That’s the verdict of Nigel Toplis, managing director of multi-franchisor The Bardon Group
The last 10 years has been a period characterised by huge change, which is only likely to be more prevalent going forward.
On the business front, we have seen a growing ‘sophistication’ of the customer. Customers no longer defer to the supplier - they’re more knowledgeable, they’ve become more demanding and they expect a higher level of professionalism and value for money.
In business terms, this has meant investment in new products and services and the creation of more energy in the marketplace.
On the other side of the coin, however, we’ve seen the constant displacement and redundancy of employees, as manufacturing finds a cheaper cost base and technology develops at a pace most of us can’t keep up with.
Vehicle for recycling
One of the greatest advantages of franchising - and there are many - is that it offers an ideal vehicle for the ‘recycling’ of large numbers of individuals.
Franchising is the perfect home for individuals who want to work for themselves and create personal wealth that’s directly related to the effort they’re ready to invest.
Franchising offers the right people the opportunity to be in control, be rewarded directly for their own efforts and to create a level of security not available when working for others.
Theoretically, franchising is an ideal business partnership, because it offers substantial benefits to all involved.
With a franchise, the franchisor offers experience, know-how, proven operation methods, marketing tools, sales training and technical guidance, as well as a corporate identity, trademarks and the all important brand.
Because of the extensive support structure available, franchisees come from a wide range of backgrounds and previous experience. In addition, running a franchise is conducive to a variety of transferable skills, including project management, marketing, operations and sales, and the franchisor is there to help if you need to boost any skill sets.
It’s this marriage of the skills, work ethic and ambition of the franchisee with the system, tools and structure of the franchisor that makes franchising the success it is - an industry worth over £15 billion and employing more people than the combined UK armed forces.
Yet franchising could be even more successful, employ even more people and establish even more businesses.
My frustration with franchising is not that it only accounts for around nine-10 per cent of retail sales in the UK, compared to 45-50 per cent in the USA, that we still see some failures in UK franchising or that we use the word ‘franchise’ to describe everything from a rail network to a football club.
My frustration is that franchising is not the first port of call for universities and colleges teaching business courses.
We lecture students about how to start their own businesses - about taking responsibility for researching their market, for investing in their brand, for planning their marketing campaigns and for designing collateral and marketing programmes - yet we see most educational establishments effectively ignoring a system that does all these things for the start-up business person.
There is little recognition in academia for franchising, with the notable exception of Lancaster University. But what about in government?
You would think local government would promote franchising as a matter of course, as it’s a genuine means of regenerating towns and cities. Here is a system that’s designed to enable ordinary people to build their own businesses within a proven structure and with all the ‘corporate’ back-up and support individual start-ups simply don’t get.
However, in my experience the best you get from local government is a blank and confused look.
Surely, then, national government can see the logic? Some MPs certainly can, but it will take more effort - and sustained effort at that - by both MPs and, more importantly, by influential members of the franchise community and the British Franchise Association to get the business secretary to become significantly interested.
I am a franchisor and have been in franchising for 22 years. It’s my belief that there’s nothing to match good franchising for creating businesses, jobs and ultimately wealth. Just because academia, local councils and government can’t seem to grasp that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Ultimately, of course, it’s down to the franchise community to better promote itself and the case for franchising, putting itself forward when the media wants a quote about the plight of small businesses, on how a policy change will affect Britain’s entrepreneurs or how the minimum wage will impact the franchise industry’s 600,000 employees.
Franchising has come a long way in the UK and we have many established franchise brands regularly and competently servicing millions of satisfied customers.
But you just feel we could do a lot more.