Franchisors behaving badly – What are your options?
Despite the sensational title of this blog, it is rather rare to see a franchisor who purposefully sets out to behave badly. To do so would just not be in the franchisor’s best interests. For any franchisor, they do well when their network does well and therefore franchisors have a vested interest in the success of their franchisees. Here, Natalia Shvarts offers her top tips for how to to deal with a franchisor – franchisee relationship that is facing issues.
The reality of life and franchising is that it is a journey and all journeys have their ups and downs and it is about how we deal with challenging situations when they arise. In our experience many conflicts can either be avoided altogether or certainly managed without escalation if approached correctly.
In a franchisor – franchisee relationship this can sometimes be more difficult because from the outset this is not a relationship of equals. It is in the nature of franchising that the franchisor dictates the terms – after all it is the franchisor’s system but it doesn’t mean that the franchisee is not a valued player. As we mentioned at the beginning the success of one is intertwined with the success of the other, so it is in everyone’s interest to resolve conflicts as quickly and as painlessly as possible. And whilst this sounds like a cliché, it happens all the time – when the most “difficult” franchisee actually becomes the brand’s biggest ambassador if the situation is managed the right way!
So, what can you do, especially if you are a franchisee?
Tip 1: don’t stew on it – talk to your franchisor. A molehill can easily become a mountain so don’t let it. Also, whatever the issue is, the franchisor may have experienced it before – perhaps other franchisees have had a similar issue in the past and the franchisor can offer a solution that has worked and can work for you or perhaps, this is an issue that many are reporting. The trouble is, if franchisees don’t speak up, the franchisor may not even know that there is an issue.
Tip 2: take emotions out. This is the tough one but consider your objective – if your objective is to find a resolution, even if that resolution is to leave, you are unlikely to get what you want if the language is accusatory and inflammatory. Focus on the objective and what would be most helpful or useful to achieve your objective. Remain open to a compromise – if by compromising you still achieve your objective, then that is still a positive outcome.
Tip 3: are you talking to the right person? Whilst this sounds so obvious but consider who, at the franchisor organisation is the best person to deal with the matter. Sometimes, the right person may not necessarily be the one who is in that specific role.
Tip 4: consider enlisting help of an independent 3rd party. There are many professionals who can help facilitate a conversation. We often describe them as mediators. Mediation doesn’t necessarily have to be very formal but it can do wonders! If the franchisor is a member of the British Franchise Association (the BFA), then you may wish to consider engaging with the BFA dispute resolution process.
Tip 5: if nothing else works, do seek legal advice from a qualified professional experienced in franchising.
By Natalia Shvarts