When you start a franchise, many of the most difficult aspects of starting and running a small business are taken care of. The franchisor provides you with marketing, branding, products and processes. But, there is an area key to your success that the franchisor cannot provide prepackaged: leadership.
When it comes to the leadership of your franchise, no one can do it for you, and there is simply no getting around it. For franchisees new to the game, the leadership required at the franchise level may be distinct from many previous experiences of professional leadership. People coming from the corporate world may have led teams of highly skilled professionals who needed little direction. But coming into the franchise world, you are met with a whole new set of workers with vastly different skill sets and needs. The franchisee’s ability to adapt to these new leadership challenges makes all the difference in whether the franchise thrives or skims by.
Research has shown that the best kind of leadership to integrate into a small business strategy is transformational leadership. Often contrasted with transactional leadership, transformational leadership is a style of leadership focusing on the positive growth and development of teams by offering an inspiring purpose for the work. It’s a style that places a heavy emphasis on coaching and mentoring — rather than rewards and punishments.
Transformational leadership is effective because it establishes mindsets that focus on the purpose of the work beyond simply providing a paycheck. The purpose doesn’t need to be complex, nor should it be; rather, the purpose should be a simple concept to grasp about why the work is fulfilling. This can be about the quality of the products, how well customers are served or anything else worthwhile. When offered a purpose for their work, people feel that they are working toward something concrete and that they are growing personally.
Given this, it is imperative that leadership is not addressed as an afterthought but as a foundational component of your business strategy. Here are some of the essential factors to keep in mind when establishing your leadership.
Your team looks to you for best practices.
With most franchises, the teams are made up largely of employees who require a great deal of direction. While this is often true for many organizations, this is especially true at the franchise level — where much of your team will be entering the workforce for the first time. Whether good or bad, your leadership practices will shape the behaviors and habits of your team. If you cut corners, so will your team. This is why it is vital, whenever doing visible work, to perform as you would have your team.
While this may seem to be a simple enough point, failing to align direction and action is a frequent pitfall for many new leaders. While you can attempt a policy of “do as I say, not as I do,” this rarely works and often demotivates your team. Misalignment between what you say and what you do sends the message that you and the team are working toward different goals and that there is no common mission.
Effective leadership creates focus.
While it is up to each individual to focus on their work, it is up to the leader to provide the direction and vision that cultivates an environment conducive to focus.
According to research, focus is among the greatest concerns for both employees and leaders across a wide spectrum of industries. (Full disclosure: I interviewed ProHabits’ president on my podcast but have no other association with the company.) In today’s world, no matter what industry you may be in, you have access to a near-infinite number of distractions right in your pocket.
Today’s younger generation — who make up a large segment of the franchise workforce — may be especially susceptible to these distractions. This is why it is imperative that you establish a worthwhile and motivating reason for the work that you do.
Your customers notice.
How your customers feel about your franchise is the moment of truth for any franchisee. It is here that the attitudes and mindsets your leadership cultivates will impact your bottom line.
If you cultivate a culture with a mindset centered around the customer, then you can rest easy. Keep the customer in mind when establishing your leadership by consistently asking yourself: “Do the behaviors I exhibit as a leader reflect those I want shown to my customers?”
Opening up a franchise is among the best ways to start your own business and begin working for yourself. While much of the business has essentially been taken care of for you, there is no outsourcing leadership. This is why establishing a strong foundation of leadership within your franchise acts as the key differentiator that will impact your ultimate success.