Supporting franchisees in difficult times

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Network spirit, mental coaching, natural authority, adapting to the personality of the franchisee in leadership, persuasion or conflict management… François Peltier, consultant at TGS France, gives us the keys to all these subjects. Often, simply by appealing to the etymology of words.

Why is the relationship between a franchisor and its franchisees as fundamental to a network’s success as the quality of its concept or services?

F. Peltier: The term “réseau” has the same etymological origin as “résille”. The close-knit network of relationships within a franchise contributes to the brand’s reputation.

In his treatise on military strategy, The Art of War, Sun Tzu describes a general in the image of what a franchisor should be: a rigorous yet flexible person who knows how to adapt to circumstances, precisely in order to create this close-knit community of interests.

To develop and maintain the relationship with the franchisor, it’s important not to recruit “stereotypical” franchisees, but ones with different qualities. Otherwise, at cruising speed, everything will be fine, but the slightest change or major unforeseen event will turn the situation into a catastrophe.

The quality of the franchisor is just as important as the quality of the franchisees: one is not superior to the other in promoting the success of a network.

What are the mainsprings of the “network spirit”?

F. Peltier: Some franchisors criticize their franchisees for lacking an “entrepreneurial spirit”. However, to each his own, and it’s only natural to preserve one’s property.

Not to be confused with the “network spirit”, which needs to be cultivated in what Montaigne called “the convenience of wills”, which consists in reinforcing awareness of mutual responsibility and thus generating solidarity, homogeneity and trust within a brand.

Franchisors and franchisees naturally have synergistic interests – the network – and “momentarily antagonistic” interests – their own businesses. So we need to strike a balance between individual and collective performance. The challenge is all the greater in that both franchisors and franchisees need to be good at what they do.

In what way is the job of “mental coach”, which you’ve done with top-level athletes (notably the French national team between 2008 and 2011), the same as with business leaders?

F. Peltier: The addition of very good players doesn’t necessarily make a good team, just as an obsession with performance doesn’t necessarily make a good team.

We need to examine each individual’s relationship with performance, the meaning of enormous sacrifices, the value of repeated efforts – to meet the standard of the concept – whether produced by a sportsman or a company director. And not always noticeable from the outside.

Like a coach, the franchise network coordinator’s aim is to make others better. It must be seen as a teammate, not an adversary, and therefore not stifle franchisees, depriving them of their talent.

How does a franchisor establish “natural authority”, particularly in the area of animation?

F. Peltier: “Authority” has the same etymological root as “increase”. It’s not about exercising power, but about helping others to progress and grow. It requires knowing how to adapt to the personality of the other person, and therefore, for a network head, knowing the receptiveness sensors of a franchisee.

In one of my training courses for the Fédération Française de la Franchise, “Animating and managing franchisees in difficult situations”, I use a tool developed by TGS France, Alter ego, which enables you to activate the often dazzling but fleeting intuition you have about the people you meet. And determine your needs: explanations, examples, practice, confidence, autonomy…

Based on the result, we identify the animation register that corresponds to this profile. In this way, we can renovate our interpretation of a person and renew our astonishment in our relationship with them.

What types of franchisee personalities are identified?

F. Peltier: A franchisee can be identified as a “rebel”, i.e. someone who needs to stand up to others in order to exist, which is not necessarily a sign of dissatisfaction with the brand. He has often joined a franchise network for safety’s sake, and would have been happier creating his own business idea. However, a rebel is still a creative person: becoming multi-site or multi-brand stimulates him and lessens his tendency to rebel.

He can also be a “rebel”: his frustrations are due to his nature and are born of a history of relationships. We then use this history to deconstruct his revolt.

The two types of franchisee are not managed in the same way.

Other personality types?

F. Peltier: Franchisees can be “contracted”: even if they’re covered in gold, they think their business is going to go under! This constant quest for self-interest, through a certain desire for perfectionism, can lead to conflict with the franchisor. However, if we develop the collective within the network, we can reduce stress.

There’s also a special profile: the “indispensable”. He makes himself obvious at every group meeting out of an absolute need for recognition. He’s just blowing hot air! This kind of person, although very positive and always full of suggestions, makes his colleagues uncomfortable. It’s better to offer them the chance to become a positive leader, acting as a relay for the franchisor.

What are the main expression strategies for franchisors in persuasion or conflict management situations?

F. Peltier: To persuade anyone, you need to integrate the three components of Cicero’s motto: “please, move, convince”.

Pleasing is achieved through competence, experience and justice, which must never be more than apparent. As stated in the introduction, all franchisors must adapt to the context and not exercise all their powers vis-à-vis franchisees, only those necessary to resolve the situation.

Secondly, you have to move, a verb whose etymology is the same as that of “motivate”, i.e. know how to set things in motion, transmit passion. Any sacrifice to succeed must be followed by a reward to make it worthwhile.

Finally, to convince, i.e. to overcome reluctance, by providing evidence: an argument is only that which can change the judgment of my interlocutor.

How do you adapt your arguments to suit the situation?

F. Peltier: First, we identify the arguments, then we put them in a certain order, from the weakest to the strongest; this is basically what we call argumentation, the order I put in my arguments. For example, to change your network’s franchise contract.

If the second of the five arguments is convincing, it’s better to keep the last three in case franchisees’ concerns are re-expressed.

What are the main benefits of your “Leading and managing franchisees in difficult situations” training course?

F. Peltier: All participants, whether franchisors or animators, can use the Alter ego tool, which is free of rights, as they see fit. Over two days, we study a large number of real-life cases, brought in by the trainees and solved by the whole group, using a six-step method. Understanding the other’s constraints is part of solving them

As a result, the training is not overly theoretical, so that everyone leaves with the keys to managing and steering a network.

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