Harcourts operations manager Marcus Williams said tension between principals and head office can lead to improvements in a group, provided it has a strong culture.
“I think where you don’t have a culture, the tension you get is quite disruptive,” he told an REB Leadership Series event for franchise bosses.
“I've found that by having a close relationship with our franchisees, you can encourage the tension.
“You get traction in a positive way rather than in a negative way, so I encourage it. I think it would be naïve not to keep looking at what needs tweaking.”
McGrath Estate Agents chief executive John McGrath said franchises need to find a way to maintain group discipline without stifling the creativity of their principals.
“So I think as a franchisor what you really need to be able to do is strike that balance: put some flags up that aren't to be swum out of, but still allow them to do it their own way,” he said.
“The better ones, they’re asking, ‘Why aren’t we doing this', and 'what about that?’”
Laing & Simmons managing director Leanne Pilkington said franchise groups have to be willing to discuss the issue of flexibility with their principals.
“You’ve got to be challenged. Everyone needs to be challenged to take themselves to the next level, and that’s the same with us as franchisors,” she said.
“It’s just having that conversation. What is it that you’re trying to achieve by going outside of the brand standards that we've already got? What is it that we’re not giving you?”
Raine & Horne executive chairman Angus Raine said he actually gets worried if head office doesn't get challenged during group meetings.
“At our franchise advisory council, I encourage robust discussion, even if it’s negative,” he told the REB Leadership Series event.
Real estate groups run the risk of alienating principals if they don’t listen to their views, according to Mr Raine.
“When people leave, it’s never about the money. It’s about everything else – culture, leadership, coaching, mentoring – it’s never the money,” he said.