Getting Good Training - Techniques franchisors use to make sure you’re ready to operate your new business
Question: I’m considering purchasing a franchise. What kind of training should franchisors provide franchisees, and how can I tell if a franchisor is really interested in my success?
Answer: You can tell the difference between great franchisors dedicated to your success and the ones only interested in selling you a franchise by their dedication to training. Very few franchise systems have the resources of a McDonald's or the market strength to demand that their franchisees spend more than a year in preparing to open their first location. But the success of McDonald's and its franchisees is directly rooted in their dedication to training.
Great franchisors make certain that before the first customer comes through your door, not only are you prepared, but so are your manager, assistant managers and your entire staff. Equally important to the great franchisors is that as the system changes and new products and services are added, they make sure you and your team have the new skills required to be a success.
Most franchisors today require that everyone involved in managing the business—the franchisee and his or her manager—attend and complete the initial training classes. The really good ones also invite you to bring additional staff to training so they’re also prepared. Better still, if you own multiple locations, the franchisor has a training program for all your general managers and other support personnel. If you think about it, when the franchisor provides training to your entire staff, they reduce their costs for providing support services later on because your staff, once trained, has less need to continually ask questions that were covered during the initial training.
Your initial training program should be geared to teaching you more than simply how to prepare products or deliver services. Expect to cover:
- Real estate selection and site development
- Standards and procedures contained in the system’s operating manuals
- Technical information on products and services you’ll provide under the brand
- Food safety and CPR (for food franchisors)
- Leadership and business management
- Problem solving
- Training the trainer—techniques for ensuring your staff is trained
- Managing the customer experience and brand positioning (how the customer should feel when they hear the brand name)
- Marketing, advertising, and communications
- Merchandising and pricing methods
- Safety, security, cleaning, and maintenance
- Labor management (recruiting, hiring, firing, supervision, and motivation)
- Vendor relations (purchasing, receiving, stocking, and inventory management)
- Financial management and the use of the company’s point-of-sale and management information systems
The goal isn’t only to provide you with information on how to run your business to the system’s standards, but also to provide you with an understanding of the system’s philosophy so you’ll intuitively know what’s right and what’s wrong.
Most systems will provide you with classroom and hands-on training. However, simply watching others do it isn’t sufficient. Franchisors dedicated to training have personnel who aren’t only proficient in operating skills but are also skilled in teaching you what they know.
But what happens once the business is ready to open? Franchisors dedicated to training understand there’s a difference between classroom training, working in a training facility, and actually operating your own business with your own customers. During the initial days or weeks after your franchise is open, they’ll have a training team working with you and your staff, honing your skills, reminding you of the lessons you learned at franchise headquarters and, most important, teaching you the tricks of the trade they learned in actually operating businesses like yours. It’s an invaluable extension of the initial training program because there’s nothing more valuable than learning the business in the real world.
Now comes your first crisis. A crew person quits. You have an operating business, and customers coming through the door, and a warm replacement body just won’t do it. How is the new replacement staff going to be trained to the standards you need?
Most franchise systems expect you to train your new staff. But the good ones, in addition to providing you with training techniques to ensure you have the necessary training skills, also provide you with training tools.
Those on the cutting edge of technology have Web-based distance learning that allows you to sit your new crewmember in front of a computer to learn many of the necessary skills to do their jobs. Others provide you with similar training modules on CD-ROM. But learning online or through the use if a CD-ROM can only provide them with some of the necessary knowledge. Good franchisors also provide you with written training tools for each skill the new staff members will require. These written tools not only provide new staff with the necessary information, but also break the tasks into small steps that can be measured to ensure that your employees are really prepared.
Training doesn’t end there. It’s continual for you, your management team, and your crew. Great franchisors regularly hold advanced training programs for management, giving them skills that can only be learned once they have real world experience. They provide regional and system-wide training programs when new products or services are introduced. They expect their field consultants to observe your staff during their periodic visits to your location and help you assess the quality of your employees and, when necessary, help you improve their performance.
Training is the hallmark of great franchise systems. It’s ongoing, thorough and measured. Hopefully, as a franchisee, you selected well and found a system that dedicates its resources to training. But as a franchisee, it’s also your responsibility to take advantage of the training provided by the franchisor, look for training programs outside of the system that will benefit you and, most important, make sure your staff is trained, too.