The Seven-Year Itch in the Franchise Relationship

Remember that iconic movie scene of Marilyn Monroe standing on a subway grate with her dress blowing up around her? It’s from the movie The Seven Year Itch, about a businessman having a mid-life crisis in his seventh year of marriage.

Indeed psychologists have found the quality of a committed relationship (you can read this as a marriage or a franchise relationship) tends to decline over the first four years after which satisfaction stabilises. However in a study of 500 couples, Dr Lawrence Kurdek of Wright State University, found there was a second dip in satisfaction at the seven year mark.

Are your franchisees facing a mid-life crisis?

There are two reasons I am raising this and they both relate to important findings from our own recent research based on an in-depth study of over 2,000 franchisees. Firstly our study found that, similar to marriage, franchisee satisfaction drops to its lowest point at around the four year mark and then stabilises. Secondly, our study reveals the average tenure of franchisees in Australia is currently around seven years! Does this mean the bulk of our franchisees are facing a mid-life crisis? I’d suggest the answer is yes.

Consider that at seven years the majority of franchisees well and truly know the basics of how to run their business, (this is not to say they necessarily do it well). Consider also that after seven years many are probably getting tired, bored and a little distracted.

Combine this with rising costs, flattening sales, negative business media and changes to customer buying patterns and you have a recipe for franchisees feeling confused about what they want and questioning how committed they feel about the future of the business. So how do we help them to get their Mojo back?

A new model for understanding the franchisee journey

Based on our study’s findings we have developed a new model around the stages franchisees go through, which we call the Franchisee Journey. The fifth stage, Maturation, is equivalent to the seven-year itch. The opportunity for franchisors is how to move their franchisees from Maturation to the next stage, which we call Reformation. This is where they set new goals and reignite their passion for managing the business with a fresh approach. Perhaps they decide to expand into more units, take on a mentoring role within their franchise community, refurbish their business or bring in a partner. It may also mean it’s time to develop an exit strategy.

With an increasing number of franchisees in the Maturation, franchisor leadership teams would do well to take a fresh look at their operational systems, support processes and culture, ensuring these are relevant to the needs of this group. To this end we’ve developed a six-month online program for franchisor leadership teams called the Journey to Excellence. It features top quality content based on cutting edge research, access to some outstanding mentors and valuable diagnostic tools that will enable you to put your franchise system to the test.

The question is, do you have an aligned leadership team capable of managing your franchisees through the seven-year itch and onto to bigger and better things? If you’d like to learn how the new six stage franchisee model works, you can download a detailed article from our website. This is just one the of the many interesting topics we’ll be exploring in the Journey to Excellence leadership program. (By the way, we’re so confident about the value of the Journey to Excellence we’re offering a money back guarantee).

Until next time,

Greg Nathan

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