Franchise Owners Stay in Training
Printed in USA Today
by Nancy Rathbun Scott
"Please take advantage of these classes, as you can never learn too much!" This summons to train, train, train, sent by Uniglobe Travel (International), Inc. to its franchisees, emphasizes a key ingredient in any franchise company's recipe for success-franchise owner training programs.
"Our huge emphasis on training is in line with our real corporate mission to build successful restaurants, not just a franchise organization," says Sue Hoover, senior vice president of marketing for Quizno's Classic Subs. At Ziebart International, a 35-year-old truck and auto service franchise company, "training has changed, but the way we value it hasn't," according to Greg Longe, vice president of franchise development. "It is one of our strengths."
Even Sandler Systems, a franchise company in the business of developing and selling training programs to corporations, rigorously trains, coaches, and encourages networking among its own franchisees. "You can't be in the training development business unless you are a product of the product-and unless you continue to learn and improve your skills," says Jim Martin, executive vice president and CEO. "That's the bottom line."
Training paves the way to success
Just ask successful franchise owners the secret of their success and nine times out of ten the answer will be "training," according to a recent survey conducted by The Gallup Organization for the International Franchise Association Educational Foundation. Franchisees agree that corporate programs designed to share knowledge and expertise through training and coaching enhance a franchise owner's success.
Corporate training and post-training support work hand-in-hand to motivate franchise owners to do the job right from the beginning. Ongoing support ensures increased productivity and improved standards of performance. Equally important, training raises the confidence level of new franchise owners. Uniglobe speaks for most successful franchisors in saying, "The proper skills and knowledge, once acquired, will breed self assurance, career fulfillment, client satisfaction and agency profitability."
Training is the first step
Before the ink is dry on their franchise contract, most new franchisees undergo a combination of classroom and hands-on training.
At Sandler Systems, the franchise owners are well-trained trainers who provide ongoing coaching and mentioning to sales professionals. Backing them up is the franchise company's library of training curricula, tapes and notebooks, which the trainer can take to the client. "We get them up and running in business as fast as possible," Martin says. "Each franchisee is assigned a corporate coach whose primary function is to make that person successful-calling every day, answering questions, giving good back-up support."
"Uniglobe's regional franchisor offers A-Z training right away, bringing franchise owners on stream with all they need to do to get their travel agency up and operating, including how to hire staff and get the back office into place," says Stephen Lewis, Uniglobe's vice president for corporate communications. "At Uniglobe's international headquarters we immerse them in the whole culture of Uniglobe and get them to meet key people in all the different areas."
Making the transition
Hands-on training is a great confidence builder. For example, to smooth the transition from the classroom to the work setting, Big O Tires, Inc. puts new franchisees in a controlled classroom setting at a technical training base attached to an actual working store.
"The required five-week course covers just about every operational issue a franchisee might face-everything from the tire and automotive repair industry, to specifics in our product line, to our marketing and sales programs, to undercar service repair, to financial management and human resources," says Greg Foster, national director of training operations for Big O Tires, Inc.
Capping the training, Big O's new franchisees run the company store under the tutelage of fully trained staff who guide each step. "They get to handle everything from opening and closing procedures to direct dealings with customers and employees," says Foster. The experience enables franchise owners to hit the ground running.
Hands-on training ranks especially high in companies built on product quality and service. At Ziebart, Longe says success depends on ensuring that the right product is installed and the right service provided. That's why the new franchisees and their key staff spend six weeks at Ziebart's Troy, Michigan, training facility learning about every product and service sold. "Our internal certification requirements and programs are written right into the franchise agreement, enforcing strict standards and benchmarks that trainees have to meet. With completion of the sales training class, a new Ziebart franchisee gets to run the company store for a week in a live environment, with the company branch manager standing right there. This real world experience gets all the jitters out on our nickel."
Quizno's Classic Subs, with 335 restaurants in 35 states and Puerto Rico, also offers part of its classroom and in-store training at regional training stores. To improve the performance and success of new franchisees, Quizno's is building a new interactive training system for restaurant employees. "This is the hottest thing we have coming," says Sue Hoover. "With our interactive program, trainees can sit down in front of the computer screen and learn recipes for sandwiches and get tested on the results right there in the store."
Learning from experienced franchisees
Franchise companies recognize that their own franchisees constitute one of their richest training resources. Training sessions for Sandler Systems franchise owners at quarterly conferences are often conducted by more experienced franchisees who share what's working for them. "Then at our regional meetings, franchisees spend a day swapping ideas and best practices," says Sandler's Martin.
Val-Pak Direct Marketing Systems, Inc. developed its training programs with the assistance of successful franchisees. Val-Pak president Joe Bourdow, a former Val-Pak franchisee of 17 years, says the company provides a "New Franchise Owner Kit," a comprehensive audio and video home study course that covers basic sales training, production guidelines and marketing direction. In addition, Val-Pak's five-day training seminar at corporate headquarters for new franchisees includes classroom instruction conducted by successful Val-Pak franchisees and company managers.
Just Cruisin'
When Deirdre Wolff from West Bloomfield, Michigan, bought a CruiseOne franchise, she wasn't expecting to learn much at the company's week-long training session. Wolff, an ex-Chrysler executive with an M.B.sA, already knew a lot about management and finance. She had traveled extensively and knew what she liked. So, while she was eager to learn from the travel franchise that specializes in booking cruises, she didn't quite knew what to expect.
For Wolff, the rewards turned out to be high touch, rather than high tech. For one thing, she got the chance to meet face-to-face with district sales managers of major cruise lines. "This helped me put a name with a face and was invaluable for future contacts."
Wolff also made a solid connection with another African American woman who also had recently become a franchise owner. "We found out we had been in the same sorority and we've stayed in contact."
Finally, Wolff got an onboard look at the product she sells. "We toured nine different cruise ships, so I got a first-hand look at exactly what each has to offer and what makes each special. That makes it much easier for me to match certain cruises to certain clients."
Training benefits like these underlie the results of a recent survey commissioned by the International Franchise Association Educational Foundation and conducted by The Gallup Organization. In that study, nearly three of four current franchisees surveyed said that the level of assistance provided by their franchisor either exceeded or met their expectations.
At Ziebart International new franchisees and their key staff spend six weeks at the company's Troy, Michigan, training facility studying every product and service sold by the automotive franchise.

® copyright 1999 Nancy Rathbun Scott
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