Do You Understand the Development Stages Your Franchisees Go Through?

Understanding the developmental stages of your franchisees is critical for building communications and support infrastructures capable of producing successful relationships. Many franchisors see only two stages: new and older franchisees. They miss out important distinctions failing to address the needs of franchisees at their different stages of growth.

Franchisees go through 4 distinct developmental phases: infancy, adolescence, adulthood, and seniority. When franchisees first join your system they are like infants requiring a lot of support and training. During this early stage, they need to learn the rules of the game; and in franchising, these boundaries are the franchisor policies and procedures. They also learn the consequences to their choices. For example, if they don’t follow the system, they most likely won’t get the financial rewards they seek from their businesses; they may not get the customers they need or may lose the ones they got.

This is a difficult stage for franchisees because they are totally out of their comfort zone. They not only require knowledge and information; they need franchisors to understand and address their emotional states of mind and how these interfere with their learning and ability to implement. One of the most important elements that forms during this stage is TRUST. During this stage franchisees need consistency of message, they have a hard time dealing with paradoxes and concepts must be broken down into small pieces. During the early days, franchisees are usually more open to learn and appear to be more grateful and appreciative of what the franchisor offers.

After the first year, and in some cases just a few months, franchisees enter the adolescence stage. They get some of the basics of the business down, and begin to believe they know better than the franchisor. They thus start challenging the system in a behavior similar to that of teenagers. In my opinion this is the most difficult and most critical stage franchisees have to go through. They have mastered some parts of the business and fool themselves into thinking they know it all; they cheat themselves from learning all the intricacies of the franchise methodology. This is dangerous because it is at this point when franchisees start deviating from the proven system of the franchisor; deviation that often results in failure. Many franchisors focus most of their training and support effort during the infancy stage relaxing their standards after a few months. However, I believe that it is at the adolescence stage when coaching and training need to intensify. Franchisees must be helped to see that they really do not know everything; but yet, they must also be recognized for what they have mastered. It is a tricky balance. Open and honest communications is the only way to continue to build trust.

As franchisees carry on learning the business after a couple of years they reach their adulthood stage. Now they know how to communicate with the franchisor and how to be part of the team. They also have learned the business basics and have comprehended all the layers of understanding needed for the business to produce results. They also know the value the franchisor contributes to their success. During this stage franchisees seek recognition and inclusion. Franchisors who don’t attend to these needs fail to engage these franchisees and miss out on the contributions they can make to the franchise system. Moreover, if these needs are not met, franchisees may start to disengage from the team.

As time goes on, franchisees become senior members of the team ready and willing to contribute at all times. During this phase franchisees are not only important “validators” of the franchise opportunity, they have valuable experience to offer to the team. Yet, franchisees only get to be contributing and engaged senior members when the franchisor has in place the right communication and support systems to address the needs of franchisees at each of their developmental stages.

The success of the franchise relation is not all about the business concept and the information transferred to the franchisee. Instead, it calls for understanding and addressing the needs of franchisees at each of the different developmental stages.


  1. Some great tips on how to manage the franchisor-franchisee relationship and the stages it goes through. I especially liked the parallel to adolescence. Its true this can be a real critical time for a franchise as it depends so much on keeping to the proven system to have the best chance of succeeding.