4 simple rules for good franchise culture

How to own your company culture, even when you don't own the company.

franchise culture
Credit: Abigail Keenan

Company culture isn’t only about choosing between Taco Tuesdays and Casual Fridays — it’s about what your company does and how it does it.

It might feel as though signing a franchising contract is the kiss of death for company culture, but nothing could be further from the truth. Franchising is a great opportunity to tap into the success of an existing brand, and it doesn’t have to stifle your branch’s culture.

Below are four simple rules to know if you want to make the most of your franchise's company culture. (If you can think about these before you buy into a franchise, even better.)

1. Know your franchise's roots

Humble beginnings have a track record for creating good company cultures. Maybe it's because professionals who know what it's like to grow a business from the ground up tend to see their employees as people rather than punch-clock numbers.

Take a good look at how a franchise brand has grown over the years. Does the company focus on scaling massively for the lowest cost to itself? Or does it take the time to give back to communities and employees as it grows?

For example, consider the pizza restaurant Giordano's. The 60 restaurants that make up Giordano's today came from a single pizza shop that two brothers started in 1978. Because of these roots, franchising with Giordano's likely means a family atmosphere will be important to the company, and who doesn't like that?

2. Think about the employees closest to you

Some families stretch from coast to coast in the United States, but smaller, nuclear families often have a culture that’s distinct from their cousins a few states away. Think about your last family reunion: Some clusters of people within the family can be very different — for better and for worse.

Work families in a franchise setting are similar. Yes, one of your tasks is to ensure your business lives up to a few key marketing and presentation standards, but the rest is up to you! And that means building a self-contained culture into the larger culture of the company, so hire with this in mind. In fact, do what other folks have done and involve more than just the hiring manager in interviewing new recruits. Make sure the candidate is a good fit, culturally, for the whole team.

3. Highlight local characteristics

When you become a franchise owner, there’s one key ingredient that makes your particular franchise distinctly and totally yours: its location. Parent companies might help you choose a precise location with care — on a corner, for example, or in a particular part of town — but that street corner or empty lot is still in your town.

You’ve undoubtedly patronized restaurants that truly felt like pillars of the community. Maybe there were photos on the walls taken with local politicians or other business owners, or perhaps you noticed mentions in the newspaper for charitable giving.

Every franchise location has an opportunity to stand out in the community it calls home. From sending free food to local sports teams to donating computers to local schools, you’ll have an abundance of opportunities to create a niche and a name for yourself in your chosen location, no matter which larger corporate umbrella you live beneath.

4. Keep training focused and deliberate

As with some of the iconography, slogans and other elements of branding, you’ll also receive guidance on training from the company you’ve signed a franchise agreement with. You’ll likely receive binders full of knowledge to impart to your team members, including methods, best practices and behavioral standards.

This is great, but don't forget that you have an opportunity before you to share the knowledge that makes you a unique businessperson. Think about the small bits of wisdom you’ve picked up that won’t appear in those binders. You’re bound to have opinions on getting the most out of a workday, or the best way to do some small, mission-critical task during peak hours.

Whatever it is, make sure it becomes a part of the training process for your new hires, because it might become something else that helps your franchise stand apart from the pack.

Recognize that franchising isn’t going anywhere

The franchising industry has become a significant boon to the overall U.S. economy. Franchising has grown every year since 2010, and now provides $890 billion in economic output, or 3% of the entire GDP of the United States.

That’s a lot of opportunity — but none of it can be realized fully if you don’t maintain a good helping of local flavor and unique culture alongside your brand ambassadorship. With the tips you’ve just read, you can be well on your way to realizing financial independence, as well as creating a company culture as unique as you are.

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