What’s changed in franchising during the past 20 years? Everything, according to Sue Moore, president and managing director of Bright & Beautiful
As an industry, franchising has transformed beyond all recognition since I first joined the sector over 20 years ago.
Today there are over 900 franchise systems to choose from in the UK and the number of people employed in franchising in the UK is over 621,000, an increase of 70 per cent during the past 10 years. This is testament to the hardworking and professional approach of franchisors and franchisees up and down the country.
When I first joined the franchise industry in the 1990s, there was little understanding of what franchising was as a concept and I found myself constantly having to explain how it worked.
To my eyes, the franchise world was a very male one, dominated by vans, men in branded polo shirts and franchises centred around the hospitality industry. Women were few and far between, either as leaders or franchise owners. It appeared to me at events that everyone knew everyone else and it might be a difficult industry for a newcomer.
With social media yet to break through to the mainstream, there was little information available about how to progress your career within the world of franchising, but I was prepared for the challenge and threw myself into this unique world.
And as I began to understand more about the world of franchising and what career paths it could offer, I knew I’d come to the right place. Franchising offers a unique relationship between franchisee and franchisor and it’s a place where plans are made and lives are changed.
Within franchising, I found an industry where my experience across finance, sales, marketing and management could help me to work with and coach small business owners.
All these transferable skills I had honed within my previous corporate roles would enable me to train and support franchisees and act as an ambassador for the industry and the opportunities franchising offers.
My first role was at a franchise that was well established in the drainage industry and a great example of a new breed of franchise that was bringing in non-technical and business oriented people like myself to deliver training and coaching that could help franchisees grow and make a success of their businesses.
The buzz I get from meeting with franchisees and watching them grow their businesses has never left me and from that day forward I’ve passionately believed that, if you can’t give the best of yourself to franchise owners and don’t have a vested interest in helping them make their businesses a success, you shouldn’t be in franchising.
Franchising has also embraced diversity, reflected in particular in the growing numbers of women wanting to build exciting and profitable businesses.
In the last 20 years, there has been a shift in the sector and today franchising in the UK is open for business with an increasing breadth of scalable and in demand opportunities.
Industry bodies like the British Franchise Association, Encouraging Women into Franchising and others have played a big part in showcasing what franchising has to offer via their events and initiatives and are now highly relevant to what has evolved into an inspirational industry.
Today we can recognise that franchising has changed beyond all recognition in order to anticipate and meet the needs of the 24/7, time poor, cash rich culture most of us now live in.
From busy millennials to families balancing work and home, we have never had so little perceived leisure time, which is driving growth in franchises like cleaning, drain clearance, oven cleaning, gardening and other home service-based franchise models.
Many other sectors have also opened their doors to welcome franchisees - from dog sitting to accountancy - and there is something to appeal to everyone who wants to build their own business using a proven model.
This shift has also influenced the types of people taking up franchises, attracting a diverse following from significantly different backgrounds and with options available for business investors, owner operators and management franchise opportunities.
The launch of Google in 1998 and the subsequent explosion of social media channels that has cultivated today’s 24/7 society had a huge impact on the accessibility and opportunity to buy franchises.
People are now able to find out much more about taking the franchising route to owning their own business and are using a variety of digital channels to help promote and connect with potential clients.
I believe technology will continue to play a big part in franchising as a great way to support and amplify what we do, rather than replacing the people facing services that are at the core of our industry.
The next 20 years
What about the next 20 years for franchising? The career opportunities within franchising are exceptional and they’re increasingly figuring in the plans of young entrepreneurs who want to do their own thing, with the reassurance of a solid brand behind them.
On a personal note, I’m interested in programmes that allow us to introduce franchising as an alternative to going it alone or perhaps as an alternative to university. This is a real option for young entrepreneurs and it was great to see young franchise owners celebrated at a recent bfa event.
To help drive this growing trend, before we get to 2020 I would like to think franchising will be given more prominence on the curriculum in schools and promoted more to young people looking for opportunities to become entrepreneurs and build their own businesses.
Similarly, the industry is also welcoming older people, who may have honed their people management and business development talents working for someone else and now want to do it for themselves. We need to understand how best to tap into this potential.
So what’s changed in 20 years? Everything. And that includes the revenue and employment our industry creates for the UK economy, the internet, the way we communicate, the number of franchise brands grown in the UK rather than being imported, the number of systems available and the bfa.
For my part at least, I’m glad I stayed around to enjoy the ride and I would encourage anyone who is serious about business to explore franchising. There has never been a better time to join this exciting and innovative industry.