Is it time for a franchising change?

Is it time for a franchising change?

2016 marks an opportunity for public sector workers to make a change to the way that they work. Paul Stafford of the British Franchise Association examines why franchising is a good option.

December and January are naturally times for reflecting back and looking ahead to what’s next. Among the resolutions of more visits to the gym, quitting smoking and the like, the question of career paths and progression usually comes into focus. That’s particularly true if ‘less stress’, ‘better work/life balance’ or ‘earn more money’ are on your list of goals. Of course all too often by the time February and March come around, dreams have been shelved and it’s business as usual. But what if 2016 was different?

New Year, new business?
You might have considered self-employment several times over the past few years, while wages have stagnated. Plenty of people have: according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) there are now more self-employed people than at any time since records began, with around 15 per cent of the UK’s workforce running their own business. Of course, it can be a scary thought going from secure employment to running your own business.

Guaranteed holiday pay, sick pay, pension...there are many reasons why people don’t go into business for themselves. It’s not for everyone.

On the other hand, it is a chance to do something you love, to be your own boss, set the pace, work flexibly so you have more time with your family and reap the rewards of your own hard work.

If you’ve considered starting a business before but the thought is a little daunting, then there is a way of starting a business without being alone; where you’ll have initial training and ongoing support to call on anytime you need it, whether it’s for admin or practicalities, business planning or an operational challenge. It’s a model which is perfectly suited to public sector employees too, because it revolves around systems and structures alongside personal input and ideas. It’s often been called ‘being in business for yourself, not by yourself’.

That system is franchising, and while you may not be familiar with it right now, chances are you regularly use the services of a franchised business. It might be your pet care or hair care, your car repairs, local pub or your children’s after‑school classes; the range is enormous.

It’s a long time since franchising was the expansion model of choice for only global catering brands and fast-food chains (though they’re still around too). There’s now a myriad of businesses and sectors to choose from, covering everything from IT, children’s activities and gardening services through to letting agents, accountancy and home care. Whatever your passion, there’s likely to be a franchise for you.

How does franchising work?
Franchising is a form of self-employment: you own and run your own business, under the brand, systems and support of an established company. Support can come from the founder of the franchise, their operations staff or fellow franchisees. Often, it’s all of them. That’s a lot of experience and expertise to call upon when you have a question.

How does this translate into reality? Can you really pick up the phone or email someone when you have a query over marketing, administration, how to win customers, how to keep them? With a good franchise, you can answer yes to all the above. A franchise that has proven its ethical values and ethos will support its franchisees; it doesn’t make money unless they do.

Am I suitable?
This is a valid question, and one you must ask yourself if you are considering becoming a franchisee. Franchising isn’t for everybody. You’ll need to work hard: sometimes the hours might be long and the road difficult. If it was easy to run a business, there would be no such thing as employees.

Whether it’s a long-held ambition to be your own boss, a desire for a new challenge, taking on something rewarding that fits around your family, securing your finances, or something else altogether - there are many different reasons people become franchisees, and that means an enormous array of different backgrounds, personalities and skill sets are found in the sector. That’s one reason why franchising is notably diverse and has no discrimination when it comes to what makes a good franchisee: each franchisor is looking for something specific to their business model.

With that said, there are some common traits shared by many of those at the top of their networks, the superstar franchisees that consistently shine and become ambassadors for what’s possible within a brand – regardless of the business sector, the type of franchise or their background before they became a franchisee. While not an exhaustive list, it’s worth seeing if the following resonate with you.

Tenacity. Tenacity is a word every successful business owner is familiar with, franchisee or otherwise. Running a business requires determination and commitment in spades and, while ethical franchisors offer a proven model and plentiful support, a willingness to put in the hard graft to prosper is essential.

Passion. A close companion to tenacity, this comes in many forms; it might be passion for the product or service, passion to make a difference to a local community and its people, the desire to achieve freedom, flexibility and a better work/life balance, a belief in the company ethos and brand, a determination to achieve financial and professional independence – maybe it’s all of the above. Just make sure you’re enthusiastic about something.

System addict. Investing in a good franchise means buying into proven systems that have been established and honed over years and have been shown to succeed. Use them; the best franchisees do, taking full advantage of the experience and expertise, maximise the tools available. Most franchisors welcome and value innovative ideas from their franchisees within the framework of the business – perhaps the most famous example is that the Big Mac was invented by a franchisee – and will have communication channels for those ideas to be raised from their network. But if you’re looking to reinvent the wheel completely, franchising is probably not for you.

Network connection. Training, support and back-up from head office should be expected from every franchisor – but good franchisees also understand the power of the network of business owners alongside them. Whether there are one or two other franchisees in the network, or more than 100, you’ve got access to an incredibly powerful group dynamic of business owners sharing similar experiences, tips and what’s working (or not) for them. It’s a huge benefit of being a franchisee and one which should be utilised – your peers are a resource to tap into and share your own experiences with, not your competition.

Great franchisees are willing to learn from both new franchisees, with their fresh eyes and ideas, as well as established ones. Think of it as the best CPD – learn new skills, ask questions, implement ideas. Franchisors might hold conferences, regular regional forums, have an intranet or other mechanisms for franchisees to share best practice with each other.

Extra, extra. Franchisees have proven repeatedly that they can drive results from a business that an employed manager can’t or won’t – there are many examples and it’s one of several reasons why franchising is an attractive option to expand a successful business in the first place. Having that vested interest in the success and financial performance of a business means franchisees will go the proverbial extra mile for their customers, and the best of them do so time and time again. It’s your business and you need to lead from the front, do whatever it takes and if you have staff, inspire them to do the same. Truly exceptional customer service or client care is a given for outstanding franchisees.

Keep perspective. Be aware of the bigger picture, which holds multiple connotations in a franchise context: understand that you’re part of the wider network; strive to develop and grow your business further, rather than settling in a comfort zone; be patient and honest with yourself, success can take time; plan for the future and review your goals and whether you’re achieving them; and recognise that you’re investing in a business, not buying a job, and that it might be challenging and stressful at times.

If you’re ready for a change in 2016 but would like support running your business, then have a look into franchising. You can find information and advice via the British Franchise Association website.

Further information
www.thebfa.org

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