The other day, I was asked by a franchisee in a large franchise organization: “What are the benefits of having a facilitator at a Franchisee meeting?” First, I started to think that the answer was obvious, then I decided to quiet my brain, and I came to understand what a good question it was, so I spent some time really thinking on it.
First thing I thought was: Many franchisees get together and have meetings and talk, complain, and say what they could do better if only the Franchisor or the economy or the cycle of their business and so on was different or better. I have been a part of many of these meetings as a franchisee and as a business owner or board member, and I must say they can be exciting, but little usually comes from these types of meetings. I further believe that even when positive things do come out of the meeting, they could have been even better with an outside set of eyes, someone who has no personal outcome in mind.
If you were planning a dinner for 100 close friends and family, would you cook this meal or hire a caterer? More than likely, you would hire a caterer. Why? So it went well, so the food was the best it could be, and ultimately, so you would have the best outcome. The same principles hold true when planning a meeting amongst different franchisees, who may have different situations, goals, and expectations. This would allow you to be a part of the discussion and not allow any one franchisee to control the direction or feel of the meeting.
When you bring together say 6 to 10 franchisees, you are using $10,000 to $20,000 of talent for that meeting. To spend 10% of that on a facilitator would be more of an investment in your franchisees’ time and would be reflective of than just the cost of doing business. Once you have the brain power in one room, use it wisely.
Here are some things I do when I facilitate a meeting for franchise organizations:
- Meet in advance with someone in the group to find out what the goal and expectations are for the meeting and help set an agenda;
- Break the ice at start of meeting using a tools or activities that are effective and will build the relationship between the people that are there, and help them better reach their goals;
- Explain agenda at start of meeting and get buy-in from everyone;
- Set rules, if needed, on how meeting will develop and aim for buy-in from all;
- Facilitate the agenda and move each item forward;
- Help keep control of meeting and, most importantly, the focus; often, focus is the most difficult problem a group struggles with;
- Help each member have a voice in the discussion and try to make sure all members have the chance to voice ideas, concerns, and issues;
- Keep the meeting on a positive track, and always make sure that the discussion will move the agenda forward, or in some cases, ask if the group would like to change the agenda;
- Move the group towards consensus, with clear goals and action items agreed on, as well as timelines and who is responsible for the action items;
- Take time at the end of the meeting to make sure everyone said what was needed and that no one walks away with unsaid items;
- Have the group evaluate the meeting for strengths and weaknesses that can be built on for next meeting;
- In some cases, I will work with the person taking the notes and make sure they have been written accurately and that they represent the meeting appropriately.
As one may notice, these items are really a recipe for a successful meeting and a chance to strengthen relationships, goals, and your own business. A facilitator will take it upon themselves to make sure all of the above happen in a meaningful way, so that all the members of the meeting can focus on the real issues. I usually suggest one member take notes or bring someone in to take notes because that is something I never enjoy doing. I am all about the human relations, focus, and success of the meeting. Quite often, we use flip charts, from which notes can be taken very easily.
If you agree with these points that I have written, I can assure you a facilitator will actually cost you less than you think; it is well worth the small investment. If you can walk away from the meeting with goals, tasks, and a positive attitude that will allow you to carry out what needs to be done, you have had a successful meeting. A facilitator will work to make sure that is exactly what happens, and then some. That is real value: to receive more than what you paid for. I certainly hope that is what all of my clients feel when they have hired me to facilitate a meeting or a strategic planning session.
Steve Whiteside is an executive coach and consultant specializing in organizational development, leadership and motivational workshops, with small and medium sized companies as well as franchise organizations. You can contact him at, 604-786-5677.