How To Get Your Dealers and Franchisees To Follow Your System

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As a retail consultant, one of the most universal concerns major brands and franchisors ask me is, "How can I get franchisees (or dealers) to use the tools we provide for them?"

As a former COO and CMO, I feel your compliance pain. You know what they need to do, but like an independent teenager, they do what they want, even though you can see their path is hard. You want the best for them. It's natural to want just to tell them, but you could alienate them. I know. I did that with a few franchisees.

The problem is that when they inevitably fail, they won't return to you but seek other - costly or unproven - solutions. Think Groupon.

To get your dealers and franchisees to follow your system, they must realize that the very system that supports them and they may be ignoring is the one that attracted them in the first place.

Your brand became successful for a specific reason. You developed a system and followed it to a T. If you hadn't, you wouldn't have known whether you should franchise your business in the first place.

You know how important developing and sticking to your system was; otherwise, you'd have sites wedged into the cheapest location, products strewn all over a store or restaurant, and dealers who couldn't pay their employees or their bills.

The key to compliance is how you bring these stakeholders on board your system to increase their success and, ultimately, your success.

Here are 5 top tips to get your dealers and franchisees invested in and using your system:

1. Constantly Show Your Value
To get your dealers and franchisees to follow your system, start by showing these stakeholders the value and necessity of the system. I also want to hear those stories that helped to ask them what attracted them to the franchise system from the first inquiry to opening day and beyond. They often said, "the proven system." They won't follow it just because you say so. But if you show them how the system helps everyone improve, succeed, and increase profits, you have made a case for yourself.

2. Provide Role Models
As a retail consultant, I know that I like to hear great success stories - your dealers and franchisees also want to hear those stories. Provide models of other franchisees who opted for your system and their successes in using the system. Think old school and even take some of those who aren't following on a field trip to your better units and let your franchisees do the convincing for you. Of course, you love your system, but when someone else applauds it, their unbiased opinion has more impact. That way, they return excited to know that "we can do that too," they just never realized it or appreciated it.

3. Build Your Tool Box
When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, or so the saying goes. When your franchisees don't know how to solve problems, they will revert to the old way of doing things - often, that is, beating up on the franchisor.

Why? Because they are struggling and they thought it would be easier! Build up their toolbox with tools specific to your system. Show your dealers or franchisees how the system comes with everything they need and teach them to use those tools to fix the problems.

I announced an ad generator that would automatically add their address and custom artwork - everything I thought would be great. Our franchise partners all liked the sound of it but didn't use it - I found they thought it was complicated. My fault.

I had to do hands-on training to make them comfortable with it. Consider framing your product launches with questions like magazine headlines, "Ever wonder why your customers don't reply? We can fix that." "Four ways to attract new customers with less work than drinking a Coke."

4. Educate, Don't Dictate
Take time to educate them on how they need to drive the car. Do this instead of dictating a system from above, which builds resentment. I tried that, but it doesn't work for anyone. So don't just provide answers to questions; teach where the information is in your guidebooks, marketing materials, or online resources.

As you build your dealers' and franchisees' capacity to answer questions on their own using your system, they'll discover how you saved them time - the most important thing anyone has.

5. Listen Up
Just like your stakeholders don't like dictators, they don't like being ignored, either. Yes, you developed a top-notch system, but you must cultivate new ideas on how to improve that system. Work with an advisory board of your best dealers to review suggestions to see how you can improve your system.

This will give your stakeholders more buy-in when they feel a part of the process. Consider having one person on the board who isn't the best or worst but in the middle. I"ve found they are the most valuable voices and open to new practical ideas.

Final thought

You don't want to get caught answering three or four questions daily from a needy dealer. You know your system works.

You can do all you can to try to bring franchisees who need constant hand-holding or rebels to the table, but if they simply don't follow the system, look at other options, including issuing a non-compliance and looking at how you may be presenting the responsibilities of a new dealer or franchisee as minimal to their success on discovery day.

Take it from my experience as a successful retail consultant and franchisor: you want to bring those stakeholders on board and into the system by following these essential tips to avoid conflict on anyone's part.