Training Your Franchisees

For hundreds of franchise investors every year, franchising provides a route into business ownership despite their lack of business management or industry relevant skills and experience. Stuart Anderson reports on the different approaches to franchisee training taken by franchise brands.

'The franchisor shall provide the individual franchisee with initial training and continuing commercial and/or technical assistance during the entire life of the agreement.' Guiding Principal 2.2 of the European Code of Ethics for Franchising.

'No prior experience required,' is one of the most common quotes you will read from a franchisor seeking franchisees. The reason for this is the commitment within the franchise industry to franchisee training.

Comprehensive training opens up the availability of a franchise opportunity to a much wider population of potential franchisees, enabling the franchisor to select the best candidates in terms of commitment, drive and enthusiasm rather than relevant experience.

For example, financial risk reduction services franchise London House's franchisee training requires no specific experience from franchisees beyond a professional background, which has enabled the company to recruit franchisees from backgrounds as far ranging as teaching and policing to tax inspection and business management.

The 2005 NatWest/bfa UK Franchise Survey found that 100 per cent of franchisors report providing training to franchisees, 'a huge increase from the 1990's as it has become the norm in the last few years,' says the report. '73 per cent of franchisors conduct in-house training, with 26 per cent offering a mix of in-house and externally supplied training, only 1 per cent claim to use only external suppliers for training franchisees.'

Practical Training

A franchise operating in a competitive field that promises high standards of service requires more in-depth practical training for the franchisee. Commercial cleaning franchise Jani-King has recognised this fact, building its initial training programme from around 30 hours to 120 hours over the past few years, aiming to provide a basic financial understanding of running a business, a solid grounding in the system and coverage of its cleaning techniques.

Jani-King also makes use of field-based trainers to deliver ongoing training to its franchisees onsite. This enables the franchisor to provide the facility of coaching a franchisee on how to deliver a specific job, on the client's premises. 'The franchisee training has been designed to take a franchisee from knowing nothing to making serious money,' reveals Training Manager Andrew Lawson. 'Our field-based trainers can visit a franchisee up to once a week.'

If the franchisee is going to be operating in a hands-on role, the requirement to ground the franchisee in the application of the service is just as vital. Driver Transport Training franchisees spend the second and third weeks of their classroom-based training programme covering the courses they and their trainers will be conducting. 'This is an important part of the training,' explains Franchise Director Paul Van der Hulks. 'In order to sell the services, franchisees must understand what the product is, and possess the confidence and knowledge to 'talk technical'. In the final week we provide franchisees with the opportunity to put all this into practice in a safe, controlled classroom environment through role play, discussions and practical exercises.'

Granite worktop installation franchise Granite Transformations similarly focuses much of its training on ingraining the service into its franchisees. 'New franchisees come from a range of backgrounds and are taught a variety of skills,' Operations Manager Bob Boynton points out. 'We provide a full three weeks of training at our head office - one week covering all administration, sales and marketing, followed by two full weeks covering all technical areas, including the processes for fabrication and installation.'

Of course, the training need not cover every task of business operation if the franchisee will not be performing them. Domestic and commercial cleaning franchise Spic and Span conducts all paperwork, such as VAT returns, payroll and client invoicing, allowing the company to attract potential franchisees uncomfortable with this sort of work. Spic and Span's initial five-day residential training programme concentrates on the business model, covering marketing, route planning logistics, staff recruitment and delivering the service.

Specialist knowledge

For franchises requiring more advanced specialist knowledge, outsourcing a portion of the training is an efficient solution. 'We have introduced new training programmes to assist established franchisees to develop their businesses using experienced business consultants,' reveals Prontaprint Managing Director Laird Mackay. 'These new courses complement an existing suite of training aimed at franchisees and Centre staff which is focused on the profitable development of the business model.'

Similarly, ladies fitness franchise Contours Express recommends outside training because of its requirement for all franchisees to join and abide by the code of conduct of the Register of Exercise Professionals. 'You do not have to be an elite athlete to become registered, just possess willingness to learn and teach,' explains Master Franchisee Jason Chong. 'If not already registered, courses are available throughout Britain.'

Originating in the US, Contours Express also takes advantage of the professional parent company set-up by having its franchisees attend their initial in-house training in the US, covering its weight-loss plan, sales, membership retention and recruitment, use of equipment and basic fitness training.

Franchise concepts that maintain a technical or practical advantage over competitors through a commitment to research and development put an emphasis on providing ongoing training to educate their franchise network in their latest developments. Dyno-Rod, for example, commits to providing ongoing technical training ensuring that franchisees are kept abreast of any technical and industry developments.

An effective franchisee training programme is an important part of the development of a franchise concept and is likely to evolve as lessons are learned, with follow up training provided to initial franchisees and added into the initial training courses of the next generation of start-ups.

Early on, franchisee training will often be delivered by the founder who originally developed the business concept and is therefore well-versed in the operation of the business, with specific modules taken by members of staff overseeing certain areas. As the franchisee network grows, the establishment of a training department will be required. In the end the commitment to training controls the growth rate of the entire franchise network - the more comprehensive the initial training is, the less time the training staff will spend occupied with re-training existing franchisees; and the more man-hours the training department has available for new franchisees, the larger the franchisor's capacity to grow.