Tips on Building an Effective Quarterly Franchise Business Plan

A good proportion of franchisors utilizing our franchisee field audit app also use FranchiseBlast for business planning purposes. We’ve had a few franchisors reach out and ask us what we thought was the best format for a business plan and, as such, created this guide!

To give you a bit of context, we’re not talking about the proforma business plan a franchisee would create to secure bank funding to open up their location. We’re talking about ongoing action plans or business plans defined by the franchisor’s franchise business coach during their field visits or phone coaching sessions. These are typically quarterly business plans in the context of a franchisor-franchisee relationship but their duration can vary greatly. One could create an annual business plan with their goals for the year and decompose this plan into quarterly business plans and then to very specific as monthly or even weekly action plans.

Before we explain what quarterly business plans typically looking like, let’s revisit the concept of SMART goals.

SMART Goals

Everyone has a slightly different definition of what the acronym SMART means in the context of a goal. Here are a few different interpretations from a project management site. You’ve most likely been introduced to this concept on a few occasions.

  • S: specific, significant, stretching
  • M: measurable, meaningful, motivational
  • A: agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
  • R: realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
  • T: time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, traceable

At FranchiseBlast, we favor the following interpretation and have included examples for each.

Specific: Be clear about what you want achieve do to improve your business.

Example: We want to increase off premise business or online ordering.

Measurable: You’ll need to be able to quantify progress or success. How do you define your goal in a way that is easy to calculate?

Example: Online orders should compose at least 10% of our total orders. (The key performance metric of “# of online transactions” / “# of total transactions” should exceed 10%).

Actionable: If you have this goal, you must be able to do something concrete to achieve it. This ties into it being attainable.

Example: It’s actionable because we can train staff to mention the program during every transaction or phone order. It’s attainable because we know over half of the units in our territory have achieved this goal.

Relevant: This helps you realize if you’re working towards the most impactful elements of your business, not just busywork that does not add to the bottom line.

Example: Our strategic initiatives this year have us working towards a 5% same store sales increase and we have a number of marketing initiatives in place to support this, including the launch in January of our online ordering program. It’s new in our location and we know it helps improve sales and kitchen efficiency.

Time-Based: Giving yourself a deadline to accomplish the goal makes sure something gets done.

Example: We want to achieve 10% of online orders by October 31st.

Overall, a SMART goal is something specific that is well-aligned with strategy, can be measured over the course of a time period and, at the target date, it can be determined if our action plan succeeded or failed.

Corrective Action Plans are not Franchise Business Plans

Users of our franchisee field audit app will know that the app lets you create a corrective action plan for any anomalies highlighted during a field visit. For any question within the field audit questionnaire, you can define a task that must be completed by a certain person by a certain date. While effective for course corrections such as the need to replace a chair they aren’t necessarily a great fit for business plans where you want to be more strategic.

A strong business plan elevates the discussion to key drivers in the business.

A Simple Action Plan

Now that we’ve established the context, let’s talk about what action plans can look like in the real world. The simplest pattern you can use when defining a business plan is to have two simple free form text questions:

  1. “What area of opportunity did you observe?”
  2. “Which activities are recommended to address this area of opportunity?”

This form is extremely simple but a great addition to any standard field audit questionnaire performed by the franchisor. Be sure to balance out areas of opportunity with congratulations for this unit’s strengths.

Although simplicity is key, there are better ways to help your franchisees think strategically. This is a good first step from moving from a cop to a coach relationship with your franchisee, but the value provided to the franchisee is highly dependent on the coach and their unique point of view on the business.

The SMART plan

If we’re willing to put a bit more work and become more strategic with our quarterly business plans, the next level up is the SMART plan, referencing the goals-setting strategy mentioned above.

This questionnaire will include the following elements:

What is your SMART goal?

You would write out a goal that matches SMART criteria above.

Example: Increase the % of online orders to 10% by October 31st.

Is there more information relevant to your goal?

When applicable, complement this with additional information about why it’s relevant or what the current standard is within the franchise. This goes deeper into the area of opportunity.

Example: Increase the % of online orders to 10% by October 31st. As you know, the franchise’s move to digital is a critical strategic objective & differentiator. The network average is already 20% and we’ve seen stores go from 0% to 10% in 2 months after properly marketing the initiative.

What activities/tactics will you perform to achieve this goal?

Example: Add post on restaurant Instagram channel with the hashtag #instagood 

What is the due date for the goal and each of the activities?

Due date to achieve target: Oct 31.
Due date for first Instagram post on online ordering: Sept 1. 

Who is accountable for the goal and each of the activities?

Target: GM of Restaurant 
Instagram: Supervisor 

When applicable, what is the budget for this initiative?

Target: $1,000 
Instagram: No budget 

Recommended Patterns

At FranchiseBlast, we see a number of different layouts for the above.  Here are some patterns to give you some ideas:

Pattern 1

  • Goal
  • Activities
  • Due Date
  • Done By

Pattern 2

  • What is your SMARTgoal?
  • How will you measure success?
  • Why is this an attainable goal?
  • Why is this goal relevant?
  • What’s your due date?
  • What activities will you do?
  • Who will be accountable for this?

Pattern 3

  • What is the area of opportunity, compared to our standards?
  • What is the SMART goal and related activity?
  • Activity 1
    • What is the activity?
    • By whom?
    • Due date?
    • Budget?
  • Activity 2
    • What is the activity?
    • By whom?
    • Due date?
    • Budget?
  • Activity 3
    • What is the activity?
    • By whom?
    • Due date?
    • Budget?

Overall, these are pretty much the same pattern of having a SMART goal.

Pattern 1 is the simplest approach.

Pattern 2 breaks down the goal to ensure they’re following a SMART philosophy.

Pattern 3 breaks down each individual activity so that it can easily be delegated to different individuals. We’ll often observe that Pattern 3 is interesting when you have a longer-term plan (say quarterly), and the activities break down that plan into more granular pieces (Month 1, 2,3).

Quarterly Business Plans in FranchiseBlast

Overall, the breakdowns that we have already presented in this article focus on a single goal at a time. Let’s bring the sophistication level up and move from Action Plans to Franchise Business Plans and talk about the broader process, not just the questionnaire.

Step 1: Review Data & Find Actionable Insights

The first step in the process is to acquire and analyze the data you have about this unit and discover where their weaknesses lie, which are the most impactful and how those align with the franchise’s strategic objectives. Tools like our Franchisee Scorecards simplify this process greatly helping the coach evaluate the business from a holistic perspective from a single dashboard view to decide if they should drill down on financials, customer satisfaction, food safety risks, etc.

You could execute flawlessly on your business plan, but if you haven’t properly analyzed the situation and determined the appropriate root causes of any issues, the intervention will not be as impactful.

To help determine root causes of staff behavior, some people go through a workflow such as:

What’s the problem?

Describe the problem in as much detail as necessary.

Is it important?

If not, ignore.

Is it a skill deficiency?

If the problem is based on skill, arrange different forms of training based on if training has occurred before and how often the task is performed.

If skill is not the challenge, is it a knowledge deficiency?

If so, they’ll provide different forms of information/feedback.

If not, then they’ll drill down to the root cause which could be removing obstacles or adding incentives/consequences.

Step 2: Define the Business Plan (Goals & Activities)

Now, pick a limited subset of areas of opportunity to focus on in the next quarter. If you try to focus on too many things at once, you’ll fail at all of them. For each area of opportunity, you’ll define an action plan for a single goal as defined previously in this article. There are a few different patterns to accomplish this but here we outline the main two.

Pattern 1: Pick Three

Some franchises will say: “pick three areas of opportunity and focus one those”. This forces you to make hard choices about what’s the most important for this unit’s future. Although we say “three” in this example, we have seen anything between one and six. If it starts getting larger than that, we start considering it an “anti-pattern”: that’s just too much to focus on. Personally, we believe that 3 is a good number.

The standard way most franchises do it is to have free form options where the coach enumerates the top three options he or she believes to be the most impactful. However, some franchises resort to using the concept of a checklist.  This checklist is a common list of ‘buckets’ under which areas of opportunity fall under. The coach and the franchisee talk about each bucket and jot down some quick notes and collaboratively define which ones they should be focusing on. See the checklist as just a guideline for the conversation.  For example, pick three out of the following list:

Team
  • Training
  • Staffing
  • Turnover/Tenure
  • Development
  • Bench Strength
  • Diversity
 Sales
  • Service Scores
  • Marketing/Events
  • Customer Traffic
  • Comp Sales
  • Salesmanship
  • Incentives
  • Contests
Product
  • Food Safety
  • Food Quality
  • Waste
  • Line Checks
  • /Receiving
  • Compliance
  • Best Practices
Profit
  • Food Costs
  • Labor Costs
  • Overtime
  • Misc Cost of Goods
  • Supplies
Facility
  • Cleanliness
  • Repair & Maintenance (R&M)
  • Inspections

You’ll notice that many of the items on this checklist are frequently found in field audit scores or franchisee scorecards. A few, however, require deeper conversations with the franchisees about their personnel and long-term vision.  We find this concept of a checklist interesting as it forces the stakeholders to, at least briefly, consider various elements that they may have forgotten about while in the heat of the conversation.

Pattern 2: Pick One or Two for Each Dimension

In a second case, some franchises choose to say that their business can be viewed in four different dimensions. For example, they could define themselves in the following way:

  1. People
  2. Product
  3. Service
  4. Marketing.

In the above example, it would be:

  1. Team
  2. Sales
  3. Product
  4. Profit
  5. Facility

The dimensions vary depending on the brand, but overall for each dimension the coach will choose one or two areas of opportunity Some will impose that there’s a maximum total of goals defined for all dimensions combined (say 1 or 2 per dimension, with maximum of 5 initiatives in all). This practice forces you to think a bit more about the business from a holistic view instead of always looking at attacking “improve sales” directly, but you have to be careful not to overwhelm the franchisee.

We find this an interesting approach as long as you keep the list to a minimum and identify what the real top three are.  It’s good to look at all facets of the business. Some franchisors address this in a different way by having some monthly calls with the franchisees where the ‘topic of the month’ is discussed. Each month, that topic varies from “Employees”, to “Marketing”, to “Food Safety”, etc. This is a nice complement to the more formal quarterly business plan.

Step 3: Continuous Review

During the quarter, it’s important to periodically review the plan and see if we’re performing the planned activities and if our goals are on their way to being met or if we need to course correct. This can be done over the phone, but it brings value to the fact that the business plan is a living document.

Step 4: Postmortem & New Plan

Once the quarter is done, it’s critical to review how you did against the plan. We won’t necessarily reach all our goals, but it’s great to learn from the activities we performed or didn’t perform. These lessons learned will help us guide the next quarterly business plan.

Final Example

If you don’t have a business plan template today, we’d recommend doing something as follows which we find simple enough to be easy to use yet extensive enough to be less dependent on the domain knowledge of each coach and easier to systematize.

Highlight of Successes

Area of Opportunity 1

  • Why it’s an area of opportunity and why it’s important (how it relates to sales or strategy, the franchise’s standards, your benchmark vs group, etc.).
  • SMART Goal around a measurable metric with a Due Date
  • List of activities with who’s accountable and due dates. (Breakdown into more granularity when appropriate.)

Area of Opportunity 2

  • Why it’s an area of opportunity and why it’s important (how it relates to sales or strategy, the franchise’s standards, your benchmark vs group, etc.).
  • SMART Goal around a measurable metric with a Due Date
  • List of activities with who’s accountable and due dates. (Breakdown into more granularity when appropriate.)

Area of Opportunity 3

  • Why it’s an area of opportunity and why it’s important (how it relates to sales or strategy, the franchise’s standards, your benchmark vs group, etc.).
  • SMART Goal around a measurable metric with a Due Date
  • List of activities with who’s accountable and due dates. (Breakdown into more granularity when appropriate.)

Postmortem (filled out at the end of the term)

When choosing your areas of opportunity, have a reference list of standard areas (as per the above breakdown in Team, Sales, Product, etc.) nearby to guide conversations and have your franchisee scorecard handy. If you don’t have a franchisee scorecard yet, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Franchisee Scorecards.

Conclusion

A franchisee business plan provides another “arrow in your quiver” when it comes to driving franchisee performance. Integrating some concepts from the world of Project Management and ideas from leaders in the franchising community, can help set you on a path for success.



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