Business is about people. That statement couldn’t be more accurate for a fitness franchise. The entire process from start to finish of expanding your franchise is centered around people. From your first conversation to the moment your franchisee signs the dotted line, every interaction is about building trust and creating an environment for success. The way people are treated will show through in the results.
Your success as a franchise owner comes from the success of your franchisees. Your franchisees’ mindset and preparedness are all down to you. The ability to educate on your processes and communicate your playbook is essential.
In a recent episode of The Fitness Founders Podcast, we talked to Steve Pirt, the CEO of Friction Free Fitness and a former National Director of Franchise Operations for UFC Gym about this important topic. The following article is based on some of the best practice knowledge Steve shared with us. You can find this interview here:
In this article, we talk about why your playbook is more important than ever and how to communicate authentically with your franchisees.
Skip ahead to:
- COVID-19 and the Fitness Franchise Industry
- Why Your Franchise Playbook is So Important
- 9 Ways to Effectively Communicate With Your Franchisees
COVID-19 and the Fitness Franchise Industry
Anyone in the fitness industry knows how tough the last few months have been. After being told to shut their doors with immediate effect, many fitness businesses saw their income drop almost immediately. No matter how quickly you adapt, that’s a shock to the system.
“In every adversity lies the seed of an equal or greater opportunity.” – Napoleon Hill
It has been a terrible time, not only for franchise operators but for owners and vendors. But there is an opportunity now to innovate. This comes from the fact that the fitness industry has become very comfortable. Yes, the fitness industry is successful. However, it’s not particularly innovative in the way people move through the building. It’s not just about innovation in technology but member experience overall.
Although some brands like Orange Theory and Peloton are integrating technology, in general, the fitness industry tends to be fairly slow with innovation adoption. COVID-19 has pressed fast-forward on the demand for innovation in the fitness industry. People are hungry and ready to move forward.
Why Your Franchise Playbook is So Important
Your fitness franchise playbook is designed to provide proven strategies to your franchisees. It’s a step-by-step guide. It will show them the potential challenges they may face and how to overcome them as well as branding, messaging, and any rules they need to stick to. You have created a successful business and the playbook is the blueprint for success to follow in your footsteps.
However, when your franchisees and internal teams don’t follow the playbook, it can go downhill pretty quickly. If you expect your franchisees to follow your playbook, it’s your responsibility to communicate it well. Poor communication can cause a divide in the business. Eventually, it could lead to diminished trust and engagement. This flows into the rest of the business leading to poor culture and member experience. Finally, the end result is a bad paycheck.
You need a good playbook. It needs to be concise, relevant, clean and proven. These are the elements of a stellar playbook. If it’s not relevant to the time or a simple copy and paste job from another brand, your franchisees will pick up on it. You need to be on your toes ready to educate and communicate effectively.
Think about the presentation of the playbook and how you will deliver it. If you have an incredible playbook with poor delivery and no personal connection with your franchisees, you’re not setting yourself up for success. An incredible playbook, proper education, and trust are essential when communicating with your franchisees.
9 Ways to Effectively Communicate With Your Franchisees
As a franchise owner, communication forms part of your business. You need to be able to communicate effectively with your franchisees to see the results you want. Now, more than ever, you need to maintain that level of support and communication your franchisees have come to expect and value.
1. Understand Franchisee Pain Points
So, you walk into the gym and your franchisee is explaining a problem. Before trying to understand the issue, you give an immediate solution. The problem with this scenario is that you haven’t spent the time to truly understand their pain points. You just give a standard reply and finish the conversation. When you do this, it damages the trust with the franchisee. Once this has been damaged, it’s difficult to get back.
Trust is an integral part of communication. Any action that breaks down trust is a big red flag. Trust is important on both sides. Both the franchise owner and franchisee need to trust each other. If you can, try to eliminate as many pain points as possible through technology innovation and design. The main takeaway here is to listen to pain points from a point of understanding and acceptance.
2. Establish a Personal Connection
The playbook is as good as the author. If you can’t establish a personal connection, you won’t have the right relationship with your franchisee. When a gym member doesn’t have a connection to a facility, they are going to leave. The same applies to franchisees. Poor communication is often at the root of many problems.
If you can establish a personal connection and build trust, you will be able to communicate more effectively. Without trust and a connection, you could have the best playbook in the world, but you don’t have the right situation to make it a success. Both you and your franchisee need to have respect for each other. Recognize that both parties need each other to succeed and grow. That mutual respect is a great starting point to allow the relationship to thrive.
3. Create Environment of Trust, Collaboration, and Communication
Give two people the same business model and one could become a millionaire and the other go bankrupt. Just because you have a winning business model doesn’t mean your franchisee will automatically be a success. A lot of the time it comes down to the person running it. But if you’re feeding that person with support, trust, positivity, and determination, you give them the opportunity to be a success.
By creating an environment of trust, collaboration, and communication, you can be proactive in your communication. Consistent and engaging communication is crucial, especially through difficult times. Figure out how your franchisees like to be contacted and use the right channel. By creating a supportive environment, they should feel comfortable reaching out to you with any problems and know that you try to understand their position and develop a solution.
4. Use Data to Support Communication
Data can be used to support your communication and underpin the conversation. However, just throwing data points at your audience isn’t the way to go. Try to keep it simple. Start the conversation and bring in data. You don’t want to confuse people with a ton of data. You want to use data that they will trust.
Your data clearly shows the value of your playbook. When faced with a question or when trying to communicate your point, data is a very useful tool. It’s a good idea to use data to show people what the best practice is and why. Dr. Paul Bedford explores the topic of data and fitness franchises more in a recent episode on The Fitness Founders Podcast.
5. Drop the Ego
As a franchise owner, your goal is to be in business and ultimately make a profit. It’s simple. It’s not about you or the franchisee, it’s about the business and making it as successful as possible. Often, the ego can get in the way of the reason why you’re here in the first place. It’s beneficial to remove anything that gets in the way of these processes.
Put your ego to the side, and try to understand where your franchisee is coming from. As a business owner, a healthy ego can be a good thing. It can give you self-confidence and self-respect to perform well and take the risks you need to start a business in the first place. However, if your ego is out of control and left unchecked, it can be detrimental to your business. It can stand in the way of your processes and hinder your ability to communicate effectively with your franchisees.
6. Robust Onboarding Process
Although your onboarding process happens at the beginning of the franchise process, it’s an essential part of creating trust. It’s that trust that you will lean on to communicate authentically. You start to build that trust and connection as soon as they sign the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD).
Everything you do creates trust or diminishes it. The more trust and respect you have, the better. Whey your franchisee signs the FDD, think about how you’re building trust and how you will get them to comply. You need to be able to teach and train them to be good franchisees and a robust onboarding process is an integral part of that.
7. Be Authentic and Customer-Centric
Being authentic is so powerful. You need to be customer-centric and entirely authentic. Know exactly who your customer is, what their pain points are, and try to eliminate as many issues as possible. You should be completely transparent and lay the facts out clearly throughout the entire process.
Being authentic is as much about revealing your flaws as it is playing to your strengths. It often feels easier to put on a front instead of taking the risk of looking vulnerable. But when you communicating authentically, you will value authenticity in your franchisees as well. By being candid about the obstacles franchisees may face, they will feel prepared and ready to take on the challenge.
8. Training and Education
Your playbook is important. It contains your proven strategies and business model to prepare your franchisees for the road ahead. But how you communicate, train, and educate franchisees is just as important as the playbook itself. A strong training program ensures your franchisees and employees feel prepared and confident to follow your guidelines and methods. As restrictions are easing throughout the country, you may have new franchisees reaching out to you.
Your training program should be so good that even the newest franchisee will represent your brand to the standard needed. Think about pre-training, classroom, on-site, and any ongoing training you will offer. Currently, you may need to think about online teaching options. That way, you can train new franchisees while sticking to the current social distancing guidelines.
9. Inspire and Build Confidence
Your franchisees should feel supported. You have a role to play in helping them to believe in themselves. Mindset and preparedness play a massive role in the success of a franchisee. They should feel like they can go into the business and apply the processes and procedures to their teams.
When looking for new franchisees, there are certain traits that you should look out for. Good communication skills and a collaborative perspective are key. When you have someone who is ready to work with you and has open communication, you have a great starting point. Of course, you want experience and management skills, but collaborative and communication skills are crucial.
The takeaway message is that your business is about people. The way you communicate and connect with franchisees is vital. Although your playbook is important, you need to be authentic and communicate your methods and rules in a way that franchisees can easily take on board and apply to their own setting. If you’re positive, passionate, and determined, it will brush off on the people you work with and your franchisees will feel fully prepared.