There are two schools of thought in franchising about the control that should be exerted by the franchisor over the activities of franchisees.

On the one hand, some franchisors believe that it’s the franchisee’s business and they should be left to run it as they see fit, within the terms of their agreement and always with a careful eye on the brand.

On the other hand, some franchisors believe that control is everything and dictate every single aspect of what goes on, from the franchisee’s diary to the flow of money from customers into the coffers.

So, which way is right and which way is wrong?

At the risk of sounding like a politician, I think they both are.  There are pros and cons to each.

For example, being relatively laissez faire with the activities of a franchisee means that the level of support and guidance required from the franchisor is lower.  In turn, this means that, if things go wrong, it’s very difficult for the franchisee to blame the franchisor.

However, the risk of a franchisee over stepping the mark and, therefore, getting into conflict with the franchisor are higher.  It’s correspondingly difficult for the franchisor to impose their will on the franchise because they’ll just say ‘well, I didn’t get any guidance before… why should I let you dictate now?’  And they may have a point.

Finally, without tight control and support the chances of the business not going well are much higher…

With really tight control the opposite tends to happen.  Franchisees don’t have the space in which to screw things up and the franchisor is able to manage their network much more a corporate body.

And, therein lies a bit of a problem.  Many franchisors use the line ‘in business for yourself, not by yourself’.  If the control is too tight, this phrase doesn’t feel quite right.  It should say ‘not in business for yourself, but by yourself (if things go wrong)’.  Or, put another way, franchisees rebel at the tight constraints because they feel as though they simply have a job and paid twenty grand for the privilege.

So there are pros and cons, swings and roundabouts; more swerves than a politician answering a straight question.

There are two important points to remember.

If you are thinking about setting up a franchise network it’s important to set your stall out from the outset; it’s very difficult to change your ethos halfway through.

Secondly, the ‘ideal’ probably sits somewhere in the middle.  There should be tight control over things like branding, product processes and, probably, the money… tight control over these elements means there are fewer opportunities to argue.  But perhaps control can be slightly more relaxed over marketing, staffing and the set up of the business…

Much like a politician, I’ve given you the best of both worlds.

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