Exploring franchise boards: A stakeholder typology.

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Conference Title

Academy of Human Resource Development Conference Proceedings


Marriott Denver Tech Center in Denver, CO

Conference Dates

February 29 - March 3, 2012

Date of Presentation



EXPLORING FRANCHISE BOARDS: A STAKEHOLDER PERSPECTIVE Denise M. Cumberland January 25, 2012 The use of franchise advisory boards, typically composed of franchisees and franchisor representatives, is common practice in domestic and international franchise systems. Because effective board collaboration requires teamwork, understanding the stakeholder relationships on these boards is critical at the beginning of any board evaluation or organization development (OD) assessment. One of the goals of OD is to help organizations ensure groups, such as boards, function synergistically. Based on stakeholder and board governance literature, a four-quadrant grid for classifying franchise board relationships was proposed. This typology suggested that franchise board relationships could be classified based on which of the four normative governance processes were emphasized - partnership (franchisors and franchisees dedicated to working together), supporters club (franchisors and franchisees aligned to provide a united front to external audiences), political (franchisors and franchisees concerned with representing specific interests), or monitoring (franchisors and franchisees focused on compliance). Depending on which frames of governance the board favors, the relationships can be categorized as one of the following: antagonists, agents, allies or activists. vi Qualitative research methods included two phases to provide triangulation. First, 22 board members from multiple industries were interviewed. Second, a comparative case study of three franchise boards was conducted over an eight month period. Four research questions framed the study. The first question addressed why franchise boards form, a topic documented in practitioner literature, but with little empirical validation. Findings revealed that the motives for board formation do align with practitioner literature, with one exception. The second research question explored how franchisee and franchisor board members view the roles of the board. The data indicated that franchisors and franchisees agree on some of the reasons, but differ in some respects on the purpose of the boards. This suggests an issue that organization development efforts could help address. The third question investigated how boards were structured. Findings revealed some basic commonalities between different types of boards, be they franchise advisory councils, independent boards, or ad hoc groups. Importantly, however, variation in some key governance processes did have an impact on board member attitudes. The fourth research question examined what types of relationships exist. Findings supported the four grid typology, suggesting organization development practitioners have a practical tool for classifying franchise board relationships as antagonists, agents, allies or activists. The final chapter of this dissertation discusses this study's implications for franchise organizations. In addition, a series of recommendations are offered to help develop allied and activist stakeholder board relationships that foster trust and open communication exchanges.


In J. Wang (Ed.), published in Conference Proceedings