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4 minutes reading time (793 words)

3 Areas where Franchisors can make positive steps to deal with COVID-19's impact

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It is fair to say, it is this week that COVID-19 really hit home in New Zealand. The franchise sector is no different, and covering so many, mainly small businesses, employing over 124,000 people, collectively there is a lot of concern.I do not think that anyone has seen or has foreseen disruption to the level that many are envisaging.

We should all follow the guidelines on how to slow the spread of the virus but we should also be looking at how we can flatten the franchise sector's "impact curve", limit the damage and speed the recovery.

If there are positives out of any of this, they are that we can look towards, learn and share what is happening in the franchise sector and what franchisors are and should be doing.

1. Communicate

Now is certainly no time for franchisors and franchise leaders to be quiet. Make some calls, risk sending one too many emails and or Facebook / LinkedIn posts to your customers and stakeholders.

Most franchisors would have correctly started by communicating with their head office teams.They themselves need to feel secure not only in the face of the virus but also the potential impact that it will have on the business and their livelihoods.Franchise support teams need to feel they have support from the top down, they are likely to be the facing franchisees and even the well experienced ones will now be dealing with new challenges.It goes beyond the initial email or discussion and should be every day, if you have teams working remotely, start the day with a 5 minute virtual huddle via zoom or skype meeting.Think about how you can safely maintain contact with franchisees and continue visits.Some systems are splitting teams and keeping remote teams away from head office.

Franchisees will be looking towards their franchisors for support, guidance and re-assurance. Good franchisors are not only in constant communication with their franchisees, but ensuring that they are providing updated information that can be distributed to franchisees' teams, and most importantly customers. Brands need to be owning and taking the lead of communications with customers as much as possible.Now is also the time for franchise advisory councils to be stepping up and assisting with communications with-in the system.High up the list of things to communicate should be the Government Business Support Package, every franchisee should be looking at this now.

Pro-active franchisors are engaging with their larger stakeholder groups. Depending on the industry this will include, banks, landlords, and most importantly and not to be forgotten, industry or trade associations and colleagues. The Franchise Association of New Zealand is looking at avenues to maintain interaction with members including virtual sessions and workshops on topics of interest and assistance to members. And yes, colleagues include your brand competitors, right now they are facing the same issues and are most similar to yourself.

Lastly, there is a huge amount of press and industry information, do not get media overload, but work on keeping abreast of what information is available, scan it, share it. 

2. Keep business open!

To be clear I am not advocating that anyone risks making others sick and or disregards any official advice but, we need to keep doing business!

However, franchisors should be looking at every opportunity to keep "the doors open" on their franchisees businesses.Iridium Partners works closely with a number of food and beverage brands, an industry that is already facing a plethora of changes. For them it is being proactive in communicating with customers that they are open and taking steps to protect public health, expanding pick up and delivery services and focusing on digital platforms.Even for non food and beverage it's about moving as much as possible to digital and online. Get "business" to where customers are, if they are going to be home, work on getting it there. If your current format does not fit this model, change it.

I am aware of a number of conversations that franchisors are already having on behalf of franchisees, whether affected now or potentially in the future. As a sector and economy, we have never been more in this together. There needs to be dialogue on everything from franchise fees, rental holidays, bank loan repayment scheduling and just about anything else that keeps money moving.

3. Stay calm.

As I said at the beginning, franchisees will be looking for leadership from franchisors perhaps like never before. Remember that it won't last forever, but there is no doubt that it will change the economic and franchise landscape.Stay Calm, make and communicate your plans and look after your people. Looking after starts with checking in and making sure that they are ok, there is so much disruption and concern already. Let's flatten that "impact curve".


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