Politics, Religion and Sex in Franchising

I have been advised more than once not to talk about politics, religion or sex. But the purpose of these tips is to raise issues that impact on the success of franchise systems. So I should probably apologise up front because I am going to talk about all three!

Let’s start with politics, or what could be defined in this context as the use of power or information to influence others to your point of view.

Why politics is bad for business

Politicians are in the business of power - accumulating it, wielding it and holding onto it (often desperately). The problem is, power is addictive and it almost always corrupts the mind, which is also why it causes people to operate from short term self-interest. Little wonder politics is often such a cut throat, ugly profession. This is why I warn franchisees and franchisors not to draw on political models in how they communicate and run their affairs.

For franchisors this means not disguising bad news with “spin” and not avoiding unpopular decisions that are vital for the long term viability of the business. For franchisees it means not forming divisive factions or using meetings or committees to push personal agendas. For both parties it means staying focused on legitimate business goals, especially maintaining happy customers and a healthy brand.

When franchisors with a difficult message to give ask me what they should tell their franchisees, I usually suggest they just tell it like it is, but always with respect and empathy. Franchisees appreciate straight talking which, by the way, also builds trust and credibility.

Killing sacred cows

Next I want to touch on religion or, to be more precise, faith. I believe that faith is one of the most beautiful things in the world. But yes, there is a but. Faith and business can be difficult bedfellows and I do not believe franchisees should be expected to follow a franchisor’s leadership on faith alone.

Unfortunately, some franchisors run their networks more like religious cults than business communities, expecting staff and franchisees to toe the line otherwise they risk public shaming or intimidation. Once a franchisor starts justifying policies and decisions by saying “You have to do this because we say so”, you probably have a case of sacred cow disease. Sacred cows are mindless rituals that preserve the status quo, are protected out of habit and serve no useful purpose.

Decisions should be based on the best evidence available and franchisors should share this evidence with their franchisees. They should also be prepared to change their minds in the face of sound evidence that offers a better solution (probably a good philosophy for all of us.) I particularly like the advice that one of our franchisor clients regularly gives to his management team and franchisees. “By all means hold strong opinions, just hold them loosely”.

Let’s talk about sex

Finally let’s talk about sex. This topic actually came up in an open forum at our recent Field Manager Summits when we were discussing what should go into a Code of Ethics for field managers. No, sex wasn’t one of the recommendations. Rather it was suggested that sexual and business relations can also make difficult bedfellows. In fact several companies said they have a stated policy of actively discouraging this type of relationship between franchisor executives and franchisees because it tends to damage professional credibility and often ends in unforeseen complications.

So let’s not confuse our franchise networks with religions, political parties or dating agencies.

Until next time,

Greg Nathan

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