Identifying the leader, understanding the group and implementing change

Date Wednesday, 27 March 2013 12:00 AM


As the CEO of a large franchise, I am constantly making changes and implementing new procedures to my franchise system that can affect more than 110 franchisees around the world. 
Leadership in franchising can be tricky. Leadership is usually associated with being in charge, providing strategic direction and to a certain extent, telling people what to do. But in franchising, successful leadership is much more than that. 
If you are a franchisor, it is likely that you will find that franchisees are not your typical employee. As they are business owners or shareholders of your brand, they will not necessarily follow direction just because you give it – and nor should they. 
Franchisees usually evaluate the direction and what it means for their business. If they believe it will have a negative impact they will certainly let you know. While the individual franchisee has a right to protect their interests, it can at times be frustrating when you are trying to implement a business strategy you know will help their business in the long run. 
Franchisees can be resistant to change, especially when they buy in to a company for the sense of stability and system that franchisees already have in place. To a certain extent they are right to access the affect on their business. 
But as a franchisor and a leader it is your role to ensure the future success of the business, for the benefit of all franchisees, by implementing strategies that will continue to help it grow, despite pushback from those who cannot see the immediate need or benefit of the change. 
Understanding the dynamics of your group is essential to leadership, especially in an environment such as franchising. It can be difficult to master at first, but through years of experience in franchising and successful change implementation, I have developed a method that has proven results. 
Let me share a simple tip I learnt very early in my franchising career: within each group of people there is someone that everyone looks up to and listens to. Here’s the bad news – it’s probably not you. The sooner you accept that, the better off you will be. 
Identifying that person can make meetings more productive and new strategies become so much easier to implement: they are the leader of the group and they have more control of a group situation than you think. 
I remember a franchise meeting to announce a new marketing direction for G.J. Gardner Homes, where I presented a marketing solution that was nothing but mainstream and if implemented correctly could mean a huge increase in sales for my franchisees. 
When I finished, all eyes in the room turned to the leader of the group. He instantly said the strategy would never work and without hesitation the rest of the group followed his lead in rejecting the strategy and the project was doomed. 
It was that day I realised the importance of understanding the dynamics of the group and the role the leader plays in change implementation.  I decided I would consult the leader before the next meeting and arranged a time to see him face-to-face to ask for his input on the strategy, how he would implement it and welcomed his feedback on the best way to approach franchisees. 
The leader acknowledged there would be negative franchisees, and suggested that we worked together to get everyone on board. He started to take ownership of the strategy: with his input and after being consulted, he had a vested interest in the successful implementation of the strategy. Once I had the leader’s support, the rest of the franchisees followed and we had one of the most successful implementations to date. 
This example taught me an important lesson that engaging the leader can be an extremely useful practice, especially for the announcement and implementation of a new strategy, policy or procedure for your franchisees. I have continually used this strategy to build my business and better connect with my employees. 
Understanding the ‘Leader’ and becoming the influencer
While leaders can be helpful in engaging other franchisees, they can also have the opposite effect if you don’t effectively manage the situation. Leaders can be opposed to anything you say and instantly disagree with your strategy without knowing the details. Sometimes natural leaders don’t like to be surprised and instinctively do not like an idea unless it is their own or have had played a role in its formation. 
That’s why it is important to engage the leader first. Presenting what you will be discussing and how important their input is will help you achieve their stamp of approval before addressing the group. 
If you let the leader know you are aware some of the group is likely to respond negatively to the announcement, the leader can help you to come up with ideas on how to handle the announcement. Having the leader involved will help you to take control of the announcement and understand, from a franchisee level, what it will mean for the business.  
In most cases I see frustration by franchisors trying to implement change or strategy that they know will not only be good for the franchisee’s business but also for the franchisee.  If you announce a new change without gaining the leader’s support first, it may result in little or no buy-in from your franchisees, which could ultimately lead to the demise of your initiative. 
Learning how to influence your franchisees is a powerful tool and it helps you be a better leader, attributing to the success of your company. 
The question is simple – how successful do you want to be as a leader? Being a leader does not mean barking orders and fighting your way through change. Be smart, connect with your franchisees and understand that being able to influence others will lead you and your franchisees to a better business.  
About G.J. Gardner Homes
Founded by Greg Gardner in 1983, the group is Australia’s most experienced and trusted homebuilder, having built more than 25,000 custom homes in Australia, New Zealand and the United States since its establishment.
G.J. Gardner Homes now has an international network of more than 111 G.J. Gardner Homes franchises and an annual turnover of more than $525 million.  Over the past 12 months, CEO of G.J. Gardner Homes Darren Wallis, has successfully positioned the company as a leader in homebuilding in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. According to the recently released HIA-COLOURBOND, Steel Housing 100 report, 
G.J. Gardner Homes is the 8th largest builder and the 7th largest detached house builder in Australia. In New Zealand, G.J. Gardner Homes is currently the number one residential builder. A finalist for CEO Magazine’s Construction Executive of the Year, Wallis has a passion for generating business that will see the G.J. Gardner Homes franchise reach new heights in the coming years. 
G.J. Gardner Homes currently has 57 franchises in Australia, 26 in New Zealand and 28 in the United States with a growing team of 855 employees.
More information about G.J. Gardner Homes can be found on their website

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