Many franchises look at franchise advisory councils as necessary evils. Truth be told, councils can be the essential ingredient to running your organization better and creating better programs, not to mention, your secret weapon in attracting new franchisees.
Besides having more than just one council and recruiting your toughest critics for those councils, here are some guidelines to follow to make your franchisee advisory council a winning proposition for both the brand and your franchisees.
How Many Councils Should There Be?
Most franchises have one, maybe two councils. Consider six to eight councils. Why? Simply put, because the key to any franchisee advisory council is participation. More councils mean more opportunities for more franchisees to participate.
In terms of the council's make-up, pull members from franchises of all types, large and small, old and new. Make sure all geographical areas and varying degrees of franchisee loyalty are represented. Balance by gender if possible. Your council should have a minimum of nine members and a maximum of 21.
What Topics Should Be Discussed?
Council meetings should not be used for management to showcase ideas or programs that are essentially completed and presented only to get the council's approval. The key to franchisee engagement is presenting ideas to them at the beginning concept stage. That's how you create advocates out of less-loyal franchisees.
Topics to be covered at council meetings can include: strategic planning, new concept development, company review, and so forth. These topics will vary depending on whether or not your franchise has subcouncils.
Who Goes On Your Council?
It's natural to want loyal franchisees on your council such as friends of the organization. This is a mistake. Less-loyal franchisees have issues that need to be heard. By excluding them, the tendency is to get an overly supportive council. It's like that franchisee who always agrees with you: It's nice, but not particularly helpful.
Don't sacrifice respect for the participation of less-loyal franchisees. Having less-loyal franchisees is important from an informational point of view and making them part of the process is the best way to win them over.
Allow the Council Private Meetings
A scary proposition for some franchises, but one that can reap the most benefits are private meetings that enable councils to speak freely about issues without management present. This goes a long way in creating credibility with the council members and other franchisees because they will see that the council is not just a management...