Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Transactional versus Transformational: Franchisers Lament Lack of Skills

The British Franchise Association (BFA) claims that the biggest obstacle to growth is finding people with the right skills to run their own outlet. A survey conducted in conjunction with NatWest revealed that a quarter of franchisers are finding it difficult to attract new franchisees because applicants lack the skills and funds to take on the job.

Dr. Michael Davis, who received his PhD in accounting at the University of Massachusetts, wrote a great article entitled “The Ten Lessons for Entrepreneurs”. One of his ten important lessons is that you can’t overestimate the value of good marketing, yet many small business people are woefully unskilled at this vital function. Most small business gets their marketing education at the hands of an aggressive sales person or at a half day seminar. Dr. Davis also extols the virtues of knowing finance and accounting as a primary tool for business decision making. The lack of this skill is a primary reason that many small business are overly optimistic about potential which leads to underfunding and collapse. Both of these skill sets are required to be successful. Small business manager don’t have the time or resources to stay current on finance, accounting, marketing, sales, operations, human resources and business practices.

One of the most important indicators of a successful franchise system is the repeatable methodologies embedded into the franchisee culture that both optimizes revenue and minimizes expense. Having a great brand, a great product and a great delivery system are critical to getting any franchise system off the ground. But it is repeatable methodologies that the franchisee can execute against that bring in new franchisees and helps existing franchisees grow. These repeatable methodologies must assume that there is a fundamental lack of business skills available within the franchise system to implement these methodologies. Doing so assures that the methodology will be mildly successful for most and wildly successful for the rest.

Most franchise systems provide excellent tools, if used properly and consistently, that help the franchisee become and stay successful. The problem arises when the franchisee either doesn’t have the skills required to use the tool properly and consistently, or doesn’t have the time. The tool, expensive to acquire, does not achieve its goal of improved profitability. Most of the time, the tool is blamed for the lack of success. Pragmatically the assessment is right. If the user can’t use the tool, then it’s the wrong tool.

Franchisor need to start looking at providing the required skills along with the required tools. The franchisor can either have the franchisee outsource these activities to the franchisor or an independent third party. There are some inherent benefits to outsourcing to an independent third party, but either will work. The franchisor should determine what high value activities MUST be done by the business manager for the business to be successful. They should then see which of those activities must be done exclusively by the business manager and what can be done by support staff. Most small businesses can’t afford a support staff. The franchisor should then help the business manager acquire the required support staff on either a part-time or ad-hoc basis. Every business must provide accounting and marketing expertise. Why leave it up to the franchisee to find the appropriate resource. If you know then have to have it, make it part of the value of your franchise by providing access to it.

The tools help reduce the cost of acquiring the prerequisite skills by automating as many of the process as possible. Automation reduces errors and cost. Tools can’t replace human involvement; they can only improve their results and reduce the cost.

The goal of any franchisor is to fill their franchise system with people who are not as focused on the day-to-day transactional processes as they are focused on finding transformational programs and projects that will take their business to the next level. Franchisors need to provide tools and the prerequisite resources required to operate these tools so that the business manager can solve problems before they become problems.

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