No matter what the business, the culture, processes, and procedures of a franchise system are conveyed through its operations manual and training programs. When you’re evaluating a franchisor consider the following five questions to gain insight into the depth of training provided:
1. How long is the new franchisee training and what’s covered?
Longer is not necessarily better. You do want to spend adequate time on key topics, however. Study the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). It should tell you what topics are covered in the franchisee training program, how much time is spent on each topic, and whether the topic is handled in the classroom or in the field.
Field training usually consists of observing operations and conducting hands-on practice of various activities of the business at an actual location. This can be some of the most productive time you spend in training.
Though a franchisor won’t let you walk away with an operations manual while you’re in the process of learning about the company, they are likely to let you see it while you’re at their office. Take a close look at the table of contents. Chapter headings should include service details and charges, customer service approach, financial management, employee management, sales and marketing, merchandising, day-to-day operations, and inventory procedures.
Thumb through the manual to see the level of detail provided and whether it’s user-friendly and well organized. If the “secret sauce” is in there, but you can’t find it, it won’t do you much good.
2. What training is provided on location for my first operation?
This information should also be provided in the FDD. Depending on the nature of the business and your own experience, the type of onsite training support provided by the franchisor when you first open can be critical. Most retail, retail service, and restaurants offer hands-on training by home office staff during the first few days to a week of your first opening. The franchisor’s staff will infuse your team with the corporate spirit and make sure you have the bugs worked out of your operation.
3. Who else is in my organization would be trained by the franchisor?
Some franchisors allow you to bring others from your team to the initial franchisee training: general managers, unit managers, or sales personnel. Some franchisors permit key managers of yours to attend subsequent franchisee training classes. Others have customized unit manager training that may be conducted in your local market, region, or corporate office. In almost all cases you will be responsible for travel costs associated with sending your employees to training. In some cases, there will be a cost for the training program as well.
It’s essential to find out whether training programs for your employees are optional or required. If required, determine what happens should the employee not “pass.” In many cases they can re-take the course. In some cases, however, if “certification” is withheld, you may need to replace the person.
4. What material does the franchisor provide to me to train my employees?
For many franchises, even when the franchisor provides direct training for certain groups of your employees, you’re responsible to train those who have direct contact with customers or clients. Some franchisors take the “Go forth and train” approach — they’ll let you know you’ll need to train your employees in everything you learned in class. The rest is up to you. Preferably, you’ll be armed with training checklists for each position in your business and training aids in the form of videos, DVDs, workbooks, and curricula to deliver as well as coaching on how to train.
This information is not required to be disclosed in the FDD, so plan to ask the question directly to the franchisor.
5. What role does the franchisor’s field staff play in training?
Some franchisors certify employees that you’ve trained via field representatives that visit your operation. If that’s the case, you’ll want to know the criteria for certification, how frequently it occurs, and again, what happens if the field representative does not certify your staff member.
Although the prospect of the corporate arm requiring you to retrain or potentially replace one of your employees may sound overly controlling, consider this: the franchisor who wants this level of control is a franchisor that has a high degree of commitment to maintaining quality. Ultimately this is in your best interest since that commitment will ensure that top quality is always associated with your brand.