As a franchisee, you can either work on your business or in it. If you choose to work on your business, then you’ve chosen to be a semi-absentee “executive” business owner. If you choose to work in your business, then you’ve chosen to be an owner operator.
If you choose to be a semi-absentee owner, you’ll free up time to focus on strategy, hold a full time or part time job, start other businesses, or to enjoy other pursuits.
If you choose to be an absentee owner franchisee, then there’s one essential you’ll need: an operations manager to oversee your franchise location.
A good franchise operations manager will keep your customers satisfied, your employees happy, and your business in the black. A bad one can have the opposite effect.
I don’t need to tell you that a bad manager can easily draw a business into a death spiral with poor reviews, dissatisfied employees, and even legal violations. Unless you intervene, allowing this to continue can derail your entire business.
Of course, the best way to prevent a nightmare scenario is to hire well in the first place. This is exactly the task I plan to help you with in this guide.
The role of a franchise operations manager
A franchise operations manager oversees day-to-day franchise operations. Their job is to ensure a location runs smoothly and meets the franchise’s standards. Typical duties including:
- Working with other employees on marketing, production, and customer service
- Negotiating prices and coordinating with vendors to ensure a location has all needed supplies
- Making sure employees have all the training and resources they need to perform well
- Overseeing maintenance on a location and its equipment
- Reviewing a franchise’s operations manual to ensure the location is following the franchise’s standards for cleanliness, appearances and employee behavior
- Reviewing data and making recommendations to optimize sales and efficiency
- Recruiting, interviewing, training, and managing new staff
- Scheduling shifts with employees
- Completing performance reviews and terminating employees who don’t meet expectations
- Adapting marketing strategies and other processes for a local market
- Growing sales within the guidelines of the franchise manual, and planning for future growth
Cost for a franchise operations manager
The median salary for a franchise operations manager is $66,000 and the top 10% earn an average of $122,000 annually.
When you speak to a franchise representative about buying a franchise territory, ask the franchise representative what qualifications they recommend for a franchise operations manager, and if they know what a quality manager typically costs in your area. If they don’t know, ask them if they know the salaries operations managers in the franchise are earning in other cities.
It’s vital to know what a good manager typically costs upfront so you don’t accidentally get involved in a franchise where you can’t afford a capable manager. Entrepreneurs in this position sometimes end up running a franchise themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s best for you to get informed upfront so you can make a conscious decision before entangling yourself in daily operations.
When to hire a franchise operations manager
If you plan to be a semi-absentee business owner, then I recommend hiring a manager before you open your business. This will allow your manager to attend franchise training alongside you, and they’ll be ready to go from Day 1.
If you plan to work as an owner operator for a year and then transition to a semi-absentee owner, then I recommend hiring an employee who you can transition to a manager. Make this hire at least 6 months before you plan to have them take over all operations. This way, you’ll give them time to learn the ropes and take on additional responsibilities gradually, and you’ll both enjoy a smoother transition.
Should you promote from within or hire from outside?
In many cases, owners will promote one of their employees into the operations manager role. This approach rewards loyalty and performance. It also helps you retain your best employees and saves you time on training someone new. So long as the employee shows aptitude and willingness to grow into the new position, hiring from within is a fantastic option.
If you’re considering hiring from outside your business, remember that many of us have a bias towards outside candidates. From our perspective, they’re perfect, because we can only see their best attributes. We haven’t gotten to know their weaknesses in the same way that we’ve gotten to know our own employees’ deficits.
Hiring an outside employee might be right for your company. Still, before you pursue this path, take a closer look at your existing employees.
The most important characteristic I focus on is the employee's ability to influence others. Do customers and employees like interacting with them? Are they naturally good at sales? Your franchise likely provides management training that will help such a person become an excellent operations manager.
Another deal breaker for me is whether an employee is conscientious about company policies and procedures. (In fact, if someone isn’t following procedures, I’ll bring this up during coaching meetings and let them go if they don’t improve.)
If you have a well-liked, conscientious employee and you’re still hesitant to promote them, ask yourself a few questions:
- Are they disorganized in a way that can’t be fixed? What have you done to work with them on this deficiency?
- Do they lack language fluency or people skills? These skills are difficult to teach, and I think they’re valid reasons for looking outside your organization.
- Does the employee just not have a passion for excellence? If so, why? Have you talked to them about areas where they could improve? Could higher pay help them eliminate distractions in their lives so they can focus more on the business?
If you like, you can get the best of both worlds by including a mix of candidates in your interviews. You can interview some external candidates, and you can encourage your top current employees to apply alongside them.
Job requirements for a franchise operations manager
In some franchises, it will make more sense to emphasize executive qualifications, while in others you’ll want to focus on industry experience and practical skills.
An operations manager will generally have a BA, typically in business management or another business field. Some employers also prefer to hire candidates with an MBA. Other special certifications can be a bonus, but you shouldn’t expect them.
Prior training and experience are not usually required, although any experience in a related industry will make a candidate stand out. Comfort with industry standard technologies is, of course, a plus.
Often a franchise will train an operations manager on the job, usually with the help of a training program, manual, and job shadowing. Quality franchises that I point my franchise candidates to almost always offer on-the-job training for new operations managers.
To avoid an operations manager quitting, it’s helpful to ask them during the interview whether they’re fully comfortable with the job’s work environment and hours. Operations managers spend a lot of time working on location, but they can also work from home or on the go. While they usually maintain regular business hours, they might also need to deal with an emergency outside of normal hours.
Another key is to consider profit sharing, bonus on gross sales, and/or equity in your franchise. When a manager has a vested interest (skin in the game), they’ll often work harder and be more attentive… and stick around for “golden handcuffs”.
“Soft skills” to look for in an operations manager
An operations manager should be a motivational leader, effective communicator, willing problem-solver, skilled critical thinker, ethical employee, and responsible decision maker.
The best operations managers think and act like a business owner. They have to want the best outcome for the business, with a view to both the short term and the long term.
Someone who thinks like an owner will invest time in hiring the best employees, rather than hiring their friends. They’ll communicate respectfully, bearing in mind that the way they talk (including intonation and nonverbal signals) will impact how customers, employees, and vendors feel about the business.
They’ll notice problems before they arise, or as early on as possible. They’ll constantly look for ways to increase productivity and grow sales. Whenever there’s a potential conflict with the franchise operating instructions, they’ll reach out to the franchise proactively for input.
A manager should be comfortable working under pressure and dealing with multiple issues simultaneously.
Due to the unique needs of every business, you should ask the franchise representative you’re working with what they recommend for an ideal operations manager.
How to write a franchise operations manager job description
Most franchises provide ad templates, job descriptions and instructions for hiring workers for each position, including a franchise location’s operations manager. I have a list of franchises I recommend to candidates, and one of my criteria is that a franchise provide this kind of documentation to franchisees.
If you’re working with a franchise that doesn’t provide this information, you can write to the franchise area manager, and ask if they have job descriptions for each position. (Ask now, before you have an open position, that way you can have this information on hand before you need it.)
If you don’t hear back from the franchise, search Google for “[your franchise name] operations manager job description”. If you don’t see anything, use a job description template for an operations manager at a similar business in your industry and adapt it as needed. Leave out jargon so that your description is legible to a broad audience. When you’re finished, send the draft to your franchise to ask for input.
Finally, I recommend that you request applicants send you a cover letter in addition to a resume. This will allow you to gauge candidates’ writing and communication skills, as well as their personal interest in your open position.
How to train a franchise operations manager
It’s standard for a franchise to train your operations manager. In most cases, they can teach the manager almost everything they need to know in just a few days.
Your franchise will typically leave your operations manager with a manual that they can read and refer to. They’ll also provide contact information for someone at the franchise who your manager can reach out to if they have any questions about operations.
In most franchises, you should not need to personally train your operations manager. However, you can spend time at your franchise, either in the waiting area alongside customers, or the back area with employees. Just be sure you don’t get in people’s way, confuse the staff, or entangle yourself in operations if you plan to be a semi-absentee owner. Make sure the staff knows that they should carry on with business as usual while you’re around, and they should continue deferring to their managers with any questions.
Working effectively with a franchise operations manager
Many franchise owners have experience running departments or entire organizations, so it’s normal for owners to take an interest in fine-tuning operations at their location.
To avoid undermining your operations manager, it’s usually best to share all your feedback with your operations manager. This way, she can talk to the right people at your location to implement your suggestions.
Your main goal should be to provide support and resources to help your operations manager run your location effectively. At least each quarter, ask your operations manager what’s going well, what she thinks could be done better, and what you can provide to help her grow the location’s business.
How to be a hands-off franchisee
The purpose of hiring an operations manager is to employ an independent leader who can run your franchise profitably without your help. To this end, it’s better to ask questions or make suggestions rather than issue instructions.
If your manager asks questions that are answered in the franchise operations manual, you should ask, “What does the manual say?” This will help your operations manager think through problems and look for answers independently rather than get into the habit of deferring to you for guidance.
There’s an important exception to this. There may be cases where you definitely want something done. In those instances, do your operations manager a favor and give her clear instructions. This way she won’t have to guess what you’d like her to do.
Overall, it’s best to form a collaborative relationship with your franchise operations manager. You want her to know that she’s empowered to lead the business. You also want her to know what types of decisions she should consult you about before acting. Finally, you want her to know that she’s welcome to discuss with you any concerns or ideas about how to run the franchise location more effectively.
Planning for succession
Franchise operations managers usually stay with a business for 5.5 years.
To avoid a leadership gap, charge your operations manager with maintaining a succession plan, training their successor, and ensuring that someone is always ready to take over the operations management job if necessary.
Anything could happen. Your operations manager could get sick, become injured, require a salary that is too high, or put in two weeks notice.
Keeping a successor trained at all times will protect your business from a crisis where you need to start from scratch training someone who is unprepared for the role.
A lot of valuable information about running your franchise will exist only in your operations manager’s head. So it’s important for her to actively train a successor, even if she has no plans to stop working.
How to find a franchise operations manager
Operations managers often work their way up from lower level positions, even from entry-level jobs.
Recent college graduates are good candidates for leading operations. However, as a franchise owner, you may want to hire a potential leader for a smaller role first before promoting the candidate into management.
Your franchise likely provides resources to help you find the right candidate. They might have a job board, a hiring team, recommended recruiting tactics, and even specific referrals (like existing managers who want to relocate).
As a franchise owner, it’s helpful to build connections in your community so you can identify rising talent for management positions. You can visit local college fairs and speak to business students. Another great way to meet people is to volunteer at events or competitions where business students participate.
Look for self-motivated candidates who are interested in business, especially people who demonstrate a warm, likable personality. Anyone studying Six Sigma, supply chain management, leadership, and communication best practices could be a good candidate.
As your review resumes and cover letters, I recommend eliminating candidates with obvious errors or poor writing in their application. As I noted earlier, it’s very important that your operations manager be conscientious and a good communicator.
Next, I look for related work experience and expertise in the industry, followed by degrees and other credentials. Ideally, I prefer to hire someone who could perform any of the roles of the employees they’ll be supervising.
As with any hiring process, be aware of your own biases. Most of us are inclined to hire someone who looks, acts, and thinks like we do. To help you focus on skills rather than similarities, you can invite an employee or colleague to join you during interviews. This person can give you an independent perspective on each candidate.
Job outlook for franchise operations managers
Job opportunities for operations managers depend on the economy.
Whenever an entrepreneur decides to operate a franchise as a passive investment, they need to hire an operations manager. So, the number of openings for franchise operations managers will depend on how many franchises are opening. Entrepreneurs decide whether to open franchises based on factors like local demand, employee wages, industry growth, and competition.
Some analysts foresee a decline in demand for operations managers due to people visiting brick-and-mortar locations less often. However, during the pandemic, many franchises adapted to consumer preferences for working, shopping, dining, and enjoying other activities from home, and they saw substantial sales growth. This doom-and-gloom forecast doesn’t seem to have come to fruition. Plus, operations managers are needed for businesses that aren’t brick and mortar!
Of course, there will always be churn. Some people will seek to move into operations management roles; others will seek to move on from them.
If the economy weakens, some small businesses will close, leaving talented entrepreneurs and business managers without a job. These experienced individuals often possess the skills necessary to succeed as a franchise operations manager, thus providing your business with many excellent candidates.
It seems to me that, whether the economy goes up or down, there is likely to be a steady supply of quality candidates for franchise operations management jobs.
If you’re ready to hire an operations manager, I’m excited for you! You’re taking an important step toward financial independence and personal freedom.
In the end, you just want to find a professional who is friendly, conscientious, and eager to learn.
Not everyone fits this profile, but there are many who do.
I hope this guide has prepared you to find such a person, whether at your company or in your community.
If you could use an outside perspective on a hiring decision you’re about to make, feel free to book a short call on my calendar. As your franchise consultant, I’m happy to lend my opinion (at no cost) to help you make the right call for your business.