Before we begin working with a new client at FranMan, I think it’s a great exercise to review the functions of a Franchise Operations Manual with everybody at the table. In this document I’ll review the main functions of a Franchise Operations Manual because it is important that everybody who contributes to a manual project be singing from the same sheet of music. Many end users believe that the Franchise Operating Manual is a waste of effort because they are only looking at it from their perspective. A Franchise Operating Manual serves four main purposes.
First, the Franchise Operations Manual is the authority document of the franchise System Standards. The System Standards are the standard procedures that a franchisor requires of all franchisees in order to duplicate the customer experience in every location. The customer experience is the driving force behind profitability. If you can duplicate a favorable customer experience, then you may have a business that you can franchise. If you have a well prepared Franchise Agreement, it should refer to the Franchise Operations Manual as the System Standard. This way, as your system grows and your System Standards change, you only have to update the manual instead of updating the Franchise Agreement.
Second, the Franchise Operations Manual is the most effective tool for protecting your Brand. A company’s Brand is one of its most valuable assets. The Brand is also the asset that is at most risk when a company decides to franchise. When you franchise a concept, you are putting your Brand in the hands of other people, all of whom likely have different ideas about the best direction for the company. A properly prepared Franchise Operations Manual, with well-defined and organized System Standards, will be the only tool you have to manage the Brand and control the franchisees when they try to act on their vision for what is best for your Brand.
Third, the Franchise Operations Manual will likely be the principal tool for training new franchisees. It is the “Your Company for Dummies” book. You have to assume that most of your franchisees will not have experience in your industry. They may not have any business experience at all. It is very common for a retired schoolteacher or a retired military person to invest in a franchise. This is not to suggest that school teachers or military personnel don’t have any business savvy, it is only to say that they were not formally trained in business and have not practiced it during their career. Your manual needs to be a document that not only trains them on your system of providing a favorable customer experience, but also one that brings them up to speed on how to manage a business.
Fourth, a well prepared documentation of the procedures that has helped make your company a success will help you sell your concept to potential franchisees. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential franchisee. If you received a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) that showed you that the company had a 50 page document describing all of its operating procedures, you might be a little concerned that this company doesn’t have the support structure in place to help you achieve success. You will also take your Franchise Operations Manual with you when you meet with potential franchisees for the first time. In that meeting, you will attempt to sell the concept to the prospect. Like all good sales people, you will likely have a few sales tools to assist you. You will probably present a PowerPoint presentation of the concept, you will review the company’s performance in the FDD, and you will present the Franchise Operations Manual as your proof that you have a well documents system for success.
When everybody can synchronize their thinking related to the Franchise Operations Manual, then the end result will be a more thorough, relevant document for all.