As we start a New Year and new decade there is no shortage of articles and trending social media posts on advice. High amongst them is the rise of executive or business coaching.
The analogies are that becoming a high performing professional in business is no different to a top athlete’s need to perfect their golf swing, swimming stroke or basketball lay-up shot.
The Cambridge definition of a coach is “someone whose job is to teach people to improve at a sport, skill, or school”. Makes sense, but how does their role relate to the franchise world and particularly the franchisor? They themselves are often seen as the coach.
So how does their role intersect with the often heard comment, “shouldn’t the franchisor provide or have that knowledge”?
Well, I would suggest franchisors would benefit from having coaches as much as any professional, the hint is in the dictionary definition – to improve. So in what areas should they seek and take some advice?
Many franchisors grow from being good at the doing of something – the classic economics example, say, of “building widgets”. First they build widgets, then a system around the widget building. This is the essence of franchising.
The professional and commercial backgrounds of franchise builders can vary significantly. And not surprisingly, their skill set may also vary significantly.
But there are three common areas in which they could likely benefit from coaching. People management, leadership, and the traditional human resources management skill set are becoming increasingly valued and are all important for commercial success.
In other words, the franchisor’s core skills may be widget building when the business needs soft skills.
The often unrecognized point, however, is that a franchisor’s business is actually not based around the widget building, it is around engaging their franchisees to widget build.
It is also about managing a franchise support team, a group of people with a hard job who need coaching and support themselves.
Many franchisors simply do not have the support skill set required. It doesn’t matter how good their process for making widgets is, if they are unbearable to work with, do not develop their teams and cannot relate to their franchisees, they are going to have a lousy franchise business.
Don’t just wing it
At the risk of alienating some franchisors, I am going to say that many are winging their way through a marketing programme. There are some franchisors who are savvy marketers and have well executed marketing and advertising programmes, but both groups could still benefit from a marketing coach.
Often franchisors – particularly founders – are either too close and protective of their own brand and or do not have the time and capacity to see a bigger picture.
Marketing is also often a point of contention between franchisors and franchisees, so bringing in an experienced, neutral external view can be highly beneficial.
Many franchisors develop relatively good skills in reading and understanding legal documents including their own franchise agreement, leases and supply contracts.
However, again they risk viewing these in isolation and without a broader context. Every franchisor should have a trusted legal advisor that they regularly review and discuss all things legal with. The law changes, as does the business climate and what was a good approach five years ago may not cut it today.
In 2020 it appears we all need coaches, not because we don’t have skills, but to hone the ones we have and deliver our best selves. Franchisors owe it to themselves, and their franchisees, to seek out the coaches they need, or they may end up with 2020 hindsight.