3 Franchisor Management And Expansion Takeaways From Undercover Boss

By Alan Dodaro,
August 9, 2017

Beyond being known as one of the leading business reality shows, Undercover Boss has shown audiences across the world that building a business empire takes constant dedication to reinforce the brand’s culture, values, and operations. Introducing viewers to a wide range of business types, Undercover Boss shows a few common themes, challenging franchisors to hire great employees and provide a top notch customer experience. We’ve outlined a few of the underlying takeaways for franchisor management. If you own a franchise, think about how well your franchisees are hitting the mark on representing your brand, and what you’d expect to see if you decide to moonlight in one of your locations for a day.

Identifying if Franchise Processes Are Broken

The basic premise of Undercover Boss is having a business owner or franchisor use a disguise to work as an entry-level employee at several locations across a brand’s network. Once inside, the boss gets trained on systems from other employees, often hearing their pain points on what may not be working – sometimes the result of a company growing too quickly, providing fewer franchise resources, or not focusing on the core values the company once embraced. These gradual changes aren’t always communicated back to the corporate office, or if they are, the leadership team doesn’t prioritize the issue as being critical enough to support with additional resources or personnel. But seeing the challenges firsthand enables the boss to empathize with the staff and understand how the lack of support impacts their overall business.

In many of the episodes, the leadership team understands the issue, provides more franchisee support, or elevates key employees who think of new ideas with promotions or valuable training opportunities. To avoid similar issues with your franchisees, ensure you have a feedback process in place to hear directly from your different locations on processes that can be improved or instances where additional training or support may be needed.

You can also take a look at the metrics your corporate office has on hand to measure the health of your locations. Does a particular store experience higher than average turnover? Have sales stagnated at a particular location as other owners seem to excel? Your customers are looking for a consistent experience regardless of the locations they decide to patronize. Ensure all of your owners have the resources they need to provide a great experience across your growing franchise network.

Seeing How Shining Stars Elevate the Entire Team

Your team members can make or break your business. One of the best parts of Undercover Boss is seeing how the owner finds the great contributors who have a true passion for your business, excel in their role, and could be ready to lead a new location or step into a management position. In many episodes, the franchisor doesn’t have any idea who these great team members are until they’re undercover at the individual location. Some of these top contributors are optimistically doing their best, despite operational or personal challenges they’ve experienced.

Top contributors bring fresh ideas and a great spirit to overcome challenging co-workers, broken processes, and other impediments that the franchisor may not have insight into before stepping into each location. For many owners, helping keep these top employees in the brand family and elevating their potential are the biggest priorities. These franchisors know how critical retaining great people is to providing a the best customer experience and contribute to the growth of the business. The key takeaway here: spend time in each of your locations to meet the team and identify those with the most potential – whether they’re your franchisee or an entry-level employee that shows passion and potential.

Understanding the Importance of Workplace Culture and Your Team

Many of the challenges the franchisors in Undercover Boss face are related to a breakdown of process and culture. Sometimes one franchisee or manager bring negativity to the staff or fail to live up to the brand’s core values. This ranges through poor treatment of personnel, inappropriate behavior, or cutting corners to save time while sacrificing customer service or product quality. When the boss sees this behavior first hand, they’re typically angered and want to take immediate action to restore the culture they envision each franchisee is living every day they’re managing their team.

The bosses in these situations know how hard it is to build a viable workplace culture that scales across several locations – and how quickly this can be lost when people who don’t support the brand vision begin to creep into the organization. Hard decisions follow – to determine whether or not those not representing the brand require more training, coaching, or possibly termination. Regardless of the change, the management team knows that disconnect in overall company vision can have a damaging impact on locations – or the overall brand that takes time to correct.

How is the culture across your locations? Are you taking time to work on the front lines and hear from your team members (and customers) what the experience is like? Identifying any challenges or hiccups early can mitigate problems down the road and reinforce your values that make your culture strong.

Avoid these Undercover Boss Pitfalls: Start Strong with a Great Team

One of the best tools you can give your franchisees is the tools and support they need to make good hires. Remember: these owners are joining your brand because they’re passionate business people who may not have a strong HR or recruiting background. As a result, they might need some support on the people side of their operations. A strong applicant tracking system that guides them through the hiring process and helps automate mundane tasks so they can focus on managing their business can transform franchise hiring into a well-oiled machine. Learn more about this process in our eBook, “9 Elements of a Well-Oiled Hiring Process.”

About the Author

Alan is the content and product marketing manager, responsible for educating Hireology customers on new product features and platform best practices. He brings experience from previous startup and digital agency roles. Before beginning his career, Alan attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, with a major in advertising and a minor in library information science.

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