Understanding the challenges of recruiting franchisor staff

Much is written about the recruitment of franchisees but, by comparison, very little is ever written about the recruitment of staff to work for franchisors.

This article explores common challenges when recruiting franchisor staff, and offers some insights into how to overcome these.

Are franchise staff hard to find?

To a certain degree, yes. Franchising is not immune from the implications of Australia’s low rates of unemployment, and franchisors often have to compete with larger corporations to attract staff, in particular, senior staff.

However, there is often a wealth of talent hidden within their existing franchise network. This means that advertising a head office vacancy within the network could reveal potential candidates who not only have the required skills, but also have operational experience in the network and who are acclimatised to the organisational culture as well.

Be warned though, there is a downside to this approach. Franchisees don’t like having their staff “poached” by head office, and even if this was not intended, a franchisee may still feel that the hard work they have put into developing one of their staff will now provide a reward for the franchisor.

This would be true of any other employer as well, but the franchisee may also have to continue dealing with their former employee in their new role.

Alternatively, franchise staff can be found in other franchise networks. These employment candidates may respond to advertising in common print or online media, or seek out potential employers themselves when they are ready to move on to the next challenge in their careers.

What sort of background should franchise staff have?

This is one of the ironies of recruiting franchise executives: They need excellent corporate skills but a small business orientation, and these two attributes don’t readily co-exist.

The reason for the small business orientation is an acknowledgement that while many franchises are big brands, the organisations behind them frequently come under the definition of a small business, and may have relatively small numbers of staff in national office.

Likewise, executives of franchise chains will be better able to empathise and relate with their franchisees (and better understand the mutually dependent relationship that exists) if they have a small business background or orientation themselves.

What are some specific franchise roles?

Franchise head offices have many of the same sorts of roles that exist in any corporate group (e.g. CFO, etc), but ones which are far more franchising specific are in-house legal counsel (in fact, in-house lawyers would rarely be found in corporate organisations as small as some franchise head offices), franchise recruitment personnel, and field support personnel.

Each of these three roles requires a fundamental knowledge of the Franchising Code of Conduct, and the system’s franchise agreement. Training in both of these core knowledge areas should be made available by franchisors to any new recruit about to commence in any of these roles.

How do pay rates compare between franchised and non-franchised businesses?

Not all franchisors are able to compete with the salaries offered at the big end of town, even though they are often chasing the same types of staff. Salaries can start from $50,000 for field support staff in very small franchises, and stretch into six figures for senior executives in very large franchises.

To help offset the potentially lower rate of pay in a franchise compared to a major corporation, franchise staff usually have a lot more autonomy and a wider range of responsibilities which can lead to higher job satisfaction than in the corporate world.

Is franchising a profession?

Unlike accounting or law, franchising is not yet viewed as a profession where people obtain specific qualifications, and then seek a career path using those qualifications.

Franchising qualifications now exist at tertiary level (e.g. Griffith University’s Graduate Certificate in Franchising), however the number of students who graduate with this qualification fall a long way short of the number of jobs created in franchise head offices each year.

That being said, many people have chosen franchising as their profession by continuing to work in the sector and moving back and forth from the corporate world, or moving from one franchise organisation to another.

In some cases, these franchise professionals have worked with up to five different franchise brands over the years.

For these people, the nature of franchising becomes addictive, and once they’ve had a taste of it in their careers, they revisit it frequently.

Do traditional recruitment agencies specialise in franchising?

Most recruitment agencies focus on the big end of town and recruit for major corporations or the public sector. Franchising is small business with a big brand, and recruitment agencies often struggle to understand the small business franchising skills required for most franchise roles.

Recruitment agency fees can also be too expensive for a small, early growth stage franchisor, whose need to constantly reinvest in their business often prompts them to do as much as they can for themselves in order to save money.

Additionally, the franchise sector in Australia is a somewhat close-knit community. This means that many jobs may never be advertised, and the grapevine works well to put candidates in touch with potential employers.

How can someone get a job in franchising without experience?

Simple – just ask! In-field or in-store experience will go a long way toward getting a job in franchising, so working for a franchised or company-owned outlet first could be a good way of developing the operational experience, cultural acclimatisation and small business focus necessary to be later successful in a franchise head office role.

(The Franchise Advisory Centre runs a number of workshops and short courses covering franchising basics and specific job functions to assist new franchisor staff accelerate their job readiness and effectiveness.)

Jason Gehrke is the director of the Franchise Advisory Centre and has been involved in franchising for nearly 20 years at franchisee, franchisor and advisor level.

He advises both potential and existing franchisors and franchisees, and conducts franchise education programs throughout Australia, and publishes Franchise News & Events, a fortnightly email news bulletin on franchising issues and trends.


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