Franchisor Support Services: In The Field
Amanda: So then let’s talk about field support. You know, we’ve kind of talked around it a little bit with the phone support side of it. But what’s the difference? Obviously, it’s not as readily available. I can’t just pick up a phone and then in an hour somebody’s in my office unless I’m buying territory that’s in…
Mike: Right next to the corporate office.
Amanda: Right, where that is. But what is field support? Just define it.
Mike: So field support is…so there’s nothing that can replace field support, including phone support. Because when you’re in someone’s location, whether office, or their building, wherever it is that that business operates from. You get to see, and touch, and smell, and feel, and, you know, experience everything about what’s going on in that location from the franchise owner’s behavior, to the employees’ behaviors, to the culture that’s been established, to the processes and procedures that they’re operating with, to how far off course they may be in terms of your business model and systems as to what programs they’re implementing. There is so much that can be gleaned from a field visit that you can’t do over the phone. That’s why both coexist really well in a franchise system. But field support is your eyes and ears. And what it allows you to do is all the things I just said, when we can sit on the phone, Amanda, and we can talk about how you manage your team, and about what you do every day. And I can say, “Great, I understand that you’re using your time wisely. You seem to be managing your team well.” And then the operations manager walks in and does a field visit and spends a week there and walks away, you know, feeling that you don’t use your time wisely and you don’t manage your team as well. It’s easy to say what you perceive you’re doing. Nothing beats eyes and ears on the ground in a support function better than ops field support.
Amanda: Right. When you’re on the phone, you’re communicating your perception, right? And what you think is happening and what you perceive to be a reality and sometimes, and oftentimes, that’s very different than actual reality that you don’t see and you aren’t exposed to unless you’re there to lay eyes and ears on what’s going on. And in a good and a bad way, right? It’s maybe the perception is often it’s better than you think it is. And you’re calling somebody every day saying, “Oh, I just, you know, have this one staff member,” and so on and so forth. And the story is always different, but…and they go in and it’s like oh, well, it’s…you know, could be a really simple problem. You know, we see it every day that we…I don’t wanna say blow it out of proportion, but it seems like this mountain and it really can be boiled down to something that’s a simple solution. It goes both ways.
Mike: And with field support. I mean, the value of field support really can’t be…the virtues of it can’t be extolled enough. I mean, there is nothing better than being on the ground and experiencing what needs to be experienced in an office to really make change. However, with that said, field support is only as good as the receptivity on the other side. So a lot of franchise companies will mandate a visit. And you know, you don’t know what you’re walking into. You don’t know what the receptivity is, the challenges while you’re there. Others, you know, don’t mandate, but, you know, inspire franchise owners to accept the visit. Sometimes, even with that inspiration, they’re more receptive or less receptive. Again, if you go all the way back to maybe the first podcast we ever did…
Amanda: Are you going to ego?
Mike: I talked about ego, right? I talked about the two reasons why businesses fail. The first one is being undercapitalized shame, shame, shame on any franchisor that brings people in that are undercapitalized. It’s a recipe for disaster. But the second reason is ego. That ego that we look for in the resume, that we hope to see on display in an interview process and through the franchise discovery process is the same ego that gets in the way, when your business is open, your money’s on the line, and you believe you’re doing things the way you want them done. You believe you’ve hired the staff that you want that’s doing what you need them to do that have the qualifications that you believe they should have in order to represent your business and help you grow your business. There’s a lot of ego. And the tough thing about field operations is that because that person may be in your location once a quarter, maybe biannually, it’s glaring to a person walking in from the outside, who knows the business, which is what your ops department will do, they’ll know the business. It is glaring, where the deficiencies are. And then it becomes very, very difficult and the ops people have to be extremely savvy and very relational, to get somebody to set their ego aside, to help them see what they need to see, in order to make the changes they need to make. That is a very difficult thing to accomplish. And it’s a very difficult environment to be in when that ego continues to present itself throughout the time that ops individual is in the location. Not an easy thing to do.
Amanda: Yeah. And it would be almost impossible to not be a little guarded, right? But there’s gonna be holes. You’re in it every day. You’re too close to it to see the things that somebody from the outside knowing your business and knowing your company, and how these things can run, right, at an optimal level to come in, you know, you said quarterly, annually, biannually, whatever…
Mike: Monthly, whatever the frequency is.
Amanda: …the frequency is. Right. And to be open to that. I think we, you know, we talk a lot about ego being important and being a driving factor, but being coachable, and trainable, and open to suggestions and opportunities from somebody who’s been there and has that demonstrated track record again, why you buy a franchise because you’re also getting that support and that help that can’t be spoken highly enough of, it really is important.
Mike: Yeah. So for us in a good field operations support plan, we have an approach and we execute on that approach. And it all starts with the foundation of the business. So when, you know we go in to help a franchise owner operationally, first thing we look at is the people and making sure they’re the right people on the bus, and making sure they’re on the right seat of the bus, to quote, Jim Collins. That is really, really important. And it is, in many cases, the essence of where the problems begin with an office. It’s not growing where there tends to be struggling. It’s in the people they’ve hired. And the challenge there when you start with the people side, because the franchise owner is gonna want you to start with the processor system side. They’re gonna say, “Hey, I need this fixed. I want you to evaluate that.” And all those things are important in due time. But nothing’s more important than the people. And getting them, meaning the franchise owners, to see the people for who and what they are, to be able to say to them, “Nice person, wrong seat,” or, “Not nice person, right seat. Not nice person needs to go, even though I’ve been dependent on this person,” they are very difficult conversations.
But if you wanna help a franchise owner, and you have a legitimate field support team, you start with the people. And those are very difficult discussions. But once you fix the people problem, then you can start working on the growth strategies, you can start working on the processes, and all that at the foundation and we train our ops team is data, right? Gotta have data. So anything we do prior to going into an office for field support, is to gather data. And if they don’t have it, then we got to help them get it, but we use the data to figure out where to focus our energies during that week. And we use the data to help us determine strategically where we’re going to go in terms of a growth strategy, but that’s the basics of the support that we go in, and the approach we go in with.
Amanda: So we’re, I don’t wanna say muddying waters, because it’s all very relevant. But we started this conversation with grand opening a support. And somebody in the field, whether that’s the day I open my doors, a week, two weeks later, that initial right out of the gate, everything is super green. I’m figuring this out. And I’ve kind of progressed into ongoing field support whether I’ve owned this franchise for 2 days, 5 years, 20 years, you know, what does that support look like? What can I expect on day 1 versus year 1 versus year 10?
Mike: Yeah, I mean, day one’s really the acclimation support. It’s what do I need to do to grow my business? How do I execute those things? Do I have the right people? You know, so it’s really…it’s an analysis on how you did to set up your business with the people you set it up with, to making sure that they’re doing the right thing. So they have the skill sets that you’ve, you know, implemented your culture and you’re starting to manage that culture at least you have your plan for managing that culture. And then it’s really just operationally, what do I gotta do to grow my business? And depending on the business, sometimes you gotta get out and grow your business through outside sales and marketing, some come to you and you’ve gotta focus on either social media, TV, or radio and getting those things going.
But ultimately, it starts with growth because for a new owner, there’s nothing more important than getting to break even and to profitability, once I hit break even, and the sooner you can get them there the better. So a lot of it isn’t about…and you still gotta look at the foundation because you’ve gotta have the people to get you there. But a lot of the early support is just let’s just focus on growth strategies and growth programs. So we call them high payoff activities. We have a list of high payoff activities, and that’s the list we work off. So if a field ops goes in there in week one that you’re open or week two, we’re gonna have our high payoff activities and we’re gonna say, “Let’s go down the list and start focusing on those high payoff activities to get your business churning.” That changes a year later, maybe even six months later, two years, five years later, because a lot of behaviors by then are set, a lot of people by then are entrenched, a lot of mindsets are fixed. And when you talk about the owner, if they’ve had some degree of success, they may in some ways, check out and wanna go look at doing other things, they may not necessarily be in the day-to-day, they may become more reliant. That field visit or that field discussion with a five-year-old franchise owner is much different than a three-month franchise owner and the focus is much different.
Amanda: I love the high path activities because I’ve heard it referenced SOS, shiny object syndrome, where it’s the next best thing that’s coming along and everybody’s got the same amount of hours in a day. So where do I make the biggest impact on my business the fastest right out of the gate? That first, what is it? Sixty, 90 days? I don’t know the numbers.
Mike: It depends on the business model.
Amanda: Right. But that’s a critical time in your business, right? That early startup, and it’s really easy to get distracted by the next thing that’s coming along or something, or I wanna go out and do this because I think it’s gonna grow my business. What are those types of issues? Where do I need to focus my energies right now today, and we can focus on the rest later. But I love that you have created kind of this guide and structure to keep everybody focused on what they should be focused on.
Mike: Yeah, and when we go….and it doesn’t matter whether you’re 10 years in the business or 6 months into the business, when we go in for an ops visit high payoff activities are at the forefront of what we’ll focus on when we get to the growth strategy discussions. But there’s time we need to spend before we do that in making sure that we’ve got the foundational pieces in place. You gotta have the foundation.
Amanda: I was gonna say, you can’t build it on a house of cards or it’s not going to matter, right? Awesome. Well, this is great information. Anything else you wanna add about field support?
Mike: It comes in different sizes and shapes. So as you’re investigating franchise companies, you should, you know, learn about that. You should ask good questions around what their field support plan is, what their field support strategy in terms of, you know, the focus of the field support, not just the execution of the field support. You know, I wanna understand what that’s like. Again, some franchises are a little bit more heavy handed with ops and some aren’t. But if I was coaching anybody who was on the outside although I know you’ve bought now and we’re inside, I would be really understanding that component. But I’d also want to understand the phone piece because without both you’re really, really underserving your franchise population.
Amanda: And I think that bears repeating because these are questions that you wanna ask before you sign, right? At this point, you’re far enough along in your career and your business to know the kind of support that you’re gonna need. Are you a hands off person and you wanna figure it out? Or are you somebody who’s gonna want somebody to call every day and talk through things and think out loud and you know, get support and all of that and knowing the kind of support that you typically are gonna look for, something that you want to make sure that that franchise before you sign on the dotted line is gonna provide to you and just their process match with what you want it to be. Is it something that you’re gonna feel comfortable with before you make that decision? I think those are great questions to ask in that process at this discovery day or prior to whenever that falls. But all things to consider.
Mike: Yeah, and word of advice for those that are buying into newer franchise concepts. You just won’t have the depth of support. So in the newer concepts, and you have to weigh that because there’s some shiny new toys out there that people wanna take for a ride, you know, in terms of the types of franchises that are out there, but the newer ones will have much less support numbers. And so it may be a few people that are well-versed in a lot of different areas. Just understand that that’s what you’re gonna get when you buy newer concepts. When you buy more savage concepts, then it’s everything we talked about, you have all those various departments in the support. But keep that in mind when you’re making your decision as well.
Amanda: And you may be okay with, you know, not having the depth of support, but that may be important to you.
Mike: But you get more attention because if you’re one of the newer ones in you’ll get a lot of attention and then as they grow, you’ll get less.
Amanda: And that, you know, there’s pros and cons to all that and a couple of episodes when we talked to Al [SP] and then the ability to negotiate things changes with the maturity of a system and all that goes into that. So lots of different things and I won’t rehash all those episodes, go back and listen to them. They’re wonderful. But that’s I think…
Mike: Franchising with purpose.
Amanda: I think that’s all we have for today. Mike, thanks again, as usual, for being here. I’m excited to get more granular with the different levels and kinds of support from technology, marketing, compliance, HR, training, finance. I’m trying to read off your notes over there, because I don’t wanna miss anybody. We talked about operations. We’ll talk more about sales, legal, all the things that go into it. So that is where we are headed for the rest of the month.
Mike: Well, Amanda, it’s always a pleasure to be on “Franchising with Purpose,” and…
Amanda: It’s a pleasure having you.
Mike: …you’re always a gracious host. Love to have these conversations with you and hopefully they benefit our audience.
Amanda: I’m sure they do. Thank you.
Mike: You’re quite welcome, take care.