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District Manager Job, the Most Difficult One in a Franchise

district manager multi-unit franchising people Dec 05, 2023
District manager job

Of all the many different roles in our industry, the most difficult job in a franchise is the district manager, especially for multi-unit organizations. But why is this job so challenging?

In this blog post, we’ll review six facts about this role, so you can better understand the implications of being the district manager of a franchise enterprise and the skills that will help them overcome these challenges.

Whether you hire a professional externally or promote a team member within your organization, you must consider this reality and give them the knowledge, tools, and resources they need to do great at their job.

Fact #1: It is a completely different job

Most district managers used to be great unit managers, but this new position is totally different from what they did before. 

A unit manager executes the brand and business systems in the four walls of their stores and what they do every day is dictated by the brand. 

However, the district manager is not responsible for executing those systems. That’s why although being a great unit manager could be a true indicator of potential district managers, having this skill is only one piece of what they need to know to be successful at the next level.

Learn more: These are not the duties of a district manager

Fact #2: DMs have to lead and inspire the team

One of the responsibilities of district managers is to inspire the staff and other team members to follow the business and brand processes and procedures with a high level of excellence. This requires a set of additional skills. 

That means they require strong leadership and people skills so they can have an impact on the team even when they're not present.

This is critical because they are going to spend a lot less time with the unit managers and assistant managers in all of the locations they visit. So they must have the ability to apply situational leadership as one of their key tools to inspire their leaders. 

Fact #3: They have to be self-directed

As explained before, what unit managers do every day is dictated by the day-to-day needs of the business they run, such as opening and preparing the unit, doing schedules, placing product orders, operating, and taking care of customers

But for district managers, there’s no guidance. It is up to them to decide where they are going to be, when they’ll be there, and what they’ll do once they get there. Or, in other words, they have to be in the right place doing the right things.

To be able to do that, they have to be self-directed, proactive, and self-driven. Those are critical skills they should possess to be successful.

Don’t miss: 100 district managers trained and 10 lessons we’ve learned from them

Fact #4: Time management is a must

District managers also have to be efficient and effective at what they are doing. But this time management skill is not only about planning what they're going to do every day but executing and following that plan. 

They must also distinguish between what's important and what's urgent. The latter could derail the business if they are not taken care of. But if district managers miss important matters, the business won’t be able to advance. 

Being able to determine where to focus and plan their day the proper way will help them do the right things at the right time.

Must read: Why district managers fail (and how to prevent it!)

Fact #5: Flexibility is vital in this role

Another reason why the district manager's job is such a challenge is because they have to be flexible so they can cope with things changing all the time. 

There’s a good reason for that: they oversee multiple locations, at multiple distances, and with different team members. And although franchisees sell the same product or service, their performance can vary depending on many factors. 

That’s why these leaders have to be flexible enough to be able to tackle the urgent and quickly re-direct to the important. By embracing that things are going to happen, they can solve those challenges and then go back to their plans to achieve the established goals and move the business, their units, and the district forward

Fact #6: There are many business complexities

Every unit in the district will have a different situation. The more units the district managers oversee, the more complex their job will be. 

One unit might have a labor cost issue, another could have a product cost problem, and a third store could face a customer service issue.

These leaders have to have the ability to address those concerns individually, understand the complexity behind them, know what to do about each of them, and how to correct and bring them back in the proper direction to obtain the desired business results. 

The volumes will also differ: some stores might have low sales and their needs will be different from the high-volume units. The district managers’ help and intervention at each store have to be different, which will add more complexity to their role.

There's also the distance situation because the units won’t be next to each other but a few minutes apart or even a few hours in some situations. This factor also makes the business and the job of the district manager more complicated.


As you can see, there are a lot of challenges associated with the district manager’s job but giving them proper training can help them overcome that reality. 

Sadly, even though you are in a franchise organization, the franchise owners do not provide this type of training. And so, as a franchisee business owner, it's up to you to develop that training program for them. 

The good news is that you are not alone in this task. The American Franchise Academy can help you train your district managers so they can deal with the complexities and the challenges of their job.

Our Multi-unit Leadership Certification Program is a ten-week program where we provide these leaders the knowledge, tools, and resources they need to be successful in the district manager multi-unit leadership position. 

Visit and register for our next information session to learn more about this program and what you can expect when you enroll your leaders. 

Remember: having a well-trained district manager will give you greater freedom because you’ll be able to delegate operations. It will also allow you to focus on strategy and growth

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  • Are your district managers leading and inspiring the employees?
  • How are you preparing your unit managers to help them become successful district managers?
  • Can your district managers differentiate between what’s urgent and what’s important?
  • How much training have you given your district managers so they can do their job properly?