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The importance of your franchise manual and keeping it current

The best advice to new and established franchisors regarding this essential component of your franchise 

The question that all start up Franchisors ask is ‘how can I control 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.

Often when beginning as a Franchisor these documents are set up in a fairly ‘early stages’ manner but then further development work gets overlooked, or the business changes but amendments are not made so the manual becomes out of date.

Manuals are therefore the most important document that the Franchisor or Master Franchisee has to train, control and if necessary rein in the Franchisees if they go astray.

Good, modern 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 standards.
  • 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.
  • Save the Franchisor from repeated questions from the network.

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.
  • 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.
  • Readable – Franchisees will use the manual as a training and reference work, the lay out 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 help to achieve benefits for both Franchisor and Franchisee providing a stronger link between them. They 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 protect 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 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, looking after premises, statutory requirements on employment, employee sick pay, annual leave and all the 1001 things a responsible business owner has to keep in mind to run a successful business.

This manual will contain information on the financial side of the business, accounting, cash flow forecasts, paying staff, and all the statutory requirement of the business owner.  It is also good practice to define how the Franchisee may renew the agreement, or sell the business.

Franchisors who do not help their Franchisees with all this detail run the risk of early failure if the Franchisee does not run his business properly, or worse, ends up in court for failing in the statutory duties.

The Operations Manual – this is how to run the specific franchise. The Operations Manual contains the detail of the way in which the Franchisor’s system is to be operated in order to discharge the obligations contained in the agreement.

It will contain the history and development of the Franchisor business and brand, the know-how, business systems and procedures, the day to day operating requirements and the on-going development of the business. It may also be the text-book that the Franchisor uses when training new Franchisees.

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.
  • 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.

It is worth remembering that 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 as a door-stop any tome which is dense, wordy and irrelevant.

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, electronic format, disc, memory stick.
  • Comprehensive index making each subject easy to find.
  • Cross reference system showing where other information may 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.