Franchise Operations: Quarterbacking Franchise Support (Feat. Mike Isakson)
Mike Magid: Hello and welcome back to Franchising with Purpose, I’m Mike Magid, Chief Operating Officer for Griswold Home Care filling in for our regular host, Amanda Lepore.
On this episode we will continue to explore the support departments of a franchise system. While the Marketing, Technology, and L&D departments of a Franchise are crucial to the success of your business, you also need help implementing strategies and programs designed to help you grow your business in the local marketplace. Once again, Industry Icon and former President of the IFA, Mike Isakson joins us to discuss the role of the Operations department with Amanda, including the resources available to assist you in running your franchise, and how the operational support team is there from your grand opening and throughout the years to help you run and grow your business.
As we will mention several times in this episode, the Operations department of a franchise system is much like the Quarterback of a football team, everything runs through them. Learn why as Amanda continues her conversation with Mike Isakson:
Amanda: Great transition, I think, at that point, you know, what’s expected of our franchisor. And we keep going back to operations, and we haven’t talked about it in-depth yet, because like you said and have said a couple times now, I think it’s a great analogy. They really do quarterback this entire support process and making sure that you’re getting in touch with the people who do specialize in that particular question or need that you have. But let’s talk a little bit about operations. And what does, you know, in an overall kind of nutshell, what does a franchisor’s operations department handle?
Mike: Well, the operations department is, in my opinion, responsible for the growth of the franchisees in compliance with brand standards. So the ops group will be supporting franchisees, helping them look at how do you grow the business. And you know, if we kinda go back to the medical example, so your operations is the general practitioner in franchising. They can deal with the cold, they can deal with the flue, they can deal with appendicitis, they can deal with lots of items. Now, when it comes to brain surgery, okay, then we bring in a specialist.
Mike: Most of the time, the support issues that come up are general practitioner issues. They’re not brain surgery issues. Well, they’re not a deep problem within the software. They’re a ratio problem on a very complex balance sheet or P&L. That support person, she is the general practitioner that supports the franchisees, helps them grow and develop the business. They’re the ones that provide a cadence of accountability for both sides. You know, I call as the franchisee and say, “I’m having trouble with this.” And the support person says that their ops person says, “Hey, I will call you back.” Okay, I need to call him back and get that information.
Mike: So I see them as the general practitioner, and of the vast majority to be handled by the general practitioner.
Amanda: I think that’s a great summary and analogy, right. They really are kind of that, “Do I have strep throat or colds?” And those are things I look to my operations department for, but I also trust them to know when they have the answers and when they don’t have the answers to get the neurologists involved or the, you know, ortho, or whatever other ailment or issue I need help with. But also, like you said, the accountability piece is, you know, if we do have to get the neurologist involved, in our example here of, you know, the medical side of things, are they making sure that person gets involved, and are they following up that they were able to fix the problem or are working on it, right, and not that my requests are just kind of going into a black hole and never to be heard from again. So I think that accountability on both sides is really important and something you definitely wanna look for.
Mike: Yeah. And I think another important part is the handoff from the training and support group to the operations department. And I would encourage, as franchisees, think about the operations department, that they think about them as building a relationship with that support manager that you can call and visit with her, visit with him, and share your joys, your fears, your concerns, your anxieties, your victories, all of those things. And so I just encourage a prospective franchisee to say, “Hey, I want to be able to have a conversation,” and be honest and be open and be vulnerable. And you know, it’s always interesting for, in 50 years of franchising, you know, you talk to a franchisee and they think they’re the only one with that problem. Well, you’re not.
Mike: Everybody else is gonna cross that. Don’t be embarrassed, let’s talk about it, “You know, I blew up at a client,” or “I blew up at a referral person,” or “I didn’t follow through on this,” or “I’m discouraged about that.” Hey, you’re not this. That’s not the first time I heard that.
Mike: Don’t worry about it. We’ll fix it.
Mike: Let’s go forward. But franchisees that are open and transparent with their support manager, that they can call Sally and visit with Sally and say, “Here’s what I’m feeling.” Now, in the same breath, the franchisee has to be willing to be held accountable. “All right, you’re not growing your business. How many referrals did you do this week?” “None.” “Well, my business isn’t growing.”
Mike: “How many did you do?” “Zero.” Well, that’s why you’re not growing. So we can go round and round and round and round, and until you go out and work referrals, your business isn’t gonna grow. “How many interviews did you do this week for caregivers?” “None.” “Well, don’t talk to me about a caregiver shortage.”
Mike: So there has to be that level of “Here’s the data, here’s the facts.” And likewise, the operations department needs to have access to be able to say, “Hey, I saw your revenue is this. I saw your leads were this. I saw that you did this or that.” So that transparency in the trust, and that just comes over, you know, we build relationships, we build trust.
Amanda: Absolutely. I could not agree more. And we talk a lot about, you know, that I think we’ve done a couple episodes of the podcast and talking about ego, right, and that transparency and that honesty in being willing to be vulnerable. Because we can’t help somebody who’s not honest about their struggles or their joys or all of those things. But the other side of it too, and I really just want to underline and put an exclamation point after, being coachable. Because you buy a franchise for the help and the support and, you know, the systems and all of those things. And if you aren’t willing to be open, and sometimes it’s a little bit of tough love, but that really is what you go to your operations team for. And you know, I always tell people, if you’re struggling with something for more than a few minutes, call somebody. That’s why you have a franchise and not have to figure things out on your own. But if you aren’t willing to be honest and ask for the help, then we can provide it to you.
Mike: Yep, yep, yep. That’s exactly right.
Amanda: All right. So.
Mike: And I think the other piece is to look and to say, “How many ops managers are there?” And there is a much higher level of entity support for these franchise owners than there are existing owners.
Amanda: Mike, what would you say…you talk about the ratio, or not the ratio, but the number of people, what would you say as, you know, big in franchising for as long as you have, what’s a good ratio? If there’s, you know, let’s say 100 franchise locations, in your opinion, and I realize this is very much an opinion question and could be subjective, but what’s a good number of folks to manage that relationship with 100 offices?
Mike: Well, you know, and again, I’ve seen ranges from 35 to 100 for a support manager. The hundred level gets to be a little bit too much. I think it depends also on the number of new franchisees that are coming into the system. I think, also, there is tiered levels of support. That’s one of the questions that I’d ask is what are the levels of support. Some franchisors have a support system for new franchise owners, because many of the issues are very basic. It’s more “do it” as opposed to, as you get larger, you’re managing…at the beginning, you’re managing yourself and maybe your one other person, two other people in the office, and a smaller number of caregivers. And as you get bigger, you can have an office of 10 people and hundreds of caregivers. And so, oftentimes, you’ll see different scriptures where businesses over a certain size have these kinds of support managers. Businesses who are new have this level. And that’s an integration, also, some franchisors will integrate the training department, much more into new franchisee startup. And I like that model where the training and development people are involved in the startup in that first six months or a year as well. So it kind of varies where you go in a dev operations department, the response is critically important.
Amanda: Absolutely. Let’s talk a little bit about, as we’re in operations, an operations manual. So this is something that, you know, we hear the term tossed around and we’ve talked about it a little bit before, but what is an operations manual, and what should I know about it?
Mike: Well, I think the operations manual has kinda got two big sides of it. One is what are the brand responsibilities that I, as the franchisee, must follow. Because I’m representing a brand with other franchisees, what are the requirements, how my logo should look, the colors I should use, what I can say about my franchise, how I answer the phone, my web presence. The brand stewardship and brand standards, the operations manual should speak very, very clearly to that. “My business card should look like this. My letterhead should look like this. My emails should look like this. My phone should be answered in this way, that way,” those kinds of things. So that’s kinda one side that’s very, very clear. A lot of those things are identified in the franchise disclosure document. They’re also identified in the franchise agreement.
Mike: But the operations manual should go into more detail on that. Another side of the operations manual are the practices, the forms, the procedures, the checklist, the application form, the intake form in our business. Those are our documents, our systems. You do this, number one, number two, number three, number four, number five, number six, and then you’ve completed this process. Then the third part of an operations manual are best practices that are out there. What are other franchise owners doing in a marketplace that has a very large Hispanic care workforce? Or what are franchisees doing who are dealing primarily with a certain disease condition? Or what are franchisees doing in a specific segment of high-rise building as opposed to…? Those are best practices. So those are kind of the three buckets. One, here’s what the requirement is to be a franchisee. Here are the processes, training procedures. And then here are best practices that can be shared across the franchise organization.
Amanda: Absolutely. Sorry, I’m just making some notes here, because that was, I think, a really good way to break that down. Because you’re absolutely right, you know. There should be no bones about what my letterhead looks like or, you know, the brand standards piece. Am I using the right colors? Am I using the right sizes? You know, what am I doing with my logo? All those things that, when you buy a franchise, you’re buying a brand and all of those things are, you know, that’s what you’re getting involved in. If you don’t like that the logo is blue and green, and I want to be pink and orange, you know, can I change that? Well, no. And those things should, I agree, be sought out very clearly in that initial portion with the brand standards and all those things.
Mike: And then I think the other side in that brand standards also talk about when the franchisee must report royalties, must report revenue, must report key indicators, all of those procedural things, when should open accounts be paid.
Mike: You know, and that goes to some of the administrative side, but those are the processes, you know, that should be outlined…
Mike: …in that standards. And that’s kinda cut and bright. It’s a black ink on white paper.
Amanda: Right. And it really does remove the ambiguity off a lot of things, and I think that’s…especially as you’re ramping up, I personally, if, you know, we’re buying a franchise, I would wanna know, “Okay, here are my guardrails. Here’s what I can do. Here’s what I can’t do.”
Mike: That’s right, that’s right.
Amanda: Because it makes it a lot easier. And then it’s like, “Okay, you know, where’s the wiggle room,” because about, you know, we started this conversation with the difference between a franchise and a corporate location. And there’s some flexibility, but there are also some things that just aren’t right. The brand is what the brand is, and I think it’s really helpful to have those things, like you said, black ink on white paper. This is what it is. But then the other side of it, the flip side, with the processes and the checklists, and you know, opening a business can be very intimidating and often scary. I don’t know, you know, I’m going into this for the first time. I’m opening my doors. I’ve got to go market this business and interview caregivers and find clients. And you know, a lot of times, my livelihood is invested in this initially, and I’ve invested a 401(k) or, you know, other financial options. So I’ve got to make this succeed.
And that sounds like that operations manual, in conjunction with the training and the support that their franchise provides, is really my, “Okay, here’s step one, right. Put your left foot out. Now, put your right foot in front of that. And here’s how you take those steps to grow your business, and it’s not having to fend for things on my own.” Because we talk about a franchise versus a startup. And when you’re starting something from the ground up, if it’s not a franchise, you gotta figure out how to do all of those things. So I think that is why you buy a franchise, at least one of the reasons. There are a lot. But to know that that should be part of my operations manual and I should get this guide of how to do what I need to do I think is very comforting, and sometimes, that can be a little daunting.
Mike: Yep. And I think it’s sequential and added in, you know, right.
Mike: You’re starting a business, you get some foundational pieces, and then you just start moving, you know, and that’s added to your process.
Amanda: Absolutely. What other thoughts, anything else that you would share about operations, you know? We talk about it in a lot of the different segments of this particular series, and like you keep mentioning, it really is the quarterback, right, for everything else, and your general practitioner, a lot of analogies. But anything else that we should know about operations specifically?
Mike: Well, I think there should be a clear understanding that the franchisee understands how often where the franchise are, or the apps, people would be in my market. And also, what are the…are there any role quality reviews from both an inspection and an audit? Is there such a thing that goes on? Also, that the franchisee understands that customer satisfaction, customer reviews are property of the brand and that the franchisor will be very much involved in saying, “Hey, you have a lot of unresolved complaints and that you will be held accountable for those.” Likewise, that the franchisee understands that the use of the brand…and the brand is the franchisor’s, a franchisee is using it or renting the brand, if you will, in a franchise agreement. And so the ops department will be working through issues that will undoubtedly arise as you move forward.
Amanda: Absolutely. I think that’s a great cap on the operations. Yeah, we’re gonna, I’m sure, talk more about that particular group as we go forward here, because they are so involved in that process. But really, just to underscore the point of that relationship, right, they are your go-to persons. So it’s important that, I think above anything else really, and while everything that we talked about is important, I think if you don’t have an operations person or a department that you can go to, it’s twofold, right. Are you being open? Are you being honest and transparent? But at the same time, is that person that you’re interacting with as you come through discovery days and training and all of those things and get to know more about the person that’s gonna be your go-to, can you build that relationship with that person? And that, I think, everything else really does stem from that.
Thanks again for joining us on “Franchising with Purpose.” You can find me on Twitter, @Amanda_GHC. And don’t forget to visit Griswold Franchising on social media for more information, Griswold Franchise Opportunity on Facebook, @GriswoldFran on Twitter, And GriswoldHomeCareFranchise on Instagram. And make sure to subscribe wherever you get your favorite podcasts, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and check out my personal favorite, griswoldhomecare.com/franchise for more. We’d love to hear from you, whether it’s a review on your favorite podcast app or a tweet, if you have any questions, or if you wanna hear something specific, send us a message. We’ll see you next time.