Man and woman congratulate one another on success in front of a large crowd“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” — Jack Welch

There are countless quotes about leadership, but few capture franchise leadership like the one above. To open a business takes leadership. To start a franchise takes leadership. To help lead others to the same success you have achieved is the hallmark of a successful franchise and a successful leadership structure. That’s why focusing on developing franchise leadership should be a key element of your franchise conference.

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Why Developing Franchise Leadership Is Important

Leadership at the franchise level is clearly a must-have for strategic planning and steering a franchise in the right direction. Further, it’s those people who inspire and motivate individual franchisees to not only succeed but also to see a future with the franchise.

When it comes to franchisees, developing leaders and leadership skills also travels down the hierarchy. When franchisors work with franchisees on the skills and qualities of good leaders, they not only bring those skills to their businesses, but they pass them down to managers and employees.

Effective leadership development truly trickles down and elevates an entire operation. The individual franchises that are operating effectively and professionally then reflect on the franchise and brand itself. Because of the importance of good leadership, it should be viewed as a teacher/student relationship. It’s about passing skills along, building strong teams, and making everyone better. 

Woman leader on stage at franchise conferenceHow Franchise Leadership Fits Into Franchise Conference Goals

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, establishing a concrete goal for your franchise conference is vital for its success. But even though building leadership can be a goal in itself, it usually fits into other goals as well.

Because leadership styles are likely as diverse as your franchisees, leadership opportunities will often present themselves as part of other goals of your event. For example, networking and roundtable discussions are perfect for democratic leaders who like group consensus. However, these types of sessions are also great for strategic leaders who like to gather information based on the experiences of others.

Whether you’re building a mentorship program or offering instructional sessions on best practices, creating spaces for open dialogue and franchisee participation will open the door for those seeking leadership roles to step forward.

In turn, nurturing and encouraging attendees will allow others to see a variety of leadership models and recognize which one they most align with. Of course, it’s also valuable to include sessions for your franchisees that focus on both leadership and the hard and soft skills that make effective leaders.

Important Franchise Leadership Skills to Develop

In addition to incorporating leadership opportunities into sessions, events, and activities at your franchise conference, it’s important to also include speakers and sessions that specifically develop and nurture the leadership skills essential to your franchise's growth and success.

So, exactly what skills should you be focusing on with your franchisees?

1. Communication skills
First and foremost, communication skills are vital to any leader. That means not just being able to speak or write clearly and efficiently (though important), but it also means understanding how to be an active listener. Many productivity or efficiency upgrades in business have come from listening to front-line workers who are doing the work daily. Leaders who ignore their workers and their input may lose out. Similarly, leaders who cannot communicate goals as well as they communicate tasks may miss their targets –  not for lack of effort but lack of understanding.

2. Positive mindset
There’s a lot of discussion these days about toxic positivity, and that’s not what we’re talking about. Toxic positivity looks at a burning building and says “at least we’re warm.” A positive mindset acknowledges the setback and then shifts focus to opportunities for rebuilding. Learning to keep a positive mindset during challenging times can help motivate and inspire others even if they’re struggling. When it comes to team leaders, you want individuals who embody inspiration and motivation.

3. Curiosity and creativity
From new products to new promotions, many great franchise ideas have come from franchisees or their employees. While consistency is the hallmark of franchises, encouraging your teams to be curious and creative (especially in an environment where their input is valuable) can have big payoffs. For example, McDonald’s Shamrock Shake was the creation of a Connecticut franchisee, and it’s now not just a seasonal menu staple but one of the franchise’s best-known and most-demanded promotions.

4. Management skills and styles
Let’s be honest: not everyone knows how to manage people. Keen business insight, strategic thinking and planning,  and all the other skills or attributes that make excellent franchise owners do not always translate to strong managerial skills. For example, knowing how and when to delegate tasks in a way that fosters buy-in from employees is not an innate skill for many. Further, simply demanding that employees complete tasks is not actually managing.

Good managers understand themselves and their employees (and their motivations). Perhaps more importantly, good managers lead by example and foster confidence in their teams. This translates to better customer service and more pride in the business itself.

Consider sessions that expose franchisees to different management skills and styles while helping them identify their own strengths and weaknesses. Learning how to leverage strengths and work on weaknesses is a core element of developing as a leader.

5. Values and vision
As a franchise and brand, you have established core values and developed a vision for the future. That means your franchisees must also embrace those values and see that their individual franchise represents and reflects them. As franchise leaders, you’ll want to also ensure your franchisees are able to pass those important beliefs, attitudes, and actions on to their teams.

Strong leaders not only champion those values, but they also understand how to pass them along.  

Woman speaks to room in educational session at franchise conference5 Ways to Develop Leadership at Franchise Conferences

Given the importance of developing franchise leadership beyond your C-suite or board, understanding how to use your franchise conference to do just that is essential. Consider these tips when planning, as incorporating them into your schedule will pay off in the long run.

Franchise leadership development strategies include:

1. Create a mentorship program - Connecting leaders with new franchisees or even those who are looking to grow or show promise is a great way to build leaders for the future.

2. Plan sessions around management skills - For many franchises, the primary goal of a conference is to discuss best practices, product information, and promotions, along with creating networks for vendors and suppliers. However, neglecting the practical skills of running a business, such as management skills, is a mistake. Sessions that provide this essential information can and should be a foundation for them to establish or identify their leadership style and learn how to use it to their advantage.

3. Focus on more than just hard skills - Sure, you can and should provide valuable information regarding hard skills like business management and marketing at your franchise conference, but take time to train, discuss, and practice soft skills like active listening, time management, teamwork, and creativity.

4. Let leaders emerge - More often than not, individuals will show their true personalities and traits if you will simply pay attention. There is a particular drive that exists among business leaders, and often, people with this drive will identify themselves in a business setting. This is an opportunity to help mold and shape them in a way that benefits, not only their business but also their employees and your franchise organization.

5. Think outside the box - Not all leadership training requires a sit-down session. In fact, the more creative you can be with sessions that develop leadership skills, the better they’ll be. For example, team competitions, rope courses, and other activities that ask your team members to step out of their comfort zone can be excellent ways to help people discover and share their leadership potential.

When planning a franchise conference, there’s a multitude of aspects to consider. You have goals and a vision that includes everything from welcoming new franchisees to recognizing and awarding long-standing franchisees. You likely want to include promotions and products, provide time to let your guests network and learn, and –  let’s not forget –  allow everyone to have a good time, too!

It’s a lot. We know that. That’s why Bishop-McCann specializes in helping franchises get the most out of their conference. If you’re ready to talk about how we can help you make the most out of your franchise event, get in touch with our team today! Let’s start building your event from the ground up, so you can help your franchisees do the same.
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