keep your communications simple and to the point. Stick to a limited number of issues, restate them relentlessly and go out of your way to turn your franchisees on to your vision.

4. This is not the time for costly experiments with doubtful outcomes. During a crisis, think of new ways of doing the same things you have always done but do them better!

5. DonÔÇÖt spring decisions on your franchisees. It is much better to ÔÇ£take them with youÔÇØ through consultation. To speed up reaching consensus, create allies among your top franchisees and ask them to work with you to drag straddlers along.

6. Remember that although franchisees are looking for leadership, nobody enjoys the experience of being ÔÇ£steamrolleredÔÇØ. This applies especially to franchisee who have made a sizeable investment into your brand, and whose livelihoods are at stake.

Any questions? Our panel of experts includes some of South AfricaÔÇÖs leading individuals in franchising and business consultancy. They are standing by to provide practical guidance tailored to your specific needs, and their advice is free. Just go to www.whichfranchise.co.za/franchiseexpert, post your question and weÔÇÖll be in touch. And remember ÔÇô itÔÇÖs free!

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