Franchising is a more accessible and promising world than ever before for women in business
You only need to look at large companies’ pay statistics to understand why plenty of women feel they aren’t getting their due. If you’re trying to balance work with life, corporate environments can be stifling. Demanding hours, travel on short notice and a gruelling commute make social and family life tough.
So what do you do? Well, more and more women are choosing the route of starting their own business. You get to set your own work balance, every penny that comes in is your own, and you don’t have to deal with corporate bureaucracy. At the same time, working on your own with little experience in how to operate and market a business isn’t as appealing a picture. But there is an increasingly viable alternative option: joining a franchise.
Franchising today isn’t just the fast food and cleaning services of old, in fact, according to the British Franchise Association (bfa), there are nearly 50,000 franchise businesses in the UK. Joining a franchise is a great way to combine the freedom that comes with running your own business with the support structures that you’d get working as part of a large company. Franchising can provide a wealth of opportunities for women to make their own success free of corporate bias – the benefits are myriad, but to list just a few big ones:
1. FRANCHISES ARE FLEXIBLE (AND THOSE THAT AREN’T SHOULD BE!)
Many industries – accountancy certainly being one – have not yet done enough to help women progress in their careers without compromising their family time. It isn’t that women don’t want to work or are afraid of hard work, but they just can’t do the traditional nine-to-five. Unfortunately, in many corporate environments, if you won’t prioritise work, you hit that glass ceiling. It’s also still too common for women to find themselves “frozen out” of their careers upon returning from maternity leave.
“If you need to step away at 3.30 pm every Tuesday to make sure the kids get to practice, you can”
Joining a franchise, however, is definitely not locking yourself into a nine-to-five. If you need to step away at 3.30 pm every Tuesday to make sure the kids get to practice, you can. If you want to work into the night so you can go to the dentist tomorrow, you can. You don’t need to worry about the holiday rota, or sacrificing time with the kids for work. A franchise offers all of the flexibility of running your own business, whilst taking away the majority of the risk involved in striking out on your own.
2. YOU CAN FOCUS ON THE BUSINESS, WITHOUT HAVING TO WORRY ABOUT THE ADMIN
Business operators are experts in their particular area – they’ve got years of experience in their field, and know how to provide a high-quality service or product to clients. What they usually don’t know how to do is actually run and promote a business.
Business administration and marketing require very different skillsets to each other, let alone to the overall business you might want to run. Juggling all three of those can sink a business before it really gets the chance to get started. Franchising, however,
means that you’ve got support, so you can focus on what you do best. Joining a franchise offers women the chance to use their skills to the fullest, whilst shoring up those areas that they might feel less confident in. To use AIMS as an example; an accountant is not a marketeer. That’s why we’ve got a website run by professionals designed to get leads for our franchisees, and dedicated marketing and business support staff to help franchisees keep on top of growing their practice, whilst they focus on providing for their clients.
3. INSTANT BRAND RECOGNITION
Building a brand is hard work. It takes blood, sweat, tears and most importantly, time. It takes years, sometimes decades, before many businesses generate a recognisable brand in the public eye.
One of the main benefits of a franchise for just about any franchisee is that you get to buy into an existing brand, and if you are picking the right one it will be a strong one. As soon as you start working, you’re immediately associated with a recognised company with a good reputation.
4. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHO YOU ARE; WHAT MATTERS IS YOUR SUCCESS
Women are attracted to franchising for many reasons, and they’ll differ from person to person. What we have found they often have in common, though, is a fear that franchising will just present similar challenges to the corporate world in terms of relations. They’ll face the same potential discriminations and issues, but this time they’re “on their own” when dealing with them.
In reality, though, to most franchisors your gender, race, or any other potentially discriminating factor doesn’t matter. Your ability does. Making sure that franchisees are running a sound and successful business is the top priority for any franchisor. The better your business does, the more the franchise benefits – it’s as simple as that. At AIMS, our franchisees could come from anywhere, and be anyone. As long as they can run a successful business that utilises their skills to the fullest, we’re happy – and so are they.
Not every female franchisee’s story is about work-life balance or glass ceilings. Sometimes it’s simply the attraction of the brand, or a franchise being simpler to set up and run than their own independent business. But no matter the reasons, the franchise industry as a whole is undoubtedly ahead of the curve with opportunities for women; according to the bfa, 37 per cent of new franchisees last year were female – a 20 per cent increase in the last three years.
For women looking for an equal- opportunity situation where they can enjoy both the freedom of being a business owner and the structured, supportive environment of a company, franchising is more viable than ever. As someone who has myself come out of an inflexible corporate environment, I’ll always be proud of the opportunities I’m able to offer people as part of AIMS, and I’d hope the same is true for all franchises who support female members. Let’s not stop here.
Jessica Rajwan is franchisee manager at AIMS Accountants for Business.