"If you want to persuade people, show the immediate relevance
and value of what you're saying in terms of their needs and desires...
Successful collaborative negotiation lies in finding out what the
other side really wants and showing them a way to get it, while
you get what you want." - Herb Cohen
First, say no! Then negotiate because the final decision could
be maybe. I learned this maxim from some of the best hagglers in
the world after working for ten years on Capitol Hill in Washington.
We have all met rascals who, in a fifty-fifty proposition, insist
on getting the hyphen, too. This is not one of their stories.
In franchising, we are supposed to play by the rules. From the
original franchise contract to renewals, the rules are specified
within the agreement between the franchisor and the franchisee.
However, how we arrive at those rules could be negotiable.
Good franchisors are interested in franchisees' ideas, and franchisees
are interested in the range of experience franchisors bring to them.
Neither side needs to cheat or bend their principles, the rules,
to succeed in business through franchising. As with playing a game,
it's no fun to win by breaking the rules. In the franchise business,
one can still beat the competition, stick with what they believes
in, follow the rules of the contract, and prevail without being
deceitful. Each must know the rules, understand them, and when all
is said and done, be willing to accept them or question the rules
from the start and, perhaps, challenge them for change.
That is precisely why the contract is in place. It helps illuminate
the way to understanding and success. But before a potential franchisee
forces a discussion to the point of an argument with the franchisor,
he or she should take a good look at all sides, their side and,
perhaps, the outside. Inevitably, the franchisor will always have
the final word.
Some potential franchisees may fear that they will be required
to conform to an overpowering, intimidating corporate system that
the franchisor has established. This kind of pressure, of course,
exists to some degree in all organizations and businesses. Without
it in franchising, we could not protect the brand, the quality,
consistency, or other franchisee's investments within the system.
Efficiency dictates such rules, and devoid of them, no franchise
chain could stay organized or fulfill the contract agreement.
Talking is a natural way of doing business. It generates new ideas.
If a franchisee has an opinion, a proposition, a proposal that would
alter the franchise contract, or anything about which he or she
feels very strong, my suggestion is: speak up. Not all franchisors
will listen. But, if one doesn't ask the question, one may never
know the answer.
Nothing is more difficult and, therefore, more precious than the
ability to make one's own decision. Franchisees always hold that
card. They can choose not to buy into a system but rather to take
their money, their will to work and to succeed, and go elsewhere.
From the franchisor's perspective, it is helpful to figure out
in advance where the potential franchisee would like to end up.
At what point will the franchisee sign the agreement and still feel
as if he or she is coming away with a workable deal? This is much
different from, "How far can we push them?" Many times a negotiator
can push someone to the wall and still reach an agreement, but the
resentment will haunt that relationship for the term of the contract.
As with all binding accords of legal consequences, it is important
to remember that the big print giveth and the small print taketh
away. Franchisees should read the contract in full, every word,
and understand it. Knowledge is what one gets from reading the small
print in a contract, and experience is what one gets from not reading
During my 23 years in franchising, I have found that the first-rate
franchisors will try to surround themselves with strong, driven,
ever inquiring franchisees. The second-rate franchisors will surround
themselves with third-rate franchisees that will question the system
and bend the rules to their needs. The third-rate franchisors will
surround themselves with anyone who can pay the franchise fee and
who really doesn't care to remember the rules. These franchisees
are the ones who will say that they agree to the contract in principle
when they truly mean they haven't the slightest intention of carrying
it out in practice.
Abraham Lincoln once declared, "When I am getting ready to reason
with a man I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and
what I am going to say, and two-thirds thinking about him and what
he is going to say."
We all need to listen better, and, on occasion, put ourselves in
the other person's billet. Do we really understand what someone
wants? Have we tried to accommodate his or her request? Is it possible
to do more than expected, yet keep the deal in place while providing
for a fair, just, and equitable relationship?
My experience is that most franchisors will listen if the franchisee
makes a good point and can defend his or her position with a sturdy
argument. One must be within the realm of acceptable business practice,
and, of course, economically balanced. In other words, the proposal
should make sense to the franchisor and be equally worthwhile. After
all, the franchisor wants to promote the system, and the new franchisee
is the proverbial engine that pulls the train.
A franchisee with average ability, good discipline, a definite
goal, a clear conception of how that goal can be gained, and the
power of application and labor will succeed. This individual is
highly sought after by franchisors the world around. This franchisee
brings much to the table for discussion, and discussion leads to
negotiation; negotiation can direct the way to an agreement, which
clearly represents an acceptable understanding of the rules.
Considering the myriad of possible consequences, one can view the
art of franchise negotiation not so much as a case of crafty maneuvering
but as one tempered with common sense. You may never know what you
can get unless you ask for it because that final decision could
Reprinted with permission from BIZ/Successful Franchising