Richard Langrick at Ashtons Franchise Consultancy delves down into what franchise and operations manuals are and the benefits of them
The question that all potential franchisors ask is ‘how can I govern what the franchisees do with my brand?’
The concern that franchisees can use the brand and operate the business without any regard for the franchisor’s wishes can best be answered by ensuring that all franchisees are properly equipped with franchise agreements that lay out clearly the obligations of the franchisee, and carefully constructed franchise and operations manuals that explain and amplify the terms of the agreement in operational detail.
But this question is not only for new franchisors – it is no less important for existing franchises where the manual needs updating and refreshing as the network matures, and for franchisors based outside the UK who need to ensure that their Franchise Agreement and manual is relevant to the UK market.
Manuals are therefore the most important document that the franchisor has to train, regulate and, if necessary, rein in the franchisees if they go astray. The manuals will;
- Safeguard the franchisor’s intellectual property. Ideas, know-how and trade secrets will be protected by copyright
- Satisfy the franchisor’s obligation to provide a copy of the manual, on loan, for the duration of the franchise
- Strengthen the terms of the Franchise Agreement
- Be the basis for the franchisee training course
- Define quality standard
- Provide consistency of standards across the network
- Be the point of reference in case of legal dispute
- Set the way in which KPI.s and targets will be monitored
- Allow the franchisor to update systems
To be fit for purpose manuals must be;
- Up to date – although the Franchise Agreement cannot be changed, the manuals are a constant work in progress, developing as the franchise network develops. This particularly applies to existing mature networks where new ideas and working practices need to be communicated to existing franchisees as well as new ones.
- Detailed – the agreement talks about contractual obligations. The manual spells out in detail the actual way in which the obligations are to be met.
- Specific – written for the particular franchise, not a generic one-size-fits-all handbook. Franchises coming to the UK from overseas often need a complete re-working of their manuals to be relevant and specific to the UK market.
- Readable – franchisees will use the manual as a training and reference work. The layout needs to be in an easy to read format.
- Clear – the franchisee needs to be in no doubt as to the requirements. Jargon should be kept to a minimum or explained, sections should be clearly labelled, and easy to find.
What are the benefits of manuals? Well-constructed manuals will ensure the franchisee’s complete understanding not only of the business, and the obligations in the Franchise Agreement, but also the statutory requirements of running any business. This is as much for the protection of the franchisee as for the franchisor who needs to safeguard his reputation and brand credibility. Manuals will also be the basis of the training course, and the franchisees’ go-to for all queries on procedure and systems, substantially reducing calls to the franchise manager or Head Office.
What manuals do I need? The Franchise Manual – this manual sets out in detail how to run a franchise business, and will typically include general sections on marketing, selling, recruiting staff, training staff, HR and Health and Safety, GDPR, looking after premises, statutory requirements on employment, employee sick pay, pensions, annual leave and all the 1001 things a responsible business owner has to keep in mind to run a successful business. The Operations Manual – this is how to run the specific franchise. The Operations Manual contains the details of the way in which the franchisor’s system is to be operated in order to discharge the obligations contained in the agreement. Typically, an operations manual will;
- Document the main operating requirements
- Document the main management requirements
- Identify the responsibilities of the franchisee
- Define the core values of the franchise Ø Set benchmarks for quality
- Define KPI.s, reporting and monitoring procedures
- Cross reference with other documents, manuals and training aids It is possible to combine these two into one manual if the franchisee is the only user. However, if the operations part of the manual is also to be used by employees, there needs to be separation as some of the Franchise Manual contents are for the franchisee’s information and use only. In retail situations, there may also be a need for handbooks for the retail assistants covering simple instructions on, for instance, attendance, dress, sickness and so on.
Franchisees will use any reference work which is user-friendly and a real help in the day-to-day running of the business but will use any tome which is dense, wordy and irrelevant as a door stop. To get the best out of the manual, consider;
- Easy to read type face, short sentences, lots of graphics
- Appropriate medium – might be hard copy as a book, loose-leaf for easy page changes, or password protected electronic format
- Comprehensive index making each subject easy to find
- Cross reference system showing where other information may be found
- Common style with all other documents
Why use a professional manual writer?
Simply because gathering all the necessary information, writing it down in an easy to read format, and ensuring that all statutory requirements are included is a time consuming business, and often best looked at from the outside to get an objective underpinning of the Franchise Agreement as well as a guide to replicating the franchisor’s business.
Professional manual writers have franchise consultancy experience as well as authoring, editing and publishing skills. They have the software that turns a lot of words into an interesting reference guide, and the expertise to ensure that the manuals are consistent with all the other documents that define the franchisor’s business.