With spring upon us, many are starting to think about spring cleaning and maybe trying something new. As a franchisor executive, this means doing more than simply cleaning out your office and doing more of the same – it means it’s time for proactively trying something NEW that will add value for your franchisees. An often common approach, especially for developing systems, is through franchisee peer groups. Do you have this program in place already? How’s it working? How do you know? Can you make it better? YES, there are many ideas…
By creating a culture of professionalism, collaboration and accountability, peer groups can help experienced franchisees in developing and mature franchise organizations achieve measurable results and take their businesses to the next level. They can also be extremely effective in regaining, improving or maintaining franchisee engagement, which is always a good thing for franchise brands.
Sometimes referred to as Franchisee “Performance Groups” or other similar names, peer groups are typically made up of three to five franchisees who meet regularly to discuss and share best practices related to operations, finances, marketing and similar topics. These meetings are held regularly (often quarterly) in each member’s store or market, on a rotating basis to allow owners to meet in person and receive honest feedback and guidance from their peers. The in-person visits and meetings often have other benefits. After all, think of what most do when preparing for visitors – clean house!
In addition to these meetings, the groups typically schedule monthly phone calls to help members become better acquainted with one another on a higher frequency, shorter duration routine call. This also makes it possible for them to break down larger issues into smaller action items, which can then be tracked and discussed each month.
My Three Phase Program
When I help clients establish peer group programs, I typically expect it to take about 90 days. This process is broken down into three, 30-day phases:
Phase 1: Identify Your Internal Champion
For best results, you’ll want to select an internal leader to lead the effort and make sure the peer groups are successful. This person doesn’t need to be on the peer group calls, but needs to be committed to paying attention, offer support to start, and holding the groups accountable.
Phase 2: Identify Your Participants
Throughout this next phase, you’ll screen and educate interested franchisees to make sure they’re committed to the idea of participating in a peer group. Can they commit the necessary time and money to the group? Are they willing to travel? Are they comfortable disclosing confidential financial information, and more?
Once you have your participants, you’ll schedule a 30-minute phone call and split them into small groups (3-5 participants each) based on personality, geographic disparities, experience and success level. Setting up two or three initial groups is a good place to start, and gives flexibility when adjustments are needed.
Phase 3: Program Launch
With the peer groups formed, you’ll begin by scheduling either an introductory phone call (2 hours max), or a half-day meeting. The in-person meeting is preferable, as it allows participants to develop trust and build rapport before the work begins.
At this first meeting, encourage participants to come away with three action items they can work on to improve their individual businesses. They’ll be held accountable for making progress on each of these items before the next call or meeting. Give them a process and tools to focus on their own goals, and share progress or challenges with the peer group along the way.
Once the peer groups are established, they should be able to self manage without much additional support. That being said, it’s important to remember that the process is continuous, so you may need to add or subtract members in the future. Some participants may leave the business, while others simply aren’t participating or don’t want to continue their peer group involvement. Check in with them to make sure the groups are and remain effective and positive for the members.
A facilitator can play an important role here by monitoring participation and ensuring everyone is able to speak openly. This individual can also keep track of valuable insights to share with others in the organization. Some training and support will help make this happen more consistently.
If you’d like help with developing, improving or facilitating peer groups in your organization, I’d be happy to learn more and try to help. Please contact me using the button on my homepage and we’ll set up a time to talk soon.
John Francis is a consultant, strategic advisor and keynote speaker who helps franchise organizations “see what they don’t see” and achieve their highest levels of success. In his 25+ year career, John has worked as a franchisee, franchisor, investor and Board Member for brands and organizations such as Cost Cutters, PostNet, Sport Clips, Office Pride and the International Franchise Association (IFA).