Everything you need to know about running your franchise is in the operations manual. It is one of the most important documents in franchising but scarily many franchisees chose to ignore it. Why?
I have been writing operations and procedures manuals for franchisors for over ten years and the one question I always get asked is “how can we get our franchisees to actually use the manual and not leave it to gather dust on the shelf?” Sadly, there is no quick and easy answer to this question and as with most things franchising, it is a process.
A well thought-out and planned operations manual is where it begins. If you don’t consider all areas of the business and include at least 80 to 90% of what a franchisee needs to know to run the business, your franchisees will very quickly feel that the document is not reflective of the business and certainly doesn’t address their most immediate and pressing needs.
The next issue to consider is whether your document is up to date. We’ve all heard the cliché pandered about that an operations manual is a “living document” and that it should never be seen as “finished” or complete. This is however a very true adage. In this day and age business trends, technology and processes change faster than you can say operations manual and if the document is not kept up to date and current, once again the franchisee will not even bother to look at it never mind try and use it for reference purposes.
Forget location, location, location! Ops manual are the words you need to be drumming into your franchisees’ heads. Many years ago I worked for a franchisor who did not have an Operations Manual (this after being in business for a very long time) and so we set about compiling one. It took quite a while to achieve this mammoth task and on “completion” we decided to launch the manual at the annual franchise conference. The manual was well-received by the franchisees and we thought at Head Office that finally the phone would stop ringing with all these franchisees and their queries. No such luck – nothing changed and so we decided that we needed a strategy.
The entire organisation agreed that whenever a franchisee phoned, asking for assistance we’d ask if he’s checked his operations manual. If the reply was no then we’d tell the franchisee to go and do just that and only if he really couldn’t find the information he was looking for could he call back. This took a while (see, the process) but eventually we got the franchisees into the habit of checking their manual before phoning Head Office. Voila!
There is an easier way though. Once you have compiled an operations manual that is totally reflective of your business and its operations, you should then develop your training material based on the content of the manual. When you start training new franchisees then, you will issue them with a copy of the manual and all the way through training use the manual as part of your training methodology: get franchisees to look for information in the manual or find certain forms or checklists as you’re covering them in the training etc.
Franchisees will become accustomed to using the manual as a reference guide from the outset and also get comfortable with using it. A lot of the manuals I’ve written or seen can look like rather daunting documents to a new franchisee but one they know how to use this very important resource, all fear will be gone!
Finally, remember that ongoing reinforcement is also an important element of getting franchisees to use their manual in the business. Ensure that your field support staff are familiar with the contents of the manual as well as the layout. When the support staff visits a franchised operation, they should have their own copy of the manual and have it with them. If the support staff finds that a franchisee is not following procedures or not doing things quite right then he can address these issues and refer the franchisee to the relevant section of the manual which deals with the policy and procedure in this regard.