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Secrets to Developing Great District Managers

district manager multi-unit franchising planning Mar 12, 2024
Great District Managers

In a franchise organization, the unit manager position is the most important one, because it ensures profitability. But, when it comes to multi-unit franchising, the district manager is crucial since they are the ones who will give you freedom so you can focus on growth or on enjoying the life that you deserve out of the investment and hard work that you have put into your franchise. 

  • So the district manager position, if well defined and properly trained, will bring freedom for the franchisee

This talent is crucial to sustained success and growth. However, this is also the most challenging role in the multi-unit franchise organization because of all the complexities that come with it.

One of the most effective strategies to hire a district manager is promoting from within your organization because these individuals have demonstrated to be a culture fit, and they already know you, your business, your culture, and the expectations. 

All of these variables increase the possibility of success for this position. Yes, they still have to develop key skills to become better district managers, but they already have half of what it takes to be successful in your organization.

Also, by promoting from within, you motivate the team because they realize there is a career path in your organization and they can also get to a higher level if they work hard.

However, to truly harness this potential, you need a systematic approach, meaning that you have to define a process and implement certain strategies as a franchise business owner.

These are five actions that will help you maximize your probabilities and benefit the present and the future of your organization. 

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1. Hire for Leadership Growth Potential and Desire

When you look at the potential leaders for your business, pay attention! Whenever you hire a unit manager or an assistant manager, go a little further to detect if they have not only the characteristics and abilities to lead a unit successfully but also if they have the potential to be a future district manager.

If your organization is growing, identifying potential district managers in every leadership hire will be very important. Search for traits such as:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Emotional intelligence to handle more than or beyond one unit
  • The ability to inspire others

Having this foresight in hiring ensures you’re not just filling a position today but investing in the future of your franchise.

Don’t miss: The Six-step Process to Hire the Right People for Your Franchise


2. Develop Your Manager’s Leadership and Management Skills

Once you’ve identified individuals with potential, who excel as unit managers, the next step is to cultivate those leadership and management skills for the next position. That way, you’ll give them continuous growth opportunities and have them ready when those positions open as you grow.

This development should involve more than just technical training on how to run a unit. It also requires focus on soft skills such as communication, conflict resolution, and strategic thinking.

You can offer this training as leadership development programs, mentorship opportunities, and cross-training experiences to prepare them for the challenges of district management.

An extra tip: consider this training not just for the new unit managers who have the potential to become district managers, but also teach those skills to all your leaders. This will highly benefit your organization. 


3. Clearly Define the District Manager's Role and Responsibilities

You need to set clear expectations for yourself and for whoever takes on this role so you are both on the same page as to what is expected of them, what they have to do, and what they are responsible for, from operational oversight to team development and financial management.

Also, offer transparency about how they should oversee the operations and management systems on your behalf. 

That way, the team members interested in scaling to that position will understand what the role implies and self-assess if they are a fit for this position and if they are ready for it. Also, if they possess the necessary skills to deliver what is expected of them.

Keep learning: The District Manager Job Description


4. Define Clear and Effective District Manager Routines

Along with defining the job roles and responsibilities you must determine what actions the district manager should take every day, week, and month, to be effective at their job.

The district manager position is the most challenging job in a franchise organization. Why do I say that? Think about it! 

  • They have to juggle multiple priorities constantly.
  • They must develop a sixth sense to distinguish between what's urgent and what's important.
  • They have to address the urgent things as quickly as possible but then go back to focus on what's important.
  • They have to manage their time effectively.

Those “important things” are really the routines they should do, day in and day out, as part of their job, to ensure they are effective at achieving the business and financial goals to move the business forward

Some of these routines include:

  • How often should they be visiting the units?
  • What to do when identifying an opportunity?
  • How should they address a challenge in a unit?
  • When to monitor maintenance issues?
  • How and when should they focus on staffing issues?

These are the routines that make a district manager effective and, as a franchisee, you need to train your district managers on them. Otherwise, your district manager will struggle because of a lack of direction on how they're supposed to accomplish the business goals. 

Don’t miss: How to Train Your District Manager


5. Create a Training Program for the District Manager Role 

You have hired people with the potential to be great district managers. You have developed these managers with leadership and management skills. You have defined what is the role and the responsibilities that these leaders will have. And you have also determined the routines that will make them effective at their job. 

Now you have to grab all of this information and create a training program for your unit managers so they can aim for the district manager position. 

This plan has to be clear and structured so you can, step by step, develop those unit managers and get them ready for the future leadership position.

And, what’s more important, this action will give you the freedom to focus on strategy and continue growth in your organization


When should you develop these training programs? That depends on your development growth. If you are growing slowly, and not opening a lot of units, then you can take your time to implement all these actions, processes, and training programs. But if your goal is to open as many units as fast as possible, that aggressive growth will require aggressive development. 

So I hope that this gave you clear guidance on what are the things that you can do as a franchisee to grow great district managers in your organization.

If for some reason you don't have the skills, ability, or experience to create these development programs and train your future district managers, I would like for you to consider our best-in-class development program for district managers

It is called “LEAD Program”, a ten-week program specifically designed to give unit managers and assistant district managers the knowledge, tools, and resources they need to be successful and effective district managers

If you like to learn more about the program, click here!


  • How sharp is your hiring skill to identify candidates with potential and desire for growth?
  • Do you have your processes and systems properly documented, to share with your district managers?
  • Are you familiar with the routines the district manager should take to be effective?
  • Do you have the skills, ability, and experience to create a development program and train your future district managers?