Franchise Relations
FranTogether: Building Sustainable Relationships Through Effective Collaboration

Learn from some of franchising’s leading lights and get access to the latest evidence-based research on how to establish healthy franchise relationships.


By Brian Schnell, CFE, and Tamra Kennedy

No franchise system will be sustainable in the long run without a solid foundation that is built on collaborative leadership, engagement, trust, and communication. It simply won’t happen. Yet in many franchise systems little time is spent on these key difference-making factors. We all have an opportunity to begin to change that dynamic on Jan. 29, 2017, by attending FranTogether, one of the Institute of Certified Franchise Executives (ICFE) courses that is being offered for franchisors and franchisees as part of IFA’s 2017 Annual Convention. The objective of this article is to present the business case for why franchisees should attend FranTogether.

With all the external pressures franchising is facing in today’s business environment, franchisors and franchisees must take control of their relationship, their businesses and their future. FranTogether shows franchisors and franchisees how to build resilient, sustainable businesses through effective collaboration.

During FranTogether, you will learn from some of franchising’s leading lights and get access to the latest evidence-based research on how to establish healthy franchise relationships. You will also engage in meaningful discussions and breakout groups focusing on “best in class” practices for creating profitable partnerships with strong unit level economics.

FranTogether is about franchise leadership. While embracing the importance of solid operations, marketing and technology, it goes beyond these into the field of franchising psychology, culture and the drivers of franchisee satisfaction.


FranTogether’s key components

A key building block and core application of FranTogether is the importance of culture and attitude within a franchise system, which is similar in some respects to any other type of organization, enterprise or network, but also different due to the unique relationship between franchisors and franchisees. Another way of looking at this application is the level of franchisee engagement. Several franchisors actually measure the level of franchisee engagement in various system activities as a key performance indicator for the franchise executive team.

Through this application, we will establish the importance of everyone understanding that any organization is getting the results that it is are designed to get and in order to get different results, you need to make changes to the foundation: the relationship. This isn’t about spending more money on operations, training, marketing and the like, but looking at ways to make fundamental change as to how the relationship between a franchisor and its franchisees is designed and executed.

During FranTogether, participants will engage in a robust and interactive discussion regarding the roles, responsibilities and interests of the franchisor and franchisee. Highly successful franchisors and franchisees recognize that in some respects the roles, responsibilities and interests are similar and in some respects they differ, but that doesn’t mean they should not be aligned. That also doesn’t mean the franchisor and franchisees will always see eye-to-eye. Different viewpoints in a franchise system are healthy. This dynamic is often overlooked in many franchise systems. Part of this session will be a discussion on different ways different people communicate and how those different communication styles can lead to conflict. This discussion will outline how to move from conflict to collaboration, including different ways to effectively resolve conflict. 

One of the course objectives is a focus on “best in class” practices that will be difference makers in any franchise system (regardless of system size or industry). Examples will be what practices separate franchisors who foster and protect a systemwide culture where the work and efforts of franchisees is appreciated and celebrated; embrace the belief that new ideas can help drive systemwide growth and are often found in the field with franchisees, but still do so in an organized manner rather than every franchisee doing what it wants with little regard for system uniformity; recognize franchisee’s investments in their business and their stakeholder’s role in the brand and treat franchisees with respect; promote the importance of the franchisees’ daily interactions with the brand’s customers at the local level, and therefore feedback, lessons and change can be embraced to everyone’s benefit, and;  understand that long term sustainability for all brand stakeholders (including the franchisor and franchisees) can only happen when growth comes not at the expense of the franchisees but only if the unit level economics of the business are healthy. 


Why FranTogether is important to franchisees

Healthy franchise relationships allow the franchisor and franchisees to focus on growth and the habits that make franchise systems successful (undying devotion to the brand and an obsession over unit-level economics). Unless someone refuses to fully appreciate the changing landscape in franchising, franchisees are playing a much larger role in the overall economic impact of franchising and the principles and topics we will address during FranTogether will matter to this influential group of stakeholders in franchising:

1). Protecting franchising from within is as important to franchisees as it is to franchisors. After all, a franchisee’s equity is significantly impacted if its franchisor is unable to enforce system wide standards and expectations. If a rogue operator is damaging the brand somewhere else, it impacts the franchisee’s value. The value of the franchisee’s business increases if the franchisor can protect the brand and if franchising overall is protected from extraneous attacks like we are facing now. 

2). Building a culture of collaboration from a franchisee perspective:

A). Collaboration is about leadership and how franchisees can provide input to their franchisors through FACs, feedback to field consultants, developing strong relationships with leadership at the home office, attending and participating at franchise events, budgeting for travel expenses and participating in these events. These activities all are part of the franchisee’s responsibility to be a part of the system. Relationships are two-way streets. They work especially well if franchisors view franchisees as stakeholders in the brand, and franchisees accept the responsibilities of being stakeholders in the brand.  

B). Franchisees will recognize franchisors who invest training time, effort and money in creating a culture of respect within their team and system, setting clear expectations with franchisees from the very beginning regarding the roles and responsibilities of both the franchisee and the franchisor in the relationship, the solicitation of franchisee feedback, and further understanding of the franchisees’ day-to-day concerns and needs. 

C). And perhaps, most importantly, franchisees will embrace the franchisor who works to foster continuous and open communication between the franchisees and franchisor on new system initiatives, why those initiatives are important to franchisees and the brand’s customers, with an eye towards building maintaining and protecting trust between all the brand stakeholders. The bottom line is the realization that in a franchisor-franchisee communication vacuum, that void is most often filled with rumor and distrust, which not only hurt franchisees, but also the franchisor and the brand as a whole.


FranTogether’s key course takeaways

• How to build high level trust and commitment (essential ingredients) in the franchise relationship.

• How to address differences of opinion creatively when (not if) these arise, and move from conflict to collaboration.

• Tools and processes for improving communication at the personal and organizational level.

• How to address the stress of innovation and change so franchisees remain profitable and franchise networks remain relevant to their customers.

• How to constructively address real-world challenges that play out in franchise systems every day.

• Leave inspired with improved skills and confidence to apply your learning and “move the needle” in creating positive franchise relationships.


We need you

In order for FranTogether to reach its full potential, we need franchisees to attend and vigorously and passionately participate. You won’t be disappointed.


Brian Schnell, CFE, is Partner at Faegre Baker Daniels and heads the firm’s franchise practice. Tamra Kennedy owns and operates nine Taco John’s franchises in Minnesota and Iowa.