"People only accept change in necessity and see necessity only in crisis." (Jean Monnet)
In the Pre-COVID-19 franchise world, making a major change within a franchise network was often a perilous and delicate exercise.
The insecurity and the questions raised by such changes imposed upon franchisees often led to the creation of franchisee groups and also often brought to light certain concerns, and sometimes even recriminations, of franchisees towards their franchisor. In most cases, making a significant change was a very serious test of the actual level of confidence that franchisees had in their franchisor.
We discussed these challenges, as well as various methods of minimizing resistance to change (which is quite natural) within a franchise network in our newsletter titled How to Better Manage Resistance to Change in Your Franchise Network.
This was all before COVID-19.
In the Post-COVID-19 world, what was done before may well now prove insufficient.
Changes within a franchise network are no longer simply a matter of making the franchise system evolve in a changing market, but, for many networks, they become an essential condition for survival in a completely new environment.
Moreover, the nature and extent of the changes required are no longer based on models recognized or experienced by others; they must literally be invented!
This requires that our franchise networks become creative, adaptable and flexible.
It is no longer a question of managing against the tide of a culture of resistance to change, but of establishing within the franchise network a proactive culture of creatively seeking change.
How do you make such a turnaround, which is itself a major change?
We suggest that you start with a fundamental principle in change management: we resist more to change that is imposed on us than to change to which we have actively participated!
To develop a proactive culture of seeking change within a franchise network, a first step is to actively involve all members of the network (franchisor and franchisees) in the process of researching, designing, selecting, experimenting and executing change.
This may seem cumbersome, at least initially, but it is an essential prerequisite for building a culture open to change. This initial heaviness will be more than compensated for by faster, more efficient and coordinated acceptance and implementation of the changes so accepted.
Another maxim that may be relevant here is that a bad idea that is well executed is preferable to a good idea that is poorly executed.
This maxim takes on particular importance in a franchise network in which the implementation of a decision, initiative and change requires the active participation and full collaboration of many people who are not just employees.
In the new Post-COVID-19 environment, it is therefore important to put in place processes and tools that:
- Promote and value new ideas and proposals for change, and ensure that they are given due consideration regardless of their provenance (franchisor, franchisee, employee, partner, supplier, consultant, etc.);
- Permit rapid, direct, frank, open and multi-directional (franchisor-franchisee(s), franchisee-franchisor(s) and franchisee-franchisee(s)) exchanges on issues, challenges, difficulties and opportunities facing the network;
- Ensure that ideas and plans for change are open to comments, improvements and criticisms from all those who will have to live with them;
- Ensure that changes are properly evaluated and tested before being implemented throughout the network. Some franchisees may well, on a voluntary basis, participate in this evaluation and in this experimentation phase;
- Ensure that the changes decided upon are communicated promptly and well explained before implementation;
- Finally, ensure real-time monitoring of the implementation of the changes, both to ensure that they are properly executed and to make any corrections or improvements that may prove relevant to improve them better or make them easier to execute.
An Advisory Board has long been a recognized method of obtaining franchisees input and, often also, some franchisees endorsement of franchisor's decisions and initiatives.
While this mean is still appropriate in the Post-COVID-19 world, it is likely that other, more flexible and faster means will also have to be put in place to obtain more active and immediate participation by franchisees in the changes that have to be implemented to ensure the success of the franchise network.
These might include ad hoc committees (formed to ensure the success of particular initiatives and changes) and franchisor-franchisees exchange platforms that provide, among other things, a means of quickly obtaining ideas, suggestions, comments, evaluations, etc. from a large number of franchisees.
In this regard, we refer you to our recent newsletter Beyond COVID-19: Faster and More Flexible New Communication Tools within Franchise Networks in which we described some new tools and processes for faster, more efficient and economical communication within a franchise network.
Another important prerequisite for moving from a culture of resistance to change to a proactive culture of creatively seeking change is a joint and shared understanding of the network's mission, vision and strategic goals, as well as of the important values that should guide the decisions and actions of both the franchisor and the franchisees. Knowing where the network wants to go makes it much easier for both the franchisor and the franchisees to design, evaluate and execute the changes required to achieve its goals.
As we have often pointed out, the management of a franchise network is very different from that of a unitary business. However, when well managed, a franchise network can be more successful and flexible than another business because it allows for the pooling of ideas, knowledge, experience and creativity of several entrepreneurs and managers whose interests and success are interdependent.
Fasken has all the expertise and resources necessary to help you better manage your communications with your franchisees and to draft agreements that are complete, adequate and, even better, well adapted to your objectives, needs and resources, in order to properly protect your rights while avoiding potential pitfalls.