5 Ways to Resolve Conflict with your Franchisees

Conflict is not pleasant, but it seems to be part of all relationships at one point or another. In franchising, if conflict is left unchecked it can escalate to the legal arena where communication no longer can heal the differences. Therefore, like it or not, we must deal with conflict and seek ways to resolve it.

  • Prevent differences from escalating to conflict.

The answer to dealing with conflict is not to avoid it, instead it is to prevent it. Avoiding conflict can paralyze a person and a company; and, it may also lead to secrecy and lack of communication.

When we avoid conflict we generally create a much bigger mess. Take for example the franchisor who refuses to move ahead with a needed change in the organization because the franchisees may get upset. His or her lack of action is sure to ignite the discontent of proactive franchisees who desire the change. And, the franchisor who keeps information from franchisees to avoid conflict is bound to face a higher level of discontent. We all know that secrets do not stay secret for very long and that franchisees will find out and resent the lack of trust and honesty.

Preventing conflict is about communication. Keeping franchisees informed of what you are doing and the reasons behind your actions and inaction is the only way to keep differences from escalating to larger issues.

  • Catch it before it goes to the written form.

If you can’t prevent conflict, at least catch it before it soars. If you allow differences of opinion with your franchisees to go to the point of being discussed in a written format you have let it go too far. When franchisees begin to write down their grievances you may be just a few step away from legal action. And, those franchisors who tend to answer any and all complaints with references to the franchise agreement invite such move. The key is to resolve the differences while you are still talking with each other and the only way to do this is to proactively check the morale of your franchisees consistently and often.

  • Seek common ground.

Conflict can only exist when you and your franchisees are pulling in different directions. When dealing with conflict, find the common ground between you and your franchisees. Start the conversation by talking about those things that you agree upon and let these shared values, needs, interests and beliefs be the starting point of your discussion.

  • Actively seek a solution.

Franchisors seeking to resolve conflict must contemplate the fact that they may not have the best answer. To be actively seeking a solution means that you are willing to ask your franchisees and to listen openly to their positions and to their proposed solutions. It requires that you give these proposals an honest chance, at the very least in your mind.

  • Listen.

Conflict can never be resolved if we don’t listen. If franchisors or franchisees keep thinking about their own needs while the other shares theirs, no listening can take place; and thus, no room for conflict resolution exists. When discussing different opinions we must rescind our need to convince our franchisees that we have the answer, at least long enough to hear them out.

To find common ground and find solutions we must be able to sincerely elicit input from franchisees and truly understand their points of view. We need to put ourselves in their positions. We will never be able to do this if we do not listen. Remember, hearing the words is not listening for the latter requires our full attention AND our embracing the possibility that we may not be right or may not have the best answer.


  1. Excellent post, Lizette. I believe you’re spot on in your thoughts and advice in resolving conflict.

    I agree in relationships, conflict is bound to happen. It’s human nature, right? However, I believe what is often missed, both in and out of franchising, is being proactive in fortifying relationships to minimize the possibility of conflict. That to me, is key and paramount in establishing and strengthening relationships. What can be done in the early stages of the relationship to make sure communications don’t break down? Afterall, a break down in, or lack of communications is often at the root of conflict…

  2. Thanks Paul! You are absolutely right… it is all about relationships… You mention working on the relationship in the early stages and that got me thinking about the franchise sales process.. how would it change if we saw each candidate as the person with whom we are possibly entering a relationship for 10 years or longer instead of just selling them a franchise… I wonder what that shift in perspective could do to the traditional franchise sales process???