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8 Ways to Build Relationships Between Franchisors and Suppliers

Larry Myer

Larry Myer

Finding someone who speaks the same language, communicating with them and respecting the roles of everyone involved is the beginning.

A successful franchise is made up of many things. It’s the result of many ideas, hours, dollars and so on. Building a world-class system begins with establishing great working relationships with suppliers. Franchisors who build relationships with suppliers that are committed and dedicated to the success of their franchise will ultimately grow and prosper. Below are eight key ways to build a successful franchisor-supplier relationship.

Find Someone That Speaks Your Language

Being on the same page is a really important aspect when collaborating. This starts and ends with effective communication. Each supplier has its own way of “talking” to its clients. In addition, each franchisor has its own language too. Finding a comfortable supplier that speaks the same language is a big part of a successful franchisor-supplier relationship. Having the ability to understand each other creates the foundation for an effective relationship to be built on.

Benefit From a Supplier’s Experience

It is also beneficial for a franchisor to work with a supplier who is committed to franchising and understands the unique relationship between franchisors and franchisees. Suppliers who are committed to the International Franchise Association through their support and partnership with the IFA Supplier Forum provide franchisors with years of experience in franchising and are better able to provide franchisors with effective solutions and alternatives to their franchise program.

1302-people-flow-webCommunicate Your Needs and Expectations

Communication is a key aspect of this relationship. A franchisor should take the time to clearly communicate to each supplier the brand’s needs and expectations. Effective communication can do three things. First, with the knowledge at hand, the supplier is better equipped to provide the franchisor with solutions. Second, it can reduce errors and inefficiencies. Third, it can help improve supplier performance when used as a feedback mechanism. In addition, being honest from the beginning is arguably another best thing in a relationship. Suppliers should be up-front about their capabilities and not promise things they can’t deliver on. In return, franchisors shouldn’t be afraid to give their real opinions if they aren’t 100 percent happy with them. The truth generally leads to the best results and prevents dissatisfaction and costly changes down the road.

Understand Everyone’s Role

A relationship is a lot like a script in that everyone involved has a role to play. If everybody does his part, then a successful franchise program will come out as anticipated. As soon as one person tries to take on a role that isn’t his, the dynamic is thrown out of whack. A franchisor is the expert of his company and the supplier is the expert of his company. As long as everyone respects this dynamic, the relationship has a better chance of turning out as, or better than, anticipated.

By asking specifically when something is needed and making sure that it’s there when requested, a franchisor makes it easier for the supplier to do the job and finish on time.

Be Open to Suggestions

Being the respective experts in their roles, either party shouldn’t be afraid to make suggestions with regard to their areas of expertise. That said, they should also be open to considering ideas presented by the other side. If modifications to the franchise program would make it more productive, profitable and so on, franchisors generally aren’t shy about suggesting them. On the flip side, if a supplier feels a different product, approach or solution would better represent the franchise brand; those ideas should be offered and taken into consideration as well. Who knows, one of these off-the-cuff suggestions could transform a good franchise into a great one. Not to mention, it leaves everyone feeling involved with the program.

1302-worker-webAssign Deadlines

A franchisor gives a supplier a timeline to work with. While much of the burden of keeping the project on schedule falls with the supplier, it’s not entirely on the supplier. Whether it’s providing requested information in a timely manner or sticking to the payment schedule, a franchisor plays a role in keeping everything running smoothly. By asking specifically when something is needed and making sure that it’s there when requested, a franchisor makes it easier for the supplier to do the job and finish on time. Keep everyone on task and on schedule. If both the franchisor and supplier acknowledge their respective deadlines, additional fees and costs that come with being late or overdue can be saved. Delegating decisions to appropriate team members and assigning deadlines can help prevent time-consuming roadblocks in the future. If situations do arise, decisions can be made and the problems can be dealt with quickly and effectively.

Standardize as Much as Possible

When picking out items to go into a store or restaurant, it can be difficult for a franchisor to choose from all the options. Instead of making those decisions on a store-by-store basis, make them once with a supplier and standardize as much as possible. To do so requires a bit of teamwork on the front-end being sure to select items that will be available on a national level when needed, aren’t in any threat of being discontinued and can be easily replaced if they are. This is especially true of interior décor items like flooring, wall finishes and furniture where any changes could drastically alter the entire look and feel of a store. The time spent making these decisions with a supplier initially will help build efficiency into the program and save time in the long run.

Enforce the Plan

When a franchisor has taken the time to put together a solid program with a supplier, for it to really be successful, they need to make sure everyone is sticking to the plan. This may seem like a no-brainer, but in the case of franchises where practically every location has a different owner, compliance isn’t automatically guaranteed. Franchisors may come across a franchisee that wants to use his suppliers or wants to change the brand. By allowing these amendments to the plan, the franchisor is likely to lose some of the program’s efficiency and control, as well as the risk of compromising the brand’s image. To ensure franchisees follow the plan, add the plan and supplier requirements to the Franchise Disclosure Document.

A great franchise program begins with a strong relationship between the franchisor and suppliers. Finding someone who speaks the same language, communicating with them and respecting the roles of everyone involved is the beginning. Continue with being open, on time and honest, along with standardizing and reinforcing the plan makes for a successful franchisor-supplier relationship. ⎯

Larry Myer is vice president of business development for F.C. Dadson, a turnkey provider of retail environments and kiosk programs that offers design, construction management, fixtures, fulfillment and installation services. He can be reached at 920-757-1486, Ext. 110 or larrym@fcdadson.com.

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