Should you be friends with your franchisor?
In the first exciting discussions, when you may be talking to salespeople and current franchisees especially recruited to help persuade you to choose a particular franchise business opportunity, you might feel like you have made friends. Lots of friends, even.
If you’re getting in on the ground floor with a new franchise, you might continue to feel like a friend. You’re growing the business together, right? You give insightful advice and feedback to help your franchisor improve the franchise, and you naturally get some special treatment as one of the early franchisees.
There’s nothing wrong with liking the people you work with. But when you’re making a business deal, and especially a franchise business deal, you should try to achieve a specific level of friendliness.
Your goal should be to be friendly up to the point where your mutual respect and admiration improve your business relationship… and no further.
What’s wrong with getting cozy with your franchisor?
- Many people who are excellent at sales have a great need to be liked, and will put a lot of energy into getting close to their prospects, not just to sell their wares but also to establish that human connection that matters so much to them. It’s a strength for them as salespeople. For the people being wooed, however, it can make it hard to ask questions. Being too pointed about concerns you might have with the franchise agreement becomes uncomfortable — how can you ask your new best friend a question like that?! You back off from your most important job of getting all the information you need and end up without a full understanding of the deal you accept.
- Mutual respect and admiration help your franchisor listen to your feedback and appreciate your ideas. That’s great. Excessive friendliness can make your franchisor give you special treatment, overlook parts of the franchise agreement, and give in to special requests. Every time that happens, it has the potential to weaken the brand. That’s the brand you bought into. You want it strong, not weak, and so does your franchisor. When personal feelings get in the way of keeping the brand strong, you both lose… and so do the other franchisees. What’s the result? Anger and resentment, in all likelihood. There goes the friendship.
- In the end, it’s all about the business. As the franchise grows and evolves over time, your relationship with your franchisor may naturally change. So will the nature of your business. But you will always be bound by the terms of the franchise agreement. When you know you have business relationship and that the business is the priority, you can sustain a good relationship even in the face of tough changes, because the business is the foundation of your relationship. If friendship is the foundation, it can be hard to avoid hurt feelings.
In a business relationship, respect may be better than friendship over the long run. Build a strong business relationship instead of a friendship, and keep your relationship from harming your business.