Creating a Culture of Learning in Your Franchise

Brand = Consistency, and consistency comes from effective training.

By Robert Bilotti, Managing Director, Novita Training

The only difference between a franchise and a collection of “mom-and-pop shops” is training. Think about it, what is a franchise? It’s a brand, and what makes up a brand? It’s the products and services you sell, but mostly it’s the way you do business. When you bring on a new franchisee, you must train them on the way you do business. When that franchisee hires new employees, they, too, must be trained on that way. The reason a McDonald’s in Paris, TX, is the same as one in Paris, France, is because it sells mostly the same products, but also because the experience is the same. Brand = Consistency, and consistency comes from effective training.

Training is one of the most significant competitive differentiators you have, if not the most. So why is it an afterthought for most franchisors? Why do the majority of franchisors…

  • Reluctantlyallocate money for training.
  • Half-hardheartedly spend the time developing training.
  • Grudgingly allow employees time off for training.

One reason is because much of what’s considered training out there today is grossly ineffective. But it’s also an attitude toward training, a disrespect, if you will.

Here are common mistakes franchisors (big and small) make when it comes to training:

Startups—wait-and-see approach. I’ve had several new franchisors say to me, “I’ll wait until I sell my first few franchises, then I’ll worry about training.” So for your first few locations, the most important ones in terms of proving the concept, you’re going to wing it?!

Growing—failing to revise training to fit the new growth model. We’ve seen brands trying to open 100 locations a year the same way they were opening 10 a year, and they wonder why they’re not getting the same results. You can hold the hands of 10; you can’t hold the hands of 100.

Established—resting on their laurels. As your market becomes saturated, same-store sales is what drives your revenue, and that requires changes, innovations, improvements, efficiencies, reductions, etc., and training is crucial to achieving each.

So how should franchisors “respect” training? Here are a few ways:

  • Name a training person to your executive team.
  • Add a discussion about training to every executive team meeting, regional meeting, national meeting, town hall meeting, etc.
  • Hire or appoint a training manager; depending upon your size, this could be a half-time person or a department of 20.
  • Allocate annual dollars to a training fund (think co-op for training).
  • Devise a training “program,” not just individual classes. Training is not en event; it’s a process.
  • Develop effective training. If you don’t know how, hire a vendor that does. Hint: If your idea of training is PowerPoint slides, it may be time to bring in an expert.
  • Base your training on your processes, i.e., your standards or best practices. Hint: If you don’t know what your best practices are, it may be time to bring in an expert.
  • Invest in a learning management system (LMS). Any franchisor with more than 10 locations should have one. Hint: If you didn’t know what LMS stands for until reading this article, it may be time to bring in an expert.

If you're thinking, “Whoa, this is going to take time and money,” you’re right. Each of these requires know-how and effort, and that’s not free. What’s more, this is only the tip of the iceberg. But don’t get paralyzed by trying to do too much at once. Start off small. Do something, get yourself a “win” and then move on to the next thing.

One final thought: If you devote even half the time, money, and effort to training as you do to franchise sales, you’ll soon be operating an efficient and profitable brand. And isn’t that easier to sell?

Robert Bilotti is managing director of Novita Training, an employee and franchise training and development firm. Novita works with corporations and franchisors in designing custom-made training programs that increase performance and operational efficiency, decrease costs, and boost revenue. For more information, visit

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.