The Toughest Job in Franchising

Many years ago when I was a student sharing a house with a few friends, I had an experience that still resonates today. I was working part-time at a retail bakery chain and one of my housemates also worked full time with the bakery. One day he arrived home looking shell shocked.

He had recently been promoted to a job that involved visiting stores and giving advice to store managers and franchisees. He told me he had just been "thrown out" of a store by a franchisee.

We talked for a while about what had happened. I didn't really know much about the growing number of franchisees that had been joining the group, but was concerned by his predicament.

Flash new car but no training

While the company had given him a brand new, bright red Honda, they had given him precious little training on how to carry out his new field manager role. I was particularly interested in his description of the franchisees he had to visit and the lack of confidence he was experiencing in working with them.

My friend lasted about three months in this job and was pleased to go back to managing a store.

While he was glad to move away from working with franchisees, I was increasingly fascinated by this group of entrepreneurs and eventually took up an opportunity to become a franchisee myself. And I have to admit to being cynical and giving my field manager a hard time when he came to inspect my store. On the other hand I was also grateful for his support when I was at a loss at what to do with customer or staff problems.

It wasn't until years later, when I took on the role of a field manager myself, that I realised just how tough the job is and how little recognition the role receives. While you may be given your own territory, you are often walking into someone else's and the boundaries of authority are often blurred.

My respect for the work field managers do has also grown as I have studied the positive impact a good field manager can make, not only to the success of individual franchisees, but to whole regions.

Field management as an emerging profession

A few years ago the Franchise Relationships Institute launched the first Field Manager Summit, a series of events dedicated to recognising and supporting these unsung heroes of franchising. We have since made this an annual event with hundreds of field managers from different brands working together and sharing their ideas and insights.

These are wonderful events and signal franchising's growing professionalism and the evolution of what we see as an emerging profession.

Until next time can I just say, Field Managers of the world - we salute you.

Greg Nathan

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