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Franchise Training: How Learning & Development Sets You Up For Success

Learning & Development (Feat. Mike Isakson)


Amanda: Welcome back to Franchising with Purpose, I’m your host, Amanda Lepore. Today, we’re continuing our series going through each department at a franchise’s corporate office, and how they support you in your franchise. Joining us again is Mike Isakson, a 50-year veteran of the franchising world, with experience as both a franchisee and franchisor.

On today’s episode, Mike and I continue our discussion, moving into the Learning and Development department. Learn how you can maximize their knowledge and training programs to help you succeed as a franchisee through launch and beyond. And now, continue listening to my conversation with Mike Isakson:

I think that’s a really good transition. I think we’re gonna skip around here a little bit more to the training and educational support from a franchisor because we talk a lot about, you know, it’s really kind of been talked about in everything so far, sales, marketing, and we’re gonna continue to talk about it, but that access to information, the training that’s provided. So, my question to you is, again, this is very much a generalized question, but what kind of training should I expect from a franchisor?

Mike: Well, as you sign that franchise agreement, you’ve made the decision to join that franchise and you should know these things before, there clearly is in the franchise disclosure document a statement about the training program, the amount of time that is spent in each different part of training. So, that is very clearly understood. Secondly, there is typically a timeframe that there is some pre-study that is done and that’s done via the information or the educational systems, online systems, and then the actual training kick-off program, a week or two weeks depending, that’s a critically important week and to look at how is it structured? And quite frankly, I think that that beginning is critically important. And I think one of the most important parts of that week or two-week training program are the relationships that are formed with the home office staff, with the marketing department, with the finance department, with the operations department, with the IT group, that you become aware of the levels of support and who do I call to get that support and that relational time that is spent. And I think also, the communication of the culture of the company comes through in that week as you’re face-to-face. So, that whole training program is critically important. And then I’d also look at saying, “What are the training programs look like for me as a franchisee? But what are the training programs look like for my office manager or my intake manager or my salesperson? Or how does the franchisor help me train my team members, my caregivers?” And so, I think that it’s not only training me but training those that I employ to touch my clients, touch my caregivers, because as businesses grow, you’re going to need staff. And how good is the franchisor at training my staff? And most of that is done through online tools, through materials that the franchisee can download or have someone sit in front of a computer and learn from that.

Amanda: Absolutely. So, we talked a lot about kind of that initial training program where I come in as a franchisee and it’s a week or two weeks. I know it’s different. Some places are three or four weeks depending on the complexity and their different programs. But just to underscore, again, that relationship building, right? Because I’m gonna learn a lot of things in that week or two weeks or whatever the timeframe is. And some of it I’m going to remember and some of it I’m not, but that relationship building and knowing who to go to when I get back to my office and I’m opening my doors and I have a question about my Facebook account or my…

Mike: Exactly.

Amanda: You know, I’m going out in the field with a new referral source and I’m not quite sure how to handle that. You know, how do I reach the sales team? So, really knowing who to go to, how to access those people and the support that they need to, you know, that I can go to them for. So, kind of that initial piece is super important. But you’re absolutely right, the ongoing side of it. So, is that just kind of two weeks and then I’m done with them and I have to kind of fend for myself as I hire people? Or, that’s a great question to ask. What does that support look like as I grow my team, as I add people? You know, am I responsible for training them on everything that they need to know or is that something that the franchisor is going to help me with? So, I think a great question and definitely something you want to look for as you’re identifying different franchise opportunities or as you kind of get more into things.

Mike: Yeah. And how good are those tools? So, how do they… And most of those tools for good franchise companies are transmitted through an educational software system that’s out there for the franchisees to use, and also, the employees of the franchisees, that they can go on and use these tools to grow the business. The templates of how to do estimating, budgeting, the checklists of how you hire and qualify. How do you recruit employees? There’s a multitude of segments. And look at how it’s organized. Is it clean, is it crisp, does it make sense? And then the other question is, when was it updated last? You know, I’ve seen some franchise organizations that got stuff that are 15 years old. Now, sometimes there are immutable that never change in businesses. But most things need to be fresh in an update on some frequency.

Amanda: Yeah. I think that’s a great question to ask. You know, how often are these tools revisited and how often are they refreshed based on changes to the industry and the things that marketing has uncovered with industry trends and what are we doing with that based on regulations and legislation, right?

Mike: You are absolutely correct.

Amanda: That factors into what we’re doing and is what you’re sending me, you know, in compliance with the different legislation that’s changing, I feel like ever-changing every day? But that’s a good point. And Mike, the other thing that I’ll ask about this is we…when we talk about training, there’s a lot of overlap, right? When we talk about coming in for that initial training program, and it’s all the different departments, right? So sales is gonna teach me how to sell and marketing is going to teach me about pay-per-click and SEO and social media and all of those things. Why is it so important for a franchisor to have a designated, you know, training or learning and development team to kind of oversee all of this? Why couldn’t it just be, you know, if sales is teaching me about sales, why do we need learning and development? And is it any indicator as I’m going through the process and I’m looking at different franchises to make sure that there is a designated team for that training?

Mike: Well, I think first and foremost is focus, that there’s someone that is responsible for taking information and putting it together into a format that people can easily learn and understand materials. You know, some marketing individual may have all kinds of knowledge, but it’s so complex that they can’t effectively communicate it. And each of us learn differently, and the training department that I’ve seen, they’re really educational experts. They can help folks, help me learn more effectively because they know how to structure things. And also they know how long you can absorb so much information before you have a role play or before you take a break, because it’s a training process. And then it’s also the integration of all of those groups so that it becomes additives as the franchisee. It’s a building process. And some of it’s built before the franchisee comes in, but in-home learning, it’s built during that week or two weeks or three-week training program, some franchisors provide a kick-off three or four days in the field for the operations department to be there. And then the ongoing accountability and cadence of support is critically important. So, the training development group oversees to make sure all of those components are integrated and there’s a continuous flow of information.

Amanda: Absolutely. I could not agree more, right? We talk a lot about specializing and as a franchisee you shouldn’t have to know the ins and outs of Google and of Facebook and all of those things. And it really is, again, just to kind of recap everything, it really is specializing, because you may be great at sales and know all of the ins and outs of overcoming objections and handling those phone calls, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to getting that information into somebody else’s brain. So, I think that’s really what you should look for in a learning and development or a training team is to kind of build that bridge from your subject matter expert to the learner. And that’s, I think, a really good kind of answer to that and, you know, to recap everything. Mike, anything else, when we talk about training, you know, we talked a little bit about the initial training and what that should look like, things to look for when you’re looking for a franchise, ongoing training support, right? How often is it offered? What’s the process look like? How tailored is it to what I need and what’s going on to me versus my team? All those different pieces. But anything else that we should be looking for as we identify different franchise opportunities or go through this process when it comes to that educational support?

Mike: Yeah. A couple of key things. One is the use of webinars and online seminars that are available, and again, recorded so that they can be used over and over and over. And a franchisee or the employee of the franchisee staff can go on the learning system electronically, sit and watch a video, a webinar. How often is the franchisor providing ongoing webinar trainings about specific topics? How often does the franchisor provide access to the CEO on an open mic conversation, call in, ask questions? Let’s talk about vision. Let’s talk about values. That’s critically important. Another thing that a franchisor or franchisee should look at is the national conference that goes on. And I would, if I was buying a franchisee, I would say to the franchisor, “Will you show me the agenda for the last national meeting? Did you have, you know, you had a keynote speaker, or could I see the videotape from the CEO’s address at the national conference?” Or, that national conference is an important training event that is on an annual basis and sometimes the regional meetings. And then, that’s a key to learning opportunity because that’s oftentimes when the franchisor will spend a good amount of effort and money to put together a conference that motivates, that encourages, that recognizes franchisees. So, that’s another piece that I would look at as well.

Amanda: Absolutely. And I can’t believe we hadn’t talked about the national conference side of things or regional or whatever it is in a particular brand or industry. But what are some things that you’re looking for? So, you mentioned, you know, I wanna see the video of the CEO’s opening remarks or the keynote. And what are some key things that I might be paying attention or looking for when I review those videos?

Mike: I think, again, just that there’s leadership that you feel their heart, feel their concern, their competency and their commitment to serve our customers, our caregivers and the franchise owners. I think there needs to be a spark of encouragement and accountability. So, you know, that’s what I’d look at. But I’d look at the over-involvement, how much are franchisees presenting at the conferences? That’s another important point. You know, a lot of learning is going to certainly come from the home office, but the home office should be an expert at taking the knowledge and the experiences that successful franchise owners are having and distill that in the programs back out to the franchise organization. And good organizations, good franchise companies are listening to their franchisees that are growing and developing and saying, “What are you doing?” And it’s kind of like an hour-class.

All these ideas, the franchisor takes those ideas, refines them, makes sure they’re legal compliant, they are financially achievable and then sends them back out. All of the good ideas in franchising come from franchisees. And why is that? Because they’re closest to the customer and they’re closest to the caregiver, or the client and the caregiver. They’re the ones that are hearing that and they’re saying, “Oh, you’ve got a problem, let’s fix and solve that problem for you.” And then the operations, marketing, sales department in a franchise organization are listening for, “What are you doing to serve that customer? And here’s a brand new idea. No, that won’t work because it’s just so expensive. That’s a great idea. We could push that out to the system.” So, the innovation comes at the franchisee level.

Amanda: Absolutely.

Mike: Now, sometimes some of the innovation is impractical, it doesn’t make sense, it isn’t legal, and the franchisor needs to in essence say, “We would not do that because it’s not correct for our brand.” And they have to filter through and reject some ideas that are not practical, are not reasonable, don’t provide value. Likewise, a lot of very successful franchisees will come up with great ideas that the franchisor can then implement. And there’s a level of accountability that the franchisor has to feel from growing excellent franchisees.

Amanda: Absolutely. I think, you know, it really kinda goes back to the point that…a couple of points. You know, many eyes and brains on something are always better than one, especially when those many brains are the folks that are doing it every single day. And I would absolutely agree with that sentiment that the best ideas come from, and the best solutions to things come from the folks that are in the field, the other franchisees. So, I think it’s important not just at the national conference level because that’s where this all started with how many franchisees are speaking and what are they sharing at that national meeting, but in between that, what are the avenues and the vehicles to create those, you know, maybe it’s peer groups or, you know, share best practices amongst each other, and what does that kind of communication vehicle look like from getting those ideas from the franchisees to the home office for refinement and for filtering and then back out to the system? So, you know, again, it’s so important and definitely something to be aware of and really get a good idea of what that looks like as you, you know, move into a franchise relationship.

Mike: Yeah. And I think also to that point to the franchisees should be saying, “What kind of franchise advisory councils exist? Is there a franchise council? And who makes up that council? How are these individuals elected? What are their qualifications to be a part of that council?” Because you want a council, if I’m a franchisee, I want a council that have successful growing owners that have high-levels of satisfaction from their customer and high-levels of satisfaction from their caregivers. Those are the people that I want representing me on the council talking to the franchise. Are there task forces that are charged, made up of home office and franchisees that are solving a problem and they go work that? So, that’s something I would ask, say, “Tell me about that organization? Is there a franchisee association?” That’s a question that should be asked. And what’s the relationship with that association? Franchisee’s associations are just fine. They can be very, very, very productive in growing the brand and growing the equity that the franchisee and the franchisor is experiencing because of that brand.

Amanda: Oh, Mike. Well, I could talk all day about advisory councils and conferences and all those things that, especially as it relates to education, because you’re right, it doesn’t always come from the home office. It’s created in those, you know, peer learning situations and talking to each other and what’s the representation on the franchise advisory councils and the associations, and who are those folks that those voices are being heard and are they the people whose voices I want to be heard, and I feel good about that. So, lots of great information. Again, maybe we’ll have to come back and talk more about this because there is so much there. But with that, any other thoughts on education before we move on to some of the other groups and departments?

Mike: No, it’s an important part of the business, and it kind of, it pulls it together and then, again, make sure you understand, how is that information disseminated out to the franchisees? Some franchisors are sending out information, piles of information. Yes. You know, you could spend all day long reading all of it. Franchisees that are growing their business don’t have a lot of time. So, the franchisor needs to distil what is important and what needs to be communicated in a crisp, solid, quick way for franchisees.

Amanda: Absolutely right. You can have encyclopedias of information, but if you don’t have the time to get through them, then how helpful is it? So, that’s, I think a great point, is the way it’s delivered.

Amanda: Exactly right.

Amanda: 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 Griswold Home Care Franchise on Instagram. And make sure to subscribe wherever you get your favorite podcasts, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcast, and check out my personal favorite 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 want to hear something specific, send us a message. We’ll see you next time.