What you need to succeed as a management franchisee. Plus three people who already have
Accountancy, estate agency, recruitment, business advice, training, business services, energy auditing, marketing. What’s the link? They all count as white-collar franchises.
While the term ‘white-collar franchising’ is slowly being superseded by management or business services franchising, it still has a use. So if you’re considering buying a franchise in this sector, here are some pointers about what kind of franchises are available, what franchisors look for and some things to be aware of before you start.
A smart suit is not enough
In white-collar franchising, it’s tempting to think that qualifications, skills and experience in some kind of office-based career, plus a smart suit and a firm handshake, is enough. But it’s not as simple as that.
Not everyone who works in a white-collar job has what it takes to be a successful white-collar franchisee. Many accountants, estate agents, bankers and insurance specialists possess the business skills and experience required to become professional and management franchisees, but that doesn’t automatically mean they have the ambition needed to set up their own business, even with a franchise. Most are perfectly happy to remain working as employees.
That’s why, when seeking white collar franchisees, franchisors prioritise attitude over experience.
The importance of attitude
Julie Waites, partner at franchise consultancy The Franchise Company, says: “White-collar franchisors, in particular, look for good communications skills, self-motivation and the ability to self manage, plus a track record of staff management skills. But most crucially, they look for the right attitude because that is vital in making a success of a franchise.
“From a franchisor’s point of view, lack of skills or experience usually can be overcome by training and support, but trying to change a franchisee’s attitude is very hard.”
The 2018 British Franchise Association NatWest franchise landscape report found that the fourth most common reason for franchisors failing to grant a franchise to a prospective franchisee is because they ‘seemed to be just buying a job’. Some would-be white-collar franchisees were likely turned down for this reason, even though they had many of the other skills the franchisor required.
As Chris Wootton, managing director of the Poppies cleaning franchise, whose franchisees manage teams of cleaners, says: “Franchisors do not want franchisees who constantly need telling what to do.
“We look for people with the right attitude to run their own business, the capacity to forge, maintain and manage relationships with both cleaners and clients and the resilience to deal professionally with any issues that arise. If they have the right attitude and resilience, we can train them in everything else, such as bookkeeping, business planning and payroll.”
How your transferable skills help
Many franchises can help you break into traditional white-collar sectors, such as accountancy and law, without any previous experience or qualifications within those industries, provided you have relevant transferable skills.
X-Press Legal Services provides solicitors and other conveyancing professionals with property searches and reports, an essential part of the UK property buying process.
Managing director Lynne Lister says: “Becoming an X-Press Legal Services franchise owner requires no previous legal experience, as we provide full training. Our franchise owners come from all walks of life and a diverse range of backgrounds and former careers. But as the reports we prepare for clients are legal documents, you need to possess good attention to detail, excellent communication skills and be computer savvy.”
Other franchises that allow you to get into areas that are usually seen as the preserve of people with professional qualifications include TaxAssist Accountants. While most of its franchisees have recognised accountancy qualifications, the company will also consider people from senior management positions in banking or financial services who can demonstrate business acumen.
Where senior business experience is essential
Business advice, training and coaching franchises inevitably demand that prospective franchisees have senior business experience. They offer advisory services to businesses, so credibility is important. What business owner wants to accept advice from someone with less experience than themselves?
Franchises such as ActionCOACH, Sandler Training and Auditel can be a good way for those with senior level business experience to get into consultancy.
Expense Reduction Analysts, the business consultancy franchise that was awarded Best White Collar Franchise at the Global Franchise Awards 2020, looks for franchisees with a proven track record in leadership roles or management positions, good communication, sales and negotiating skills or high levels of expertise in a specific sector or expense category.
But there is something to remember when it comes to transferring your business skills to consultancy franchises like this: you have to be willing to follow the franchise model.
If you’ve been the boss in a successful business, it’s easy to assume your ways of conducting business are the best, but franchisors expect you to follow their business model.
Growth consultancy franchise Business Doctors describes what it looks for in franchisees as “business-savvy individuals who can follow our franchise system.” Matthew Levington, co-founder of Business Doctors, says: “Business savvy includes a willingness to learn. If someone thinks they already know it all, then a franchise will not work for them.”
Turn your professional qualification into a business
There are a few white-collar franchises that are only open to people with professional qualifications. Usually, they aim to help you set up your own professional practice, so you get the benefits of an existing brand, plus the franchisor’s business know-how and support.
For instance, AIMS Accountants for Business helps people who are qualified members of professional accountancy associations such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to open a professional practice. The franchise provides training, marketing support, IT services and mentoring from a team of chartered accountants.
For qualified opticians, Leightons Opticians & Hearing Care offers a franchise package that includes marketing, IT and local area business assistance.
Using a franchise to get into management
Some franchises allow you to start as an owner-operator and then recruit employees to do the hands-on work, leaving you free to move into management.
Julie says: “There are franchises that actively encourage franchisees to do this.”
Chris adds: “Poppies is a management franchise, but you don’t have to be good at accountancy, bookkeeping, payroll or business planning because we have systems to handle that - and we even handle sales.
“It’s a flexible business, so it would suit people who want to fit a business round a family. If you’re used to delivering good customer service and have experience in staff supervision, we can take you to management level as a Poppies franchisee.”
Karen Underwood: wearing many hats
“If there are some tasks you don’t feel confident about, head office training is invaluable”
Karen Underwood, the Thames Valley franchisee for X-Press Legal Services, attributes part of her success to skills she learnt working in the family undertaking business.
“I was trained as a dancer, but then went into the family funeral directing business and ended up managing it,” says Karen, who’s now in her 14th year as a franchisee. “When we sold it, I took some time out to be a mum, but then wanted to be self-employed and work flexibly around my family. I had no idea what to do before I found X-Press.
“Many of the skills I learnt as a funeral director help in this business, particularly the attention to detail. As a funeral director, you cannot afford to get anything wrong. That transfers well to the legal business, where attention to detail in reports is essential. Now I employ staff to do the necessary local authority searches, but I do the final checks.”
Karen brought a lot of business management skills to her franchise but says: “You need to wear many hats when you’re running a business and it’s useful being part of a franchise because if there are some tasks you don’t feel confident about, head office training is invaluable.
“For instance, for me accounts is easy, but sales is tough, partly because we never prioritised sales in the family funeral business. We were almost anti-sales - we’d sometimes dissuade people from buying more expensive coffins than they needed. We did no marketing, as having been established for years almost all our business came from word-of-mouth recommendations.”
Karen adds: “Even if you have business management experience, the right franchise is a huge help when it comes to developing skills that are not your strongest. That said, even though head office offers advice and training, it will not do the difficult tasks for you. You have to do it all for yourself because it’s your business.”
Tracey Payne: from cleaner to franchisee
“It was a big leap at first, but you get used to it”
“I’ve gone from cleaner to franchisee - there are no barriers here,” says Tracey Payne, who is co-franchisee of the Poppies cleaning franchise in Burton upon Trent.
Tracey had worked in a pharmacy, a tile shop, a factory, as a night cleaner at a hospital and as a chambermaid before she joined the team of cleaners at Poppies Mercia.
“I started as a cleaner, but over about nine years I became a supervisor and also helped franchisee Paula Sidwells out in the office,” Tracey says. “She taught me about invoicing, compiling rotas and administration and I started covering for her when she went on holiday. Finally, I joined her as co-franchisee.
“It was a big leap at first, but you get used to it. I now do rotas, day-to-day administration and staff management, while Paula mainly takes care of accounts. It helps if you have been on the cleaning team. Our staff know they can come to me or Paula if they have any problems and we will understand.
“Franchise head office is very supportive. They put on training events and you can call Chris, the managing director, for advice at any time. Being part of a network of franchisees also means you can share ideas at franchisee meetings too.”
Emma Orton: running a business around her family
“I’m still working in education, but have lots of time to be a mum”
A franchise helped Emma Orton turn from teacher to business owner using her administration, management and educational skills.
She started work as an administrator for a training organisation, then moved into advice and guidance roles before becoming a teacher. When she started a family, she wanted more flexibility.
Emma explains: “I wanted to continue with my full-time teaching job initially, so I explored many educational business opportunities before finding the First Class Learning franchise. I loved the idea of a franchise, as it gives you the chance to start your own business, but with the help and support of a successful organisation.”
FCL specialises in English and maths, with 300 franchisee-run centres nationwide. Although 80 per cent of its centre manager franchisees are ex-teachers or have a background in education, this is not essential, as the company welcomes anyone with a business background.
Emma opened her first FCL centre in Darlington in 2011 and now has four centres, running seven classes weekly.
“As an FCL manager, I can run my centres around a family,” she says. “I’m still working in education and helping children learn and grow, but have lots of time to be a mum. I took voluntary redundancy from my full-time teaching position in July 2012, as I knew I wouldn’t want to go back to a full-time teaching job after having a baby.
“Working from home and setting my own hours has allowed me to continue working and there are lots of opportunities to grow my business and help more children.”
How to showcase your management skills
Julie Waites, partner at franchise consultancy The Franchise Company, recommends that on paper and in person you should provide evidence of a track record of achievements in areas such as:
- Communication with a variety of people.
- Team management.
- Project management, including managing budgets.
- Sales and marketing.
- Customer services.
- Bringing in profitable business.
- Self motivation and self management.
Linda Whitney writes about franchising for the Daily Mail, What Franchise and many other publications