The last couple of years have taught us that no matter how hard we plan for the future, things can and will change, but the uncertainty that awaits us does not have to hinder franchisees from growing and expanding their businesses
Uncertainty forms a significant part of any business. Every business owner knows that without risk, there is no reward. The extent of the effects of COVID-19 could not have been predicted or prevented, and businesses across all industries, including the franchise sector, were forced to adapt and change their business landscape as they knew it.
Franchising, however, has a strong operational model, and the past two years have shown that the sector is well-positioned to thrive even in the most challenging times. Testament to its resilience, many franchises continued to operate even during really difficult moments, with entrepreneurs continuing to invest in, and launch, new franchises across the UK.
The pandemic has also led many people to revaluate their career choice and research other options into how they could make more money and improve their lifestyles. These inspirations have certainly contributed to a surging interest in franchising and the fact that it is a relatively quick and easy way to grow a business at very little cost.
Here are my top tips to help franchisees manage risk and uncertainty so they can continue to grow and serve their customers.
Tried and tested business format
The franchise model reduces some of the risks associated with starting a new business as the operating system has already been developed and tested by the franchisor. By its very nature, franchising offers the security of a proven model and has already been replicated successfully. From staffing problems to geographical nuances and system upgrades, you can be confident that someone in the network has experienced a problem and, together with the franchisor, worked to not only resolve it but roll out preventative measures and maybe even enhancements for the benefit of the entire network.
Good support network
One of the main reasons people choose to invest in a franchise rather than go it alone is the level of training and support received from the franchisor. The support is vital to any new franchisee’s success, and it is something that our business owners say was the reason they chose Poppies as their future. But something equally as important and valuable, especially when the going gets tough, is the support of your fellow franchisees. Establishing a reliable network of people that you can turn to when you are struggling with an issue, stress, or looking for emotional support, will make your life as a business owner much easier and help you overcome the challenges of running a business.
Focus on key priorities and goals
It is the role of the franchisor to lead with calm and confidence, as well as maintain a positive mindset. A big part of supporting franchisees is leading them through uncertainty and planning the next steps, so it is important to focus on priorities, both new and existing, and develop customer growth so the brand can stay focused on overall growth plans. Franchisees are looking for guidance and strong partnership in these difficult times, so the franchisor team must be more focused than ever by continuing to move key initiatives forward.
Insight and knowledge
Franchisors are continually looking to maximise opportunities for their franchisees in their sectors, providing insight and innovation to differentiate themselves from competitors. That could be anything from reviewing industry regulations and legislation to following government guidelines, which we all had to follow during the pandemic. Whether it is working to pivot products and services, adapt marketing messages or even put the wheels of a crisis communications plan into motion, the franchisor is working for the common goal – franchisee success.
Help to control costs
Most small businesses have significant fixed costs including rent, loan repayments and wages. Fixed costs can quickly sink a business when there is a drop in sales or it is faced with an economic crisis, so it is vital for a franchisor to find ways for its franchisees to reduce their cost and adjust their budgets. Focusing on short-term cash flow and ways to build long-term sustainability will increase their financial viability.
Increased purchasing powers
There are cost advantages to using the franchise business model that you would not receive as an individual business owner. On a tangible level, franchisees benefit from this ‘strength in numbers’ concept in more ways than one. Increased buying power can often see prices held or discounted during economic uncertainty as the franchisor and the brand, rather than the individual franchisee, step in to leverage key relationships. Franchises have supplier partnerships in place that allow you to purchase inventory at a reduced price. These relationships have been developed over time and could be difficult to establish quickly on your own. Bulk buying power, for example with cleaning products, can also help to protect supply chains and mitigate disruption. And more savings for you translates to higher profitability.
Staying ahead of the game
It is a franchisor’s responsibility to stay ahead of the game and to remain agile to ensure that they protect the business interests of every one of their franchisees. It can sometimes be hard to keep abreast of goings-on in your wider industry, let alone the economy and national business landscape when you are also running a business. Franchisees have the benefit and comfort of knowing that the overarching foresight and support of a franchisor can prove vital for survival. In a time of national crisis, a franchisor will co-ordinate a company-wide response and disseminate new policies, procedures and, perhaps most importantly, be a voice of reassurance and guidance for the entire network.
Chris Wootton is owner, managing director and also a longstanding franchisee of Poppies with over two decades of personal experience in both the cleaning and franchise industries.