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Multi-Unit Manager vs. Multi-Unit Leader, Which One Do You Need?

district manager leadership multi-unit franchising planning Dec 13, 2022
Multi-Unit Leader

Do you know the difference between a Multi-Unit Leader and a Multi-Unit Manager? People tend to confuse these two and even use them interchangeably which is not only confusing but also dangerous for your business!

  • There is a significant difference in these concepts and if you are –or plan to be– a multi-unit business owner you need to understand this to make better decisions, or it can cost you big time.

Let’s review the differences between each so you can determine which one you need in your business. 


What is a Unit Manager?
  • A unit manager is the leader of a business unit and they are responsible for everything that happens inside, as well as for the team's performance and results.

They are also accountable for the execution of the brand systems (the product, the service, and the image) and of your business management systems (people, team income, profit, and growing that unit's results). 

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They have a single focus, meaning that their only have to worry about the sales, the labor cost, the product cost, the customer service, and the team performance in that unit. Because of that, alongside their knowledge, training, and experience, they are able to maximize the profitability of that one store. 

If you have one unit, more than likely you are the unit manager. But if you want to delegate operations, you must assign a unit manager to supervise that unit's performance and results. 

I always recommend franchisees make sure their franchise model has the unit economics and financials that allows them to pay a unit manager because the main goal of this professional is to help them make the most out of the unit. In consequence, they’ll have the profitability they want and deserve out of their investment.


What is a Multi-Unit Manager?
  • A multi-unit manager is, again, a top leader but they are responsible for the performance and results of, most likely, two units. 

Since they manage the labor costs, product costs, sales, customer service, and staffing of those locations, they are no longer single-focused and their attention is divided. 

This carries challenges depending on the complexity of the business, the distance between the units they are overseeing, the team dynamics, and each unit’s issues. Because of that, multi-unit managers tend to focus more on the problematic unit and abandon the good performer.

This is not a smart move.

I know many franchisees decide to have one manager oversee two units to split the salary between two unit economics and save money

Financially speaking, this might looks positive. But in the long term, having divided attention could lower the unit’s performance and, eventually, erode your profitability because of the lack of proper attention. 

I will tell you that in my 35 years of experience in the franchise world, I have rarely seen a multi-unit manager being successful in overseeing two units for the long term. This is something we would recommend only if the brand is easy to execute, operationally simple, and with well-running units.

Consider that nowadays, businesses are more complex and have to face issues like inflation, the increase in cost, and hiring and staffing challenges. And these managers need to overcome all of these situations. So if they divide their attention, it will be very hard for them to do a good job. 

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District Manager, the ideal Multi-Unit Leader
  • The ultimate multi-unit leader position is better known as district manager, area coach, or area supervisor. Their task is to oversee multiple locations but they are not directly responsible for the management of each location. 

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Having this professional on your team will allow you to delegate operations. Their objective is to strategically move the district forward, guiding, coaching, and inspiring the units into doing a great job at implementing and executing the brand and the business systems. 

This will increase the income and profitability of your organization. That way, you’ll be able to focus on the strategy or growth so you can accomplish your business and financial goals

But to do that, each location requires a unit manager with a single focus. If due to turnover or rotation, a store lacks a leader, the district manager’s job will be very challenging. They may even end up running shifts and focusing on that one unit instead of supervising the entire district.

It is also key for these professionals to have proper training and knowledge on how to be a district manager because, as you can see, their job is completely different from that of a unit manager and that of a multi-unit manager. 


Now you know the difference between these top leaders. Obviously, there is a time and a place for each one, especially when it comes to a multi-unit manager. If you would like to know more about the district manager’s role, I invite you to our quarterly webinar for these multi-unit leaders.

In this best-in-class training program, we teach you what is are the seven responsibilities of a district manager and the routines they should do on a daily and weekly basis so they can be successful and effective. 

Do you want to learn more? Join us at and register for the next webinar!

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  • Does your unit has enough cash flow for you to hire top leaders for your organization?
  • Can you delegate operations to a professional to make the most of your investment?
  • Are you clear on the differences between a unit manager, a multi-unit manager, and a district manager?
  • Do you know which of these professionals your company needs to increase its profits?