We can’t continue to let a lack of awareness constrict the growth of the franchise sector
Franchising is, in my opinion, one of the most misunderstood, most underestimated and most overlooked sectors in the UK.
For years, there has been one constant and ever-present complaint amongst franchisors: the pool of candidates never gets bigger. This is especially worrying as there seems to be hundreds of new ‘franchisors’ popping up all over the place courtesy of the ‘£50 and I’ll franchise your business’ consultants - all of which are fishing from the same pool.
Greater knowledge needed
Every year we franchisors attend conferences, go on courses, try new marketing methods and in the end we sit around a table and agree the only thing the sector needs is greater awareness of franchising amongst the general public.
Over the years, there have been attempts to boost awareness by the associations or commercial companies trying to sell floor space at exhibitions. But in reality, they just haven’t had the clout to address the core issue of awareness that is constricting the growth of the sector.
Frankly, I’m tired of riding this same merry-go-round every year. So it’s time we stopped complaining about it and with one voice start doing something about it.
If you’re a franchisor, there’s a good chance you’re a member of the Franchise Mastermind group. You will have seen and been part of the extraordinary cooperation between franchisors over the past six months. Now more than ever, it’s critical for us to stand shoulder to shoulder and make it our business to promote and educate as many people as we can about the incredible depth and diversity of franchising in the UK.
By promoting the industry as a whole, you will not only benefit your own business but the businesses of the family of franchisors we have developed such strong bonds with.
Educate your local politicians
Not sure where to start or what to do? Do something simple, like educating your local politicians. Let’s get them to champion the franchising industry and start using us as examples of Great British businesses in their morning interviews on the BBC.
Write open letters like the one below I recently wrote to the Minister for Small Business, Paul Scully. It’s a small step, but if we all promote our industry we can move mountains.
Dear Mr Scully,
I write to you as a member of an industry who’s good and tireless work is largely hidden behind the magnificent glow emanating from the golden arches of McDonald’s.
It is a sector that contributes over £17 billion to the UK economy and employs near on a million people. It is a sector that has time and time again proven its incredible resilience and unparalleled ability to survive tough economic times. It is a sector whose success is unapparelled in the world of small business. It is a sector where the small businesses within it enjoy a 93 per cent success rate compared to the 80 per cent failure rate of small businesses in the UK.
I am sure you have by now identified the magical sector I am speaking of, but in case you haven’t, we are the dog walkers, window cleaners, pizza companies, gyms, restaurants, children’s dance classes, coffee shops, mobile coffee vendors, delivery drivers, car cleaners, tutors, storage companies and heroic in-home carers, who have been looking after Britain’s elderly and most vulnerable throughout the pandemic.
I am, of course, speaking about the incredibly diverse franchising sector.
In a quite illogical twist of fate, franchising has largely been the forgotten sector because we are generally more robust than independent small businesses.
We are the forgotten sector because we put our heads down and never ask for concessions or favours. We are the forgotten sector because there is very little understanding of what we do in the halls of power.
Over the past six months, the industry came together in a way that was incredible to behold. It worked tirelessly for one purpose and one purpose only: to ensure franchisees survived the COVID-19 ordeal.
I am happy to report that they were almost universally successful in this endeavour. Yes, tens of thousands of small businesses have been kept alive as a direct result of the efforts of the franchisors of Great Britain.
Mr Scully, I am sure by now you are wondering what the point of this letter is. Well, allow me to explain. The franchising sector, and more specifically the franchisors behind the brands, possess unrivalled skills and expertise when it comes to launching and growing successful small businesses. That is an incontestable fact.
These masters of small business, as I call them, not only have the challenge of running their own small business but are often supporting tens and sometimes hundreds of franchisees build their commercial dreams. But these incredible people and brands have been overlooked, underestimated and gone largely unsupported by consecutive governments for too long.
This is something I hope you will help me rectify as the franchise industry is a loyal, reliable and valuable servant to the British economy. As a sector, we are without doubt going to be at the tip of the spear of economic recovery for all the reasons I mentioned above. But in order for us to really make a difference, we need your help and support. Let me explain.
I support a group of over 350 incredible franchisors that have over the past six months repeatedly agreed that the biggest challenge we face is lack of awareness of the diversity and consistency of the industry. It is also fair to say that many of those in power have not been given the opportunity to understand the extent of the industry.
So with this in mind, I would like to invite you and your team to a tour of the franchising industry you currently represent. Not the carefully choreographed PR tours you are often subjected to. No, I would like to take you on a tour of the heart and soul of franchising in the UK - the reliable business engine that keeps firing, regardless of outside forces like COVID-19.
I want to introduce you to extraordinary business people who are leading the way in ground-breaking innovation. I want to explain the models and systems that have proven so incredibly reliable when it comes to weathering the storm. I want to show you and your team exactly how franchising could become the pilot flame that reignites the furnace of small business growth in this great country.
We are a small but significant sector and I feel that once you understand our sector better you will see how, with your support, the franchising sector will lead the charge in the small business fight back in the UK.
I sincerely hope you will accept my invitation and I look forward to hearing from you.
Spread the word. So to anyone reading this, spread the word in every way you can. Promote your fellow franchisors and see how quickly they will promote you.
And if we do this with one voice, we will all benefit immensely from the additional awareness of this most excellent industry.
Sean Goldsmith is a special adviser to the franchising industry.