Good communication is the cornerstone to a successful relationship, and that’s especially true in the bond between franchisor and franchisees. Since the success of each one depends on the other, it’s critical that open, positive lines of communication are in place. As a franchisor, you need to cultivate positive communication by taking a wide-ranging, pro-active approach to ensure that franchisees will have easy access to your messages and feel confident that their input is respected and valued.

At a multi-unit concept such as United Franchise Group or a single emerging brand, it is vital to use multiple channels of communication to be certain that you can reach every franchisee with your messages. It should start with an online support system, which can allow franchisees to make public comments and posts so they can interact freely with each other and get responses that may benefit them and other owners as well. It is also important to send regular e-mails and newsletters, or even create monthly news format videos to recognize the outstanding efforts and sales of top performing units. This keeps everyone on top of news and information.

While technology certainly makes it easier to communicate, sometimes online is not enough. A dedicated call center that reaches out to every franchisee on a regular basis and is available to provide critical help when needed is an asset that franchisees will respect and use. Regular contact with your system should be part of your basic support structure, but to really cultivate a great relationship, you need to build on that. Each and every franchisee should be valued as the integral part of your business model that they are. Every concept should strive to return each phone call before the end of the day and follow up as needed until you are certain that every question or concern is resolved. Whether it’s a franchisee, home office employee or a member of your field staff, understanding the importance of every interaction and the coordination of your efforts will allow everyone to take an active interest in the success and growth of each unit.

However, for communication to be truly successful, it must be a two-way street because it’s not just a matter of pushing out information. It’s critical to truly listen to franchisees and take an active interest in meeting their needs. One of the ways that successful brands do this is to spend time with franchisees face to face and really get to know them personally. That’s an increasingly valuable tool in today’s world of social media and online shortcuts that save time, but can take a toll on building meaningful relationships. United Franchise Group and other successful brands have dedicated field staff throughout the country that work closely with franchisees to guide them through the business ownership process.

Ongoing regional meetings, which are informative and provide a great backdrop for franchisees to mingle and meet each other, are another invaluable communications tool. Annual and system-wide conferences or conventions are also an extremely valuable part of your communications infrastructure. They are a great opportunity for franchisees from around the globe or across the country to gather in one place and share ideas, hear from experts, meet valuable vendors and stay connected.

Knowing that people support what they help to create, it’s critically important to include franchisees in all major decisions. If they are a part of the process, they are more likely to endorse it and help be a catalyst for change. A savvy franchisor will beta test new ideas with a group of highly engaged franchisees to achieve real world experience with a product and find out how it actually works in their locations before a system-wide rollout. If franchisees give it their stamp of approval, then you have a critical endorsement that will allow you to move forward and share the product with others while using the beta test franchisees to gather support from the system. This lends even more voices to the messages that you may be trying to share and it’s not just the corporate office endorsing a concept or an idea. It’s also important to ask franchisees to serve on advisory boards that meet regularly or host conference calls. Sometimes those franchisees are elected to their positions by the system as a whole, which ensures that everyone’s voices will be heard on matters both big and small. Exceptional franchisees should also be used to mentor newcomers to your system to ensure that even the newest franchisees have various ways to share their input and questions.

Respect for franchisees begins with ongoing day-in and day-out communication. If you have that in place, the free exchange of information and opinions will help your brand to improve, grow and succeed. Now that’s a relationship worth cultivating.

Titus can be reached at 561-868-1456.