Cutting Slack in the Business World

What’s your sandwich artist up to?

There is a strange cultural phenomenon occurring in business. It’s this idea that suppliers, manufacturers and the like need to cut the retailer some slack. It’s the idea of forming a franchise, assigning franchisees, disclosing expectations – policies – guidelines – profit margins – processes and overall business design only to flush it all down the drain when the franchisee drops the ball. The “cutting of the slack” though is when the supplier fails to hold the retailer accountable, instead forwarding bonuses, commissions and awards to the failing enterprise.

This is horrible.

No member of this process is winning. Every time the manufacturer or supplier is coerced into forgiving or overlooking the failure of the retailer to comply, the whole model looses. If the retailer is failing to meet a standard and the idea is that the standard exists to serve the customer – then the customer looses as well.

Think of a sandwich franchise. Let’s say that every franchised location is to have 3 fully trained sandwich artists. The franchisee only has one. As a fully trained sandwich artist, one needs to know not only how to build each of the signature sandwiches of the franchise… but know the price, efficiency of preparation, cost and ability to modify the menu for customers and how to maintain the sandwich making area. If just one person on that staff is fully trained, think of the full impact:

  • Customers aren’t getting the right product during shifts that person isn’t working
  • If that employee is sick or quits, no one is prepared to fill their shoes
  • If the food preparation is not done correctly – none of the menu items are consistent
  • If the sandwich assembly area is not maintained properly – it could be a health hazard

Lack of consistency in a franchise completely defeats the idea of a franchise. Now the brand overall becomes damaged and loses value, the franchise is losing profits and is potentially liable for health infractions and the morale of the staff is low because they are surviving in an environment that is unfamiliar to them.

The sad part is the perceptions that are becoming common in the business culture of the United States. Legal types will say “Be careful. The franchise laws in the state of ______ are very strong.” but that gets people nowhere. Because of this fear at the Supplier level, the supplier will continue to court, reward and bow down to demands and requests for policy exceptions creating a culture of acceptance. This leads to entitlement. When a franchisee agrees to staff 3 fully trained sandwich artists – that is a STANDARD. When the franchisee loses 2 trained employees and fails to replace them, then complains of the economy and the costs of doing business… that’s too late. They had their chance to review the costs of doing business before they agreed to the STANDARD.

Long and short, and yes it sounds mean… but it’s not. Businesses need to be held accountable for the processes and obligations they have made to their operating partners. It does nobody any favors to be cut some slack. Only through accountability and training can larger organizations help drive their franchisees to success.

If the staff is properly trained and the management is efficient, the customer receives the right product at the right price with good service. This bolsters the brand, creates return business and drives profit. The next time you think you should be cut some slack and are instead held accountable, look at it from the other spectrum. It is far easier to turn a blind eye and let people happily fail out of the periphery. It is much harder to hold them accountable keeping them in the forefront and driving them past their comfort zone to success.

The next time someone fails to “Cut you Some Slack” be thankful. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get ‘er done. In the end, you’ll be better for it and more successful.

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