Phases of Franchise Training

Franchise Operations Manuals

By Marla Rosner, Senior Learning & Development Consultant, MSA Worldwide

The successful execution of the most brilliant franchise concept depends largely on one key initiative: training. Designing critical elements of training before you offer franchises is essential if your franchisees are to succeed.

In fact, training, combined with the crisp articulation of your franchise system in operations manuals, is the DNA that enables a business to replicate with consistency.

Not only does effective training contribute to your brand’s quality and consistency, prospective franchisees view the training you offer – which is conveyed in your Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) – as a key factor in their decision to join your system; they will compare your investment in their development with other concepts they are considering.

Though established franchisors may have elaborate training programs, new franchisors are creating their foundation, laying one brick at a time to build their training structure. This article addresses where to begin, and the journey ahead as your training programs grow and evolve.

Phase One: Documentation in Manuals

Most franchise systems have a library of manuals embodied in the term “Operations Manual.” Think through who the end user is for each manual you plan to develop. Users could be the franchise or the franchisee’s general manager, unit manager, or employees.

The Start-Up Manual

For brick-and-mortar businesses, franchisees will need to begin searching for a site, and be prepared to initiate a long list of activities in order to launch their business. This material goes into what is typically referred to as a Start-Up Manual or Pre-Opening Manual. It is crucial to complete the Start-Up Manual before beginning to offer franchises, since as soon a franchisee signs a contract, you will need to put this manual in their hands in the context of an orientation session about launching their site.

The Brand Standards Manual

A larger manual, typically titled Operations Manual or Brand Standards Manual, addresses general topics including store operations (requirements, standards, policies, necessary procedures, staffing recommendations, etc.), financial management, marketing, and advertising. Both the Start-Up Manual and Operations Manual must sync up to key content in the FDD and Franchise Agreement, while using plain speak and not legalese.

Depending on the business concept, your franchise system manual library may include other manuals that address recipes, food preparation, etc.; and there may be an array of training manuals that the franchisee may adapt for use with their managers and other employees.

Phase Two: Corporate Training

Everyone in your headquarters office needs “Franchising 101” education to learn the differences between working with employees and working with franchisees unless they’ve worked for a franchisor before. And even then, a brush-up doesn’t hurt, since the legal landscape is always evolving and there can be legal ramifications for the franchisor if someone who works for you takes the wrong tack with a franchise or their employee.

The Franchise Development Manager recruits franchisees and represents the franchise opportunity to prospects. There is perhaps no position more vulnerable to legal retribution than the Franchise Development Manager, since they represent the franchise offering and field questions about potential sales and support. Any misrepresentations, intentional or otherwise, lay a path for future lawsuits that are easily avoided with proper training. Here, your franchise lawyer or consultant may participate in training to clarify what can and cannot be communicated to prospective franchisees. Your Franchise Development Manager should also have basic knowledge of how your units operate, so that prospective franchisees can get proper answers to operational and other questions they may have.​

Field Consultants usually come from the ranks of seasoned operators within the system. This may be a corporate general manager or, in the event the franchisor has only one corporate store, it may be the founder who functions as the Field Consultant for the first few franchisees! Field Consultants generally already have the operational expertise, but may need training in presentations skills to provide training, business analysis, and consultation skills (e.g., establishing credibility, building trust, and providing advice in a manner that is well received).

Phase Three: Initial Franchise Training Program

Franchisee Training

Your investment in your franchise manual library will be leveraged even further when you use them as your reference materials for new franchisee training – another essential to launching franchises. Assigning sections of the manuals as pre-work or homework gets franchisees in the habit of using the manuals, and conveys the critical information they need to know.

The new franchisee training program should impart the vision of the franchisor, as well as the nuts and bolts described in the manuals. Typically, the program consists of “pre-training” webinars, corporate office classroom training including in-store hands-on sessions, as well as on-site training at the franchisee’s location immediately preceding and during the launch week(s).

Unit Manager Training

Unit managers are pivotal to the success of any store operation, and for the most part, are promoted from the ranks with little or no experience in managing. Manager training, as a priority, should fall into phase one, though some new franchise systems don’t recognize this. If unit manager training is not built into your start-up plan, the development of managers falls to franchisees who may or may not have the skills to develop it.

While classroom training that brings managers together is optimal, the cost of having managers out of their businesses and sometimes out of town for this type of program can be prohibitive for some franchisees. Great alternatives do exist: blended learning, or combining webinars and shorter classroom programs, can provide more flexible options that don’t require the manager to be gone for long stretches from the store. As your franchise system matures, you can develop recorded training modules that can be accessed by managers online, which can further reduce their time in the classroom and out of the store. In addition, building a team approach that includes assistant manager training allows new managers to have many of the basic skills they will need for their new position.

Employee Training

Another essential piece of training is the training conducted by franchisees with their own unit employees. Whether there are technical procedures for delivering the service or product, or product knowledge to convey to customers, franchisees can’t open their doors until they have trained their team. However, in order not to flounder in this critical task, the new franchisee needs training materials from the franchisor which they can modify if they choose. Whether the offering to customers is packaging, sandwiches, haircuts, or business services, frontline personnel need specific skills and knowledge to carry out the task. Often these are taught through simple training manuals, training aids, or videos provided by the franchisor that forms the foundation of the franchisee’s staff training programs.

Phase Four: Ongoing Training

Once your franchise system has reached a critical mass, regional or national franchise and manager conventions become great venues for ongoing training and inspiration. General managers can fit into either or both of these audiences.

Conferences and conventions provide the franchisor a vehicle for communicating new programs and products, conducting advanced and refresher training, and injecting stimulating new approaches by bringing in outside speakers. Equally as important, these conventions renew franchise and manager loyalty and pride, as they’re reminded that they’re part of a now large, established, and successful franchise system.

Beware of Stale Training!

As you refine your franchise system, alter policies, add new products and services, and find more productive and profitable methods for unit operation, you’ll need to revise your franchise manuals; update your franchisee, unit manager and employee training; and reshoot videos.

You should revisit your franchise manuals once a year at minimum, along with updating the franchise agreement and franchise recruitment material. Revisit videos every two to three years at a minimum, more frequently if you are adding new products, services, and procedures to the franchisees’ businesses. The better you are at continuously improving your business, the more you’ll need to update your manuals and training.

Do you have questions about franchise training programs or operations manuals?

MSA Worldwide provides expert guidance on providing franchisees with the information they need to consistently deliver your brand promise to your customers. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation.

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