With accrued life experience, valuable business skills, and capital to invest, 'olderpreneurs’ are forming the new generation of franchisees in the 2020s
A franchise over 50: what’s in it for you? The answer is plenty. Unlike many employers, franchisors largely welcome approaches from people in midlife, appreciating the life skills and business experience that mature people bring.
“Unlike many employers who focus mainly on recruiting young bucks who want to grow with the company, franchisors in most sectors welcome the maturity, wisdom and more settled outlook that people in midlife often possess,” says Clive Smith, of Franchise Focus, a consultancy that offers franchisee recruitment among its services. “They’re more likely to be unflappable, self-assured, and usually better financed.”
Midlifers are not alone in the franchise world. Unlike the corporate sector, you won’t feel like the office grandparent as those over-50s are well represented in franchising. The British Franchise Association NatWest report on the U.K. franchising landscape in 2018 shows that the number of new franchisees aged over 50 rose from 14 per cent in 2015 to 19 per cent in 2018, and at that point, 35 per cent of all franchisees were over 50 (though the average age of all franchisees is now 40, and is steadily coming down).
Nick Neill, managing director at estate agency franchise EweMove, welcomes any new franchisee who shows the right attitude and ambition to achieve success, regardless of their age. “We’re delighted to have welcomed so many over 50s to the flock,” he says.
“It doesn’t matter if your franchise journey with us is your first job or your last – we don’t think age should stand in the way of anyone wanting to achieve great things with a brand that equips you to reach your full potential. The diversity of people joining EweMove only strengthens us as a community, as everyone brings something unique to their own business and the network as a whole.”
Why do you want to set up a business?
It could be that you have been made redundant (sadly, the over 50s are more likely to be made redundant than any other age group) or you may feel your career is going nowhere, and the solution is to set up a business of your own. A franchise makes that easier.
On the more positive side, you may now have the confidence to step into the sector you really want to work in. It’s easier to change sectors with a franchise as most franchisors don’t expect you to have any experience in their industry and provide the training you need. Nick says: “We see so many of the over-50s who join us find a new lease of life after leaving their old careers behind – the energy and ambition they bring to the flock is unmatched. As the old saying goes, it’s better late than never, and it’s certainly never too late to find your true calling!”
You may feel that you now have the business experience, skills and funds needed to work for yourself, but like many other mature people, also want a business that allows you to give something back to your community.
Amrit Dhaliwal, chief executive at home care franchise Walfinch, says: “Our network of over 26 franchisees includes people under 30 and over 60. We welcome prospective franchisees of any age provided they share our values of integrity, teamwork, excellence and fun, and they pass what I call the ‘Mum Test’. When recruiting, we ask ourselves: ‘Would I like this person looking after my mum?’”
Change of lifestyles
If you want to step off the career treadmill a franchise can be a way to a better work-life balance. Setting up a business is always going to mean working very hard for the first couple of years, but once you have got everything in place, including a team trained to run the business when you are away, you can step off the gas. You choose when to take your holidays and can fit the business around your life.
A franchise gets you off to a faster start
When it comes to setting up a business in middle age, you won’t have the benefit of 40 years or so to develop it that you may have had if you’d started in your 20s. Getting started with a franchise is almost certainly faster than going it alone because the franchisor will already have a tried-and-tested business model to follow.
As someone who is starting a bit later in life, you’ll need to think about how long you want your business to last – and have a succession or exit strategy. Consider whether you want to still be running it in your 70s. Many won’t fancy that, but there are franchisees who do – and even some who start franchises in their 70s.
Clive says: “Franchisors will want to know if a prospective franchisee’s timeline for the business matches their own. Typically they will ask where an applicant wants to be by the end of the first franchise term. For many franchises, this is five to ten years.”
A few cautions
By the ages of 50 to 60, you may be well set up financially, your mortgage paid and the kids off your hands, but franchisors won’t be looking for the kind of person who’s looking for a slow coast down to retirement.
“Prospective franchisees would be ill-advised to tell a franchisor that they’ve now made their money and want a small business to hand on to their kids,” says Clive. “Someone who’s already in a great financial position may not be driven to work so hard to make the franchise a success, and that impacts on the franchise as a whole, so those people may be less desirable.”
Franchisors look for people who are hungry for business success – even if they are financially well-set already. This is where an emotional commitment to a business can be a valuable driver.
Clive says: “Many care sector franchisees, for instance, are driven by the urge to deliver high-quality care – sometimes because they have bought care for loved ones, found it lacking and are determined to provide a better service themselves.”
Business skills get better with age
Sarah Wickham became the Walfinch home care services franchisee for the Suffolk Coastal area two years ago, after over 25 years of experience in the care sector.
She says: “Even with that extensive experience, I chose to start my own business with a franchise because I was mature enough to understand that no one can be good at everything needed to run a successful home care business, and Walfinch provides extra support, both from head office and the other franchisees.”
Sarah, who turned 50 recently, says: “I think when you get a bit more mature you get better at achieving a work-life balance. When I started the franchise, I went hell for leather to build up the business, but with a great registered manager and care team I can now fit it around my life and get more time to spend with my husband, Billy. I can even run it remotely when we take a bit of time out on our canal boat.
“I also get time for networking and working with local charities – things that feel less daunting as you get older and more confident speaking with a wider variety of people.”
A better work-life balance hasn’t stopped Sarah from developing her business. She now employs more than 50 carers, recently achieved a ‘Good’ rating from industry regulator the Care Quality Commission, and is working on launching her second Walfinch franchise – this time in Norwich.
She says: “Age and experience makes you better at running your life – and that includes running a successful franchise.”
Tackling career fatigue with a franchise
Like a lot of mature people with a long career behind them, Paul Chant felt like he needed a change, and an EweMove estate agency franchise supplied it.
Now managing director of EweMove Northampton North, Paul had previously enjoyed a successful career in the printing and packing industry. He says: “Like a lot of people after a 30- year career, I’d got tired of the industry I was working in. After a period of searching for something completely different and appealing to me, I found EweMove.
“I’ve always had an interest in real estate, and having lived in Northampton for 25 years I was inspired by the prospect of bringing a new and progressive brand to my community, while equally being given all the tools to become my own boss.”
Paul had no prior experience in the sector, but says: “I joined EweMove because I knew that the support on offer would be key for the success of my start-up business.”
EweMove franchisees can choose to work alone or build a team of estate agents. The business model relies on one agent seeing the home-moving journey from start to finish with a client, supporting the delivery of consistently high standards, selling houses faster than other estate agencies, and for more money.
After three years at the helm, Paul, who runs the business with his wife Jayne, says: “EweMove offered me the challenge and stimulation that I needed. The support from the EweMove team has been second to none, and they have helped me put my new skills and methods into practice while combining them with the sales and customer service skills I developed in my previous career.
“If you’re prepared to put in the time and effort required to establish yourself in the new sector you’re chasing, go for it! Being your own boss is so rewarding. It takes some getting used to at first, but it’s well worth it in the end.”
Who are the over-50s?
In 2020, there were estimated to be over 4.6 million people aged between 50 and 54 in the United Kingdom, the most of any age group.
• If you’re now 50, your average life expectancy is 84 if you’re male and 87 if you’re female, according to the ONS, so you have, on average, 30 or more years to go – more than enough time to fit in a new career as a franchisee and with some time to spare. (If you want the slightly worrisome pleasure of knowing your own average life expectancy, there’s a calculator on the ONS website.)
• The number of workers over 65 has almost tripled, with nearly 900,000 more people over 65 in work. One in seven men and one in 12 women over 65 were still working in 2019.
• ONS redundancy rates show that the over 50s are the most likely age group to be made redundant.
• The number of unemployed people aged over 50 in the U.K. has increased by a third in the past year, according to an analysis of official figures.
• There were 371,000 unemployed older people from July to September 2020, a 33 per cent rise from the 280,000 unemployed over-50s during the same period in the previous year. The data, provided in the latest Labour Market Statistics issued by the Office for National Statistics and analysed by job site Rest Less, suggested this was the biggest percentage increase of all age groups, and significantly more than the national average increase of 24 per cent.
• Quoted in an article in the CIPD publication People Management, Stuart Lewis, founder of job site Rest Less said the U.K. was facing a “less well-documented” long-term unemployment “disaster” among older workers.
• But while employers turn their backs, franchisors rush forward. Most small business employer owners and co-owners fall into the 35 to 44 (25 per cent), 45 to 54 (31 per cent) and 55 to 64 (26 per cent) age categories (startups.co.uk).
Linda Whitney writes about franchising for the Daily Mail, What Franchise and many other publications.