Of all the tasks that befall the new franchisor, perhaps none is
as important as the role of training. If the brand is the heart
of any great franchise, training is the physical conditioning that
keeps that heart beating strongly and consistently.
And just like keeping your heart in shape, training is something
that many franchisors will push to the back burner during the press
of everyday business. But in doing so, franchisors run the risk
that some day their heart may seize up on them.
One key element of almost all franchise training programs involves
training at the franchisor's headquarters. Prior to launching its
franchise program, a good franchisor should develop a formal training
agenda for its pre-opening training course at its headquarters.
While the operations manual should serve as the primary textbook
throughout the training program, the agenda should contain the broad
list of topics that will go beyond the scope of the manual itself.
Generally speaking, this training starts with a tour of the prototype
operation, corporate headquarters, and an introduction of staff.
Once the formal training session begins, most franchisors will focus
this portion of training on those subjects that are best taught
in a "classroom" setting. Among the dozens of topics included
in this portion of training, the franchisor should address corporate
history and philosophy, pre-opening procedures, daily operations,
insurance requirements, vendor relationships, and reporting requirements.
This segment of training will often include hands-on training within
the franchisor's prototype (or perhaps a special training prototype
constructed for that purpose).
As the final training agenda is prepared, care should be taken
to keep the training sessions lively and interactive. A mixture
of training formats such as video (for example, showing a key supplier's
facility), lecture, discussion and hands-on work (such as product
preparation) creates an inviting training environment for franchisees.
Moreover, various studies have shown that retention is improved
when the trainer uses a number of different training methodologies
involving a combination of visual, auditory, and tactile learning
We also recommend that our clients involve some of its management
staff in the headquarter's training session. Exposing multiple staff
members to franchisees will energize the process and will help build
franchisee relationships throughout the organization.
The next step of the franchisor's training program generally involves
several days to a few weeks (depending on the complexity of the
operation) assisting franchisees and their staff at the franchisee's
Like headquarters training, a detailed training agenda should be
developed for this program. Depending on a franchisee's prior experience
and sophistication, the on-site portion of the training experience
will differ markedly from one franchisee to the next. The franchisor
will thus need to be more flexible in terms of both approach and
content during the onsite training session.
Given that the onsite session will take place at the franchisee's
location, training should focus on topics that will assist the franchisee
to become more familiar and comfortable with the day-to-day operation
of the business.
Franchisees new to the industry will have different questions and
expectations during the onsite portion of training than franchisees
having prior experience in related businesses. One of the key objectives
of the onsite trainer is to identify and prioritize the franchisee's
needs during the first day or two of training. The remaining training
schedule should be tailored to best meet the needs of these individuals.
It is important to remember that a franchisee can be an animal
that forgets everything he has learned during training the moment
the doors open. Like a deer caught in the headlights, the franchisee
and its staff can panic and freeze. And thus the importance of the
Dave Hood, my partner at the iFranchise Group and the former president
of Auntie Anne's Soft Pretzels, relates one particular story that
illustrates this. The Auntie Anne's opening team was assisting a
new franchisee who had just completed training at their grand opening.
And what an opening it was! Lines everywhere with people clamoring
for pretzels and lemonade. Of course, the team was overjoyed, as
they served pretzels as fast as they could make them. Then Dave
noticed that the franchisee was nowhere to be found. Now for those
of you who have been to an Auntie Anne's shop, you know there is
not a lot of room to get lost. Five minutes passed. Finally, Dave
walked into the back storage area, only to find the franchisee lying
on the floor, curled up in the fetal position. Dave got him to his
feet and back on the firing line, and today, that same franchisee
is among the most successful in the system.
It is easy to become overwhelmed and to momentarily forget everything
we learn. Therefore, it is imperative that the franchisor helps
the franchisee get on his feet - in some cases, quite literally.
Sending an opening team to help the franchisee during the first
critical week of operation is often the best way to accomplish this.
An opening team helps the franchisee to break into day-to-day operations
slowly, without the risk associated with jumping into the deep end
alone, and without assistance from the franchisor.
Within several days following the completion of onsite training,
the franchisee should receive an overall written evaluation of the
training program. The evaluation should reference both the franchisee's
areas of strengths, and areas in which the franchisee needs additional
work. A specific action plan should be included with this evaluation
- providing a clear list of objectives for the franchisee to focus
on in the coming weeks and months.
Effective follow-up with the franchisee in the weeks following
onsite training will help provide a seamless transition between
the franchisor's initial and ongoing support phases.
While most franchisors provide extensive training to new franchisees
joining their system, many franchisors fail to ensure that franchisees
and their managers receive ongoing and refresher training from the
franchisor. New managers and employees of the franchisee need to
be properly trained as they are hired. As a result, in some systems
franchisees and their managers are often inadequately trained in
new policies and procedures regarding system standards, and the
franchisor does not have a clear understanding of what training
is being provided by the franchisee to their new employees.
To minimize the erosion of system standards over time through lack
of training of franchisees and their staff, a franchisor should
develop an effective training program that requires ongoing certification
on core competency issues for franchisees and their key staff members.
Such a program includes periodic refresher training for these key
positions, as well as detailed training for any new products, services
or procedures that are introduced over time. In addition, for any
key ("certified") positions within the franchisee's organization,
franchisors must establish policies as to how any replacement individuals
are to be trained (e.g., when training must be completed, and who
will provide it) once they are hired by the franchisee.
Train, Train, and Over-train
One question that is frequently asked relative to training is, "How
much is too much?" And I am always tempted to answer, "You
can never do too much training," but the fact of the matter
is, there are always trade-offs involved.
For franchisees, who are eager to open the business and are carrying
the out-of-pocket costs for themselves and perhaps their managers,
the longer the training the more expensive it becomes. And since
the franchisee is not earning money during this training, this "time
away from the job" can be a significant financial drain.
Likewise, for the franchisor, time spent training is time not spent
selling. As the franchisor grows, they will need dedicated training
staff - and the more training is provided, the more staff is required.
So training has a cost.
Thus, it becomes incumbent on the franchisor who is attempting
to quantify their own training program to attempt to measure these
costs - both for the franchisee and for the franchisor - against
the complexity of the system, the potential for error, and the importance
of the brand both now and in the future.
My quick rule of thumb for making that assessment is my "keys
to the shop" test. When making this assessment, I tell the
franchisor to imagine that they are going on a cruise down the Amazon
for a month. No cell phones. No internet. And then I ask them, "How
much training would you want someone to have if you were going to
let them run your company store for that month without you?"
Add start-up training (site selection, lease negotiation, etc.)
to that number, and you will be getting close to an adequate initial
Test for Competence
Training without testing assumes two things that may not be true.
First, it assumes that you, as the franchisor, did a good job of
training. Second, it assumes that your franchisee did a good job
Franchisees should be given a number of written and practical tests
(for example, on customer service procedures) throughout the headquarters
training program. A final exam covering a broad range of topics
covered during the training process should also be part of this
While the majority of franchisees will successfully complete the
franchisor's training program, some franchisees (or their managers)
may struggle with the training or display traits during the training
(e.g., rudeness, lack of sales ability, lack of focus, etc.). This
could raise red flags as to their potential success as a franchisee.
In such cases, it is important that the franchisor gives its training
staff the authority (and responsibility) to address deficiencies
with trainees and, if necessary, fail them from the training program.
There are a variety of philosophies on testing. Some people test
by broad category of subject matter and others test at periodic
intervals during training, perhaps daily or weekly. Most prefer
open-ended testing and hands-on operational tests, but some franchisors
will use other testing methods as well. The important thing is that
you provide the appropriate tests to your franchisees.
While the goal of the training program is to assist new franchisees
in their transition to the franchisor's system, not every franchisee
or manager attending the training session will demonstrate the ability
to succeed. It's much easier to deal with such problems when they
occur during initial training than after the franchisee returns
to their location and opens for business.
There are only two ways to find out if your heart is healthy -
test it or have a heart attack. We recommend the former.
This article first appeared on entrepreneur.com and is reproduced
here with permission.