This advice can help new franchisees avoid burnout as they embark on their journey to becoming a successful business owner
In the wake of the global COVID-19 emergency and subsequent shift in workforce dynamics, we will likely see a surge in new franchise businesses.
With redundancies and economic downturns come opportunities to explore new business passions - and franchising is especially tempting when market conditions are less stable. The proven business model, brand strength and practical support offered by franchisors have seen franchise numbers soar - and this trend is set to rise.
For those joining the market at this challenging time, the hours will invariably be long, as investors throw themselves into nurturing their business and getting to grips with every facet of their new operation. But how do you strike the right balance between the hard graft required to build a thriving business and avoid the burnout associated with stress and overwork?
The World Health Organization defines burnout as ‘a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’. It is characterised by three dimensions:
• Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
• Increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job.
• Reduced professional efficacy.
It’s a condition that affects people of all ages and in all sectors. In the UK, 602,000 people suffered from work-related stress, anxiety or depression in 2018/19, according to the Health and Safety Executive.
And 54 per cent of all working days lost due to sickness during this period were due to these conditions. Here are four ways new franchisees can avoid burnout:
1. Lean on your franchisor
Any new franchisee will need to invest time and energy to get their business off the ground. There’ll be a team to recruit, train and inspire, a customer base to build and a raft of new skills to master.
But while a business launch will undoubtedly be demanding, it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Remember that one of the great advantages of investing in a franchise is that there is a tried and tested model for you to follow.
Any franchisor worth its salt will provide a great deal of support, including help with securing funding, finding a suitable business location and providing comprehensive training.
Do use the resources and templates you are given rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. And remember that you’re obliged to work within the franchisor’s guidelines, so use this to your advantage.
Don’t forget that many franchisors will offer centralised services such as marketing and PR to help you spread the word, so get to know the suppliers that the head office has in place and ask them what help is available. You may even pick up some tips and techniques you can use to build your own strategies.
2. Use your support system
Going it alone can be tough for even the savviest businessperson. Franchising should offer mentorship, support and opportunities to connect with a network of like-minded people.
Ask your franchisor what platforms it offers to enable you to connect with your peers. You may find that the franchise has an intranet or messaging platform you can use to network or virtual and face-to-face events to help you connect and seek advice.
Tapping into the experience and expertise of fellow business owners who have been on a similar journey gives franchisees a sense of security and being part of something bigger. It will also invariably save you an inordinate amount of unnecessary time and worry too.
3. Delegate at the right time
During the early days, you will need to understand all elements of the franchise, so invariably the days will be long until the business launches.
In the home care sector, where my business Caremark operates, on setting up the business our franchisees must hire an experienced registered manager with the industry knowledge they need to help run the operation.
Invest your time and energy in inspiring and training staff, establishing clear and effective communication and reporting standards and building a strong company culture. If you have recruited well, trust in your employees and avoid the temptation to micro-manage.
When faced with an overwhelming list of tasks, many successful business owners start by asking themselves: is this the best use of my time? or: who can do this particular task better than I can? Thinking in this way will free you up to work on the business rather than just in the business and save a good deal of stress in the process.
4. Prioritise self care
Our ‘always on’ culture can make it difficult to switch off, but it’s vital to take time out of the business to enjoy some leisure time.
Getting enough sleep, fresh air and exercise are vital to beat the risk of burnout. If you find it difficult to justify, remember you’ll be a more effective boss if you enjoy a better work-life balance and your business will be more productive and sustainable.
Try to set some rules about when you will turn off your phone or laptop, so you can be present during your downtime with friends and family.
Business owners who put their own well-being at the bottom of the list are those most at risk of burnout. If it helps, try to think about treating yourself with the same compassion you would an employee.
Finally, remember that if stress and overwork continue unabated the effects of burnout can be profound. Business owners’ mental health, physical health, relationships and - ultimately - their ability to run a sustainable business are all at risk.
You owe it to your staff, your business and yourself to take steps to protect yourself against burnout.
David Glover is managing director of Caremark. He’s also the British Franchise Association forum chair for London and the south east.