We live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. This context is now permanent, bringing its share of opportunities—and challenges that put the future of franchisors at stake.
Volatility is caused by major forces (technologies, changes in values, an explosion of new knowledge) that are changing the landscape.
Uncertainty creates insecurity.
Decisions are less effective. Franchisees have difficulty understanding and supporting them, which causes inertia and slower growth.
Complexity generates perplexity.
Franchising is a “land of welcome” for many people of different ages, backgrounds and values. It is a challenge for the franchisor to create conditions whereby EVERYONE can adhere to the company’s values.
Ambiguity exacerbates the need for clarity.
The primary consequence is that franchise leaders are faced with communicating in a new way by multiplying channels and being obliged to provide quick and structured feedback.
In a VUCA world, it’s time for franchise leaders to accept that they can no longer run their franchise networks “blindly” and still expect successful results. The same ol’, same ol’ is NOT the answer.
It is inevitable for franchise leaders to be clear. Clarity begets leadership at all levels. The new imperative? To create a team of leaders who lead instead of managers executing an obscure plan in silos.
- Without clarity, there is no commitment. Without the commitment from the team or the franchisees, growth stops. Without growth, a franchisor will wither away at a rapid pace. But that’s only part of the problem.
- The other aspect generated by the lack of clarity is that it blocks leaders from exercising their leadership because they are not “secure” when making decisions. The lack of clarity causes bogs down the performance of the franchise.
- Without clarity, franchisees become suspicious because they don’t know their franchisor’s vision. Trust is eroded. This leads to many problematic situations fueled by a lack of clarity.
What needs to be clear?
In franchising, one must always consider that, by definition, franchisees do not have the same agenda as the franchisor. The franchisee has a more tactical approach and concentrates on the short term. The franchisor must be more strategic and have a medium-to-long-term vision.
However, everyone can relate when things are clear. But what needs to be clear?
“Everyone must be on the same page, period.” S. Breault
Over the years with my clients, I’ve noticed that clarity is always based on a few themes:
Clear about the future (even if it is uncertain)
One number is not enough. Many franchise leaders have only one number in mind when it comes to being clear about the future, for example, the number of franchises, or network sales. However, this is not enough.
What will help everyone is to develop a vision for the company that will make it easier for everyone to relate to. Creating a vision is a 360-degree exercise on the dimensions that you care about as a leader of your network. A vision must be tangible to customers, franchisees and the franchisor’s team. A balanced vision takes into account both concrete numbers and more abstract dimensions.
The vision takes shape through a strategic plan. Without a plan, everything will be just wishful thinking. The plan is the commitment to execute the vision through various activities defined over time. The plan allows leaders to be both empowered and accountable. In my opinion, it is also necessary to take the time to build a plan with the franchisees for each franchise.
Clear on expectations
Every day, network leaders (team and franchisees) make decisions that affect the brand, foot traffic and profitability. The best way to enable leaders to make the right decisions is to build a strong value system. These values guide the decisions and behaviours of everyone in the organization.
Another important component for franchise leaders is to clarify expectations of the roles and responsibilities of everyone, including franchisees. All too often, the confusion of roles creates frustration for the franchisor and, naturally, for the franchisees. The idea is to make leaders accountable and avoid decision bottlenecks that delay everything.
Finally, we cannot ignore the importance of clarifying and agreeing on the objectives on both sides. Too often, the franchisee has unclear or non-existent objectives. I believe it is the network leaders’ responsibility to help the franchisees have more clarity on their personal and business objectives. Again, the plan for each of the franchises is very helpful.
Clear on how to work together
The culture of the company is manifested in the way people work together. In many networks, “We are ONE” is either non-existent or just a slogan plastered on walls. By establishing what you want the culture to be, along with cultural reinforcement rituals and communication (both ways), leaders can easily develop and embody the culture they want to build.
Clear on the issues, challenges and mistakes
For all leaders in the network to perform well, it is the franchisor’s responsibility to be clear about the issues, challenges and mistakes that arise in the execution of the plan. By acting with transparency, empathy and compassion, leaders will mutually support each other, even though no one is perfect.
What can you do now to create clarity in your network?
“It’s time to think, decide, and act like you’re at the next level.” D. Newman
Network leaders who want to ensure “out-of-the-box” performance must take responsibility to ensure end-to-end clarity.
4 actions that make the difference
- Decide: Having the courage to think ahead and commit to a vision. This is your number-one role.
- Create: A vision for the brand, the organization and the people. The important thing is to be as clear as possible. The vision is like a north star for your network.
- Engage: Clarity only happens when everyone knows, understands and buys in. It is the responsibility of network leaders to bring clarity to life. Nothing happens by itself.
- Take the time to review how clarity evolves within the network. Thanks to processes and mechanisms, such as satisfaction surveys or regular check-ups, network leaders will be able to ensure the cohesion necessary to achieve overall objectives.
Everyone should be on the same page, period.
When properly defined and executed with discipline, clarity in a franchise network turbocharges performance. When everything is clear, the franchisor’s leaders and franchisees can make decisions with more autonomy and certainty.
“Clarity and simplicity are the antidotes to complexity and uncertainty.” – General George Casey