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Leadership Tips for Franchise Owners

Franchising requires leadership skills. From being fully committed, to having a circle to trusted advisors, here are a few things you should know.

A good franchise starts with a great leader. But that can be easier said than done. 

Whether you have experience with leadership or the role is new to you, there are a few things to know when it comes to heading up a franchise. 1851 Franchise spoke to Jerry Akers, a multi-unit franchisee for Great Clips* and The Joint Chiropractic, as well as a member of the board of directors of the International Franchise Association, for his top five tips for franchise leadership. 

You’re Either In or Out

The first tip Akers provided is that, from a franchisee standpoint, there is no dipping your toe into franchising.

“You're either in or out,” he said. “And so many franchises are sold on the absentee ownership model or business-in-a-box model, which you may earn over time as you grow and scale and things like that, but so many people buy it originally under that precept and then are disappointed. So the fact is, as a leader, you have to have some engagement.”

As the face and driving force of your business, you must express your leadership across the board, from franchisees to corporate and beyond. There is no room for indecision or half-hearted efforts, Akers said. With a significant investment of time and resources, you need to commit fully to your business, especially in the beginning.

“You really need to make the commitment to take it on full-fledged and be fully engaged, at least at the beginning,” said Akers. “And then, as I said, maybe you'll scale out of that.” 

Be a Leader That People Will Follow

As a franchisee, you're likely going to have staff working for you. So you have to be a leader that people will follow. 

“They're going to look to you for leadership,” Akers said, “so you have to be somebody that can make decisions and be prepared to solve issues, both for employees as well as customers.”

Effective leadership includes making proactive decisions and following through with them. Employees may doubt the stability and security of their jobs if they witness indecisiveness or a lack of proactivity from their leader, potentially leading them to seek employment elsewhere.

“You have to be the leader for those people,” said Akers, “and simply bowing out on that responsibility is not going to play out well in the long run, so be a great leader of people.”

Collaborate With Your Franchisor

Akers noted that it is also important to be collaborative with your franchisor. He pointed out that many franchisees buy into a business and think that they're not going to have a lot of involvement with the franchisor in the future, but this is not always true. 

“They're going to have expectations of you and you are going to be engaged with them,” Akers said. “And if you have issues with the way the franchisor does something, you have a couple different options. You can become combative and become a thorn in the side of the corporate franchisor, or you can be somebody that helps solve a problem, that says, ‘I've got some ideas. Let's talk about it and see if we can work together.’” 

A successful franchisor-franchisee relationship requires a collaborative and cooperative partnership. Franchisees should take on the responsibility of being leaders within the franchise system, working closely with franchisors to drive mutual success.

Have a Circle of Trusted Advisors

On your franchise journey, you will have trusted advisors such as an attorney, a CPA, a banker and possibly your peers. These individuals will provide guidance and support throughout the process, so it’s important to be someone they can trust. 

“You have to be somebody that those trusted advisors feel comfortable continuing to work with,” Akers said. “You have to show them they have a great business plan, and when the plan doesn't always go as you expected it to, you have to be able to amend that plan and continue to move in a different direction. Be somebody that those people want to work with and have faith and confidence that you're going to be successful.” 

From a leadership perspective, ensuring that your trusted advisors and peers understand your full commitment and dedication to your role as a franchisee is crucial.  

Push Through the Difficult Times

As a franchise owner, it won’t always be easy. There are going to be stressful and difficult times. 

“There's going to be ebbs and flows in the economy,” Akers said. “There's going to be staffing issues. There may be issues with supply chains, as we've just experienced in the last few years. Those are things that, as a business owner, whether you're a franchisee or a stand-alone business, it doesn't make a difference. You, as the business owner, have to deal with those.” 

As a leader, your actions in challenging situations are closely observed by others. Taking a proactive and engaged approach, making well-informed decisions, following through on your word and consistently demonstrating these leadership qualities are essential. 

“Nobody wants to listen to excuses as to why you're struggling because, generally, if you're struggling, there are others that are struggling and figuring a way through the problems,” said Akers. “So, you want to stand out as somebody that's a problem solver and is really going to be responsible for that business.”

To learn more about franchisee leadership, check out these related 1851 Franchise articles: 

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.