What do some Field Consultants and Patty Hearst have in common?

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Stockholm Syndrome is the term psychologists coined to describe the phenomenon which occurs when hostages start sympathizing with their abductors. The poster child for Stockholm syndrome is Patty Hearst, daughter of billionaire media tycoon Randolph Hearst. For those who are too young to remember, In 1974 19-year old Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and held for ransom. Sometime within her 57-day captivity, she joined their ranks, picked up an automatic weapon and robbed a bank with them.

I believe some minor strain of Stockholm syndrome is evident in franchising. It occurs when field consultants make franchisees� issues their issues and join the franchisees� latest crusade against the franchisor rather than representing the franchisor�s issues in the field.

I think field consultants have the toughest and loneliest job in franchising. Many (when they aren�t working alone in their home offices) live out of a suit case, face long stints on the road, eat a steady diet of mediocre restaurant food, and at the end of a long day, crash at some 3-star, limited service hotels. Their primary social network are the franchisees they serve. They spend far more time with franchisees than they do with their colleagues in the corporate office. Sometimes, rather than assimilating to the franchisor�s corporate culture and being steeped in the franchisor�s concerns, they assimilate to the franchisees� culture and adopt the franchisees� concerns. And why wouldn�t they? That�s where they are spending most of their time. When we work with franchisee field support teams, we often hear that they feel like orphans or forgotten members of the team.

Given the importance of their job, franchisors need to pay attention to the social needs and emotional hygiene of their hard-working, overlooked, and under appreciated operational support field staff. They should consistently reach out and give them a solid experience of being a contributing member of a bigger team rather than being marooned on an island.