How do you protect your franchise from the roller coaster? 

By Corina Vucic | 13 Oct 2020 View comments

‘Covid normal’ will be anything but! So how do you protect your franchise?

The Covid-19 pandemic and accompanying restrictions and lockdowns has challenged every  industry, every franchise. While individual franchisees have been in the trenches, trying to keep their  businesses alive, the franchisors who have fought side-by-side with them (from a distance) will see  the benefits, in business growth and loyalty, as we define and live with ‘Covid-normal’. 

Covid-normal is a phrase coined by politicians to talk about a time when restrictions are eased as  much as possible; the virus is still in our community, and there’s no vaccine yet. It’s a time when we  have to operate under the assumption that there will be sporadic outbreaks and for a period, harsh  restrictions.

It’s a difficult way to run a business, both mentally and financially. So how do you optimise the robustness of your franchise to give all of your franchisees the best possible chance of  survival? 

No doubt during lockdowns you have provided fee relief for your franchisees – whether that was  across the board or on case-by-case basis.

You will have provided business advice, helped them negotiate with landlords for rent relief, and with suppliers for flexibility in orders and payments.

You will have provided them with all the information, signage and documentation they need to navigate  what is or isn’t allowed during the various restriction stages, and you will have given them templates  for the Covid-safe workplace rules.

You will have done all you could, to get them through. Now you  need to focus on re-building in this alien landscape that will be Covid-normal.  

What will the Covid-normal workplace look like?  

Whether it’s a shop or an office, distancing rules mean that your franchisees will be challenged to  reconfigure their spaces or stagger employee working times.

Working from home has been  successful and is popular. It may be that your franchisees need to consider a hybrid workplace with  flexibility of where and when employees work.

You’ll need to counsel those franchisees who resist this, as good employees will leave to work for those employers who offer them flexibility. Output rather than hours in a workplace is how performance needs to be judged. 

Franchise teams

Your franchisees and their teams have suffered a whole range of shocks from loss of income, to loss  of personal freedoms, and worry about loved ones. They may be suffering a form of PTSD.

But some  of them will also have re-evaluated their priorities and what is important, and are now ready to take life on with a fresh mindset and passion for success! The trick is to make sure your franchisees are amongst that number. Organise specific training that helps them move past the trauma and  embrace the future. 

Highly visible hygiene 

You need to ensure that your franchisees are practising the highest level of hand sanitising and  hygienic practices. If your franchise is public facing, it’s vitally important that these practices are highly visible. Potential clients will reward businesses that are looking out for their safety and judge harshly any that are not. 

Innovate and build online

There was a significant amount of innovation done during lockdown that helped franchisees  continue to deliver limited services. And that needs to continue happening.

Future-proof your  business by assuming that there won’t be a vaccine.

If you haven’t created a robust online presence and ordering system, do so now. Set up a central database of your franchisees contacts so that you  can put new products, offers, information, competitions and reassurance in front of them regularly.  Don’t rely on your franchisees to do this, or they will be too busy re-building their businesses.

If your  franchise is in the hospitality area, design the most efficient delivery system you can as take-away is likely to remain the backstop of your franchise for a while.  

Franchises that are agile, innovative, supportive and compassionate will best ride out this shocking economic and social whirlwind.