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Beyond the Franchise Training Manual
Franchisors offer extensive training system-- Product knowledge, Operations, Accounting, and Marketing. Everything you need to know about their franchise system is fused into a formal training manual. The training manual trains the prospective franchisee more on how to be a franchisee than on how to be a responsible entrepreneur. Franchising operations prepare new franchises to build up the business operation based on previous franchisee experiences. Franchisees are trained on operations skills rather than management skills. The training manual and experiential learning does not remove the responsibility for self-training. The franchisee should be prepared to incorporate basic business sense into the operational training. This could mean taking the initiative of insuring that assumptions made are relevant to their situation. For instance, can a franchisee move forward without a business plan or marketing plan? Even if the training program incorporates a business plan, a diligent franchisee should prepare their own business assumptions. Should a franchisee test market projected levels of demand? Just as they should engage a CPA and an attorney, they should engage their own business consultant or Counselor. SBA sponsored agencies like SCORE and the SBDC could assist by reviewing the franchisor’s plan or start up scenarios. The franchisor training manual may not reflect the real life startup costs or the flexibility of an action plan. Or the training manual may overlook local market nuances.
While the action plan supports the franchisor’s business model, the franchisee is left with figuring out the basic realities of startup—costs, contingencies, local consumer base and staffing. This becomes more of a hit and miss learning experience not covered in the training manual. The franchisee understands that they must follow the established success model of the franchise. However, it is always a good idea to plan for deviations that may occur. This would provide an excellent opportunity for discussion and modification.
One client relied on a west-coast franchisor to select on an ideal locale for an east coast business. While the selection looked reasonable, franchisee took a drive over to the site to discover that the building had adequate parking, but was remote from mass transportation. The training manual presented billboards and other outdoor marketing concepts. The reality was that the area selected required other media choices. Social media, email blasts and other training concepts should be initiated to adjust for local tastes, preferences and demographics. In the absence of such, a franchisees has the responsibility to make sure the training manual reflects their local market dynamics.
It is important to acknowledge that the franchisor has created a business model that has a proven success rate. Too often, however, we find that the new franchisee is often clueless about their responsibility beyond the franchisors training manual and projections. If one were starting a business from scratch, there would be a diligent effort to investigate the competitive environment, trends, and local consumer preferences. There would be basic start up analyses involving foot traffic, municipal codes, union laws and pre-venture costs? This critical thinking goes beyond the training manual. As franchisees ramp up their business, time should be spent on delving into potentially unique business issues. Franchises are virtually foolproof compared to starting a business from scratch, however, the training manual and visiting fellow franchisee operations cannot replace the need to investigate and validate the applicability of all training concepts.