Before getting into franchising, you may have had an image of what would happen if you were to catch someone committing fraud within your business. Picture a Law & Order episode, where the person committing fraud is on the stand, peppered with questions until they confess in a dramatic fashion.
But, after spending some time in franchising, you likely have realized that this is not how things go – because relationships are everything. After our popular articles on 4 ways franchisees commit fraud and how to detect fraudulent acts, we decided to add some insights on how franchisors are handling fraud once it is found.
A Family Dispute
Most franchise systems operate as families. The annual convention can feel like a family reunion. Longstanding friendships are formed beyond business, and there can be relationships, and even marriages between franchisees. As a result, franchisors and franchisees know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They also know how to push each other’s buttons.
A fraud can then seem like a family dispute. And, far from being a “bad guy” franchisees who are committing fraud can simply be in a difficult financial situation based on a spouse’s job loss or unexpected medical bills, for example. On top of this, franchisees, especially those that commit fraud, can be highly leveraged.
A View from the Outside
Customers often have a fuzzy understanding of the relationship between franchisor and franchisee. After all, they may simply enjoy your food, and don’t need to understand the inner workings of your business. As a result, a loud and public dispute could have a negative impact on the local business, and others in the region or nation, not to mention the brand as a whole – potentially creating a self-inflicted wound. Suppliers can also get a negative perception of an internal dispute.
The Risk of Not Acting
As a result of the “family” issue, and the customer issue, sometimes fraud when discovered, goes unmentioned. In fact, a known fraud can justify poor treatment of a franchisee, or other franchisees can take notice, creating an erosion of respect and even loyalty.
Often, the best resolution is to work together. According to law firm Nixon Peabody,
“In most instances, brand value can be preserved by quickly channeling a dispute through mediation – with all the major constituents present at the table. This type of intervention often leads to results-oriented solutions without suppliers or customers ever becoming aware of the dispute. A successful mediation can result in a successful business transaction, such as the sale of the franchisee’s locations, that can further bolster the brand’s strength. The earlier the third party is brought in to expedite the negotiated business resolution, the better it will be for the brand and the bottom lines for all concerned. “
Information is Power
While managing this situation, having a paper trail through a series of audits and corrective actions, for example, can strengthen the process. Additionally, having a record of good faith, such as a franchise coach taking an active role in helping the franchisee, can make a big difference. FranchiseBlast’s Brand Consistency software can help create that digital record.