Craig Brown, managing director of Signs Express, reveals the four key components of a first class franchise
As the franchising industry has become increasingly popular in the past decade and has expanded year on year, it can be difficult for anyone investing in a new franchise business to sort the good from the bad.
This is why the British Franchise Association, as a regulatory body ensuring the practice of ethical franchising, is so important. Its members have to maintain the highest standards of franchising and must uphold the values of the association to remain as members. So it’s always worth asking if a franchisor is a member of the bfa. If it is, this means its franchising model has been fully vetted.
Running a franchised business is completely different from setting up your own company. A good franchise can be characterised by a great product, firm business foundations, a solid structure and exemplary customer service.
So here are some pointers on what to look out for when you’re investing in a franchise, as well as some traits that help a business succeed as a part of a larger network.
Good support package
A franchisor should provide a comprehensive training package alongside ongoing support for you and your business, especially if it states in its promotional materials that you need no previous industry experience to become a franchisee.
From the outset, training in industry standards and the ethical practices of the business, as well as the basics of the trade, are all crucial.
The ongoing support you receive as a franchisee should cover all areas of your business and the support should be easily accessible. You don’t want to have to fill out an online form to get advice, you need to talk to someone with the relevant experience and skills to handle your request.
It’s worth asking any potential franchisors for details of what training they can offer you when you start, plus ongoing standards training for both you and your employees. On top of this, it’s always beneficial to know how you will be able to communicate with the advisory team, in addition to how you will be able to communicate with your fellow franchisees when you need assistance or project related advice.
Established franchises that lead their respective industries always have a strong brand presence, but young franchises should also have strong brand guidelines, a customer focused approach and be able to differentiate themselves from the competition in order to grow and become as prolific as their counterparts in other industries.
The majority of franchises outsource talent to provide services in marketing, sales, human resources and other core business areas. Other franchises, like Signs Express, have a dedicated team at their headquarters that helps the entire network in all aspects of their business.
Marketing and sales should be this team’s priority in order to boost the brand presence on both a national and regional scale. It’s common for franchises to have an additional advertising levy or national promotional fund franchisees have to pay into, which will fund activities that help to develop the brand.
Often these franchises will have a greater brand presence, as the money invested in campaigns can go a long way to boosting company profiles.
It’s always worth doing a comprehensive Google search on the franchise you are looking into. This way you can see how prominent it is in the market and how proactive it is when it comes to online marketing and brand status. The more active and professional it appears, the more this will benefit your business if you invest in the company.
Franchises with many years’ experience under their belts will have a business plan that has proven its mettle time and time again. They should be able to provide you with case studies of successful franchisees, who have proven the viability of the business plan and can show you the potential of the investment.
This is especially poignant when purchasing a resale. The business’ potential to succeed needs to be apparent, even if the previous owner has not maximised on the business opportunities in the past. With proven success rates and profit potential, you will be able to compare the capital you have to invest with the potential returns.
It’s well within your rights as an investor to request to see a full set of financials, which will confirm the franchisor’s projections for the future. Also, good franchises often have an excellent relationship with the major lending banks and will be able to help you secure funding when making the initial investment. This is definitely something to research before investing in a franchise.
One of the main benefits of franchising is the fact you are never alone - you are part of a larger group. If you need help or advice, there are always others in the group who can help you by offering knowledge and experiences of their own.
Being part of a bigger network can often mean that larger, more complex work can be undertaken with the cooperation of different businesses within the group. Indeed, it means projects can be rolled out simultaneously across the country.
Such national accounts will help to build brand presence and can be lucrative to the wider group, benefiting more than one franchisee at a time.
When investigating franchises, ask if there are opportunities for you to meet or talk to existing franchisees or if there are annual networking events scheduled you can attend to get the latest news about the group and industry.
You need to get a flavour of what you’re buying into and ensure the franchise aligns with your values.