The success of any multi-unit business depends largely on the ability of the business owner to ensure that standards are maintained and executed as designed. When left to the management of various stakeholders, the effectiveness of the business system (i.e. from branding, marketing and merchandising to customer service and quality of product) comes under pressure as different people have their own views of standards.
Audits are one way to maintain standards and ensure quality across the system. Hence, audit initiatives need to be properly planned, communicated and executed so as to gain support from everyone in the ecosystem. Regular and consistent audits are important to everyone, whether they are business owners, store managers or franchisees.
Through technology, the business owner can develop audit programs to monitor and maintain standards across various operational business functions and ensure brand equity is protected. Tree AMS is one such system that allows the business owner to develop and assess audits across various functions and implement said audits across all business units in various locations.
Developing the Audit Program
As with most initiatives, a well-designed plan and approach are necessary for any successful audit program. There are three distinct steps:
1. Create a detailed outline of the procedures (i.e. from candidate selection to the physical site-visit of the selected franchisees)
2. Perform the examination.
3. Document the audit and enforce its findings.
The creation of an audit program should be methodical enough to ensure consistency in application. The program should also be tailored to the unique needs and characteristics of a concept whether it be built on retail sales, education, food and beverage or any other specialized service.
What to Audit
Typically the business owner would want to audit areas of financial and operational compliance, brand management and customer service. Most of these audits can be extracted from the business’ Standard Operational Procedures. For example, financial compliance can be checked against balancing factors such as inventory, cost of goods and number of customers served amongst other key factors that reflect revenue. Another form of audit is to ensure new employees are properly on-boarded and trained.
Conducting the Audit
Once the audit program has been designed and notice has been sent, the people involved in a formal audit should be given limited time to prepare.
In some cases, audits are done randomly to achieve significant outcomes. However, the people related to the audit should have been previously trained and educated on what the expected standards are. Without this training, the audits will only reflect the results but not whether the individuals are responsible for the outcome.
After the Audit
After the audit is completed and the results analyzed, instances of shortcomings and noncompliance may be identified. These need to be addressed promptly and may even imply the need to implement new programs and processes. But by taking corrective actions on all aspects of the audit, the business owners will be given a chance to fill the gaps uncovered and prevent degradation of standards.