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Why families are a good fit for franchising

Why families are a good fit for franchising

Trust, loyalty and commitment are just some of the reasons that make families a good fit for franchising

Families have long been attracted to working together, particularly in small- and medium-sized businesses, and franchising is no different.

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Pip Wilkins, CEO of the British Franchise Association, says the organisation has noticed a rise in the number of families investing in franchises over the past few years. Meanwhile, recent figures from the Institute for Family Business reveals that 66 per cent of UK businesses are family-owned - 4.8 million in total.

Sense of purpose

Pip says: “Families have distinctive traits that are essential to building a business and family members take a lot of pride in their business. Family enterprises are built with a sense of purpose and going on the journey with someone you trust adds to the appeal.

“Starting a business from scratch, even with family, is no easy feat. But a good franchisor will want the people it recruits to own and operate the franchise to succeed, so the franchise industry is known for creating a community of help and support.”

The IFB has been helping family businesses across the UK achieve their long-term goals for the past 18 years. Founded in 2001 by a group of family business owners as a forum where people can talk about the challenges and experiences of being in business with family, the organisation says its mission is to help family businesses remain successful for generations to come.

Backbone of the economy

Fiona Graham, IFB’s director of external affairs and policy, says: “We provide a safe space where people can share their challenges and successes openly for the benefit of the entire family business community.

“Family businesses are the backbone of our economy and communities and we work closely with them, championing their contribution and voicing their needs.”

In July 2019, the IFB partnered with Be The Business to support smaller family firms to make the changes that could help them take their business to the next level.

Be The Business is currently piloting a range of ways to help family SMEs improve performance, starting with its North West Family Business Programme, which is made up of initiatives that unlock the energy and potential in family SMEs designed to get family firms talking, sharing, learning and thriving.

Sister organisation the IFB Research Foundation was formed to analyse and understand family-owned businesses and has published a series of reports that highlight the impact on the economy and society of family businesses and the challenges they face.

Working in harmony together

Steve and Stan Barlow are father and son franchisees for Mr. Electric, providing electrical services to domestic and commercial customers in Cornwall and Plymouth.

Steve says: “My father came from a sales and marketing background and liked the idea of owning a local electrical company.”

Steve decided to join the business after finishing his law and business degree and found it just the challenge he was looking for. But it may not be everyone’s cup of tea spending long working days with family and it has some drawbacks.

Steve says: “It can be tough at times and although we don’t live together, it can still be stressful and emotional. On the other hand, it’s great to spend time working with your family, as you share a common interest and want the business to succeed.”

Steve and Stan have been running their business for 30 years, building a family enterprise they can potentially pass on to the next generation. “I never imagined I would ever go into business with my father, but we are still working in harmony together,” Steve says.

We’ve got each other’s backs

Fast food brand Subway has a number of family franchisees among its UK network.

The Pasco family has been with and my brothers, along with his knowledge and expertise. Subway started as a family business and continues to be the lifeblood of the company, so it’s only natural that families in business are drawn to it.”

Adam adds: “Working with family has its pros and cons. We may fall out and have a disagreement occasionally, but we also know how to move on from that without taking anything personally and for the benefit of the business.

“Another advantage of working with family is that no matter what happens, we’re there for each other when one of us needs help, not only as business partners, but because we’ve got each other’s backs.”

Three’s the magic number

Tutor Doctor recently welcomed not one but three couples into its ever-growing UK network.

Pete Simpson and wife Anna opened their franchise in Durham, Eleanor Fox launched her Bedford-based business in July with husband Matthew, while Sian Wright and her partner Simon Payne also joined the Tutor Doctor family recently.

Tutor Doctor president Frank Milner says: “Going into business with a spouse has a whole host of benefits. It can make for a great working dynamic and allows both parties to leverage their strengths in particular areas of the business.

“Because you’re usually aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, you can work together to help your business thrive in the long run. In fact, we have many family-run franchises in our network.”

There are certainly a lot of pros, but what about the cons?

“A potential hurdle to overcome is that work can sometimes continue over the dinner table,” Frank says. “It’s important to find that balance to create a business that complements, and doesn’t take over your personal life.”

Eleanor says: “Going into business together, we already knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how we complement each other.

“A great advantage of this type of business partnership is that you know each other so well and the essentials of communication, respect and shared goals are already built-in. Combine this with an industry you’re both passionate about and it can be a match made in heaven.”

If you believe you could work with a brother, sister, mother or father, do it, urges the bfa’s Pip Wilkins. “You never know what you could build if you combine your skills, knowledge and, most importantly, values,” she says.

A winning team

Housekeeping services brand Bright & Beautiful recently recruited its first mother and daughter franchise team.

Jane and Katie Brookes from Basingstoke deliver eco-friendly cleaning, tidying, laundry and ironing services to clients across Basingstoke, Andover and north of Winchester.

Before launching their business, Jane worked for 30 years in policing and her daughter had completed a psychology degree before working in the hospitality industry.

Franchise recruitment manager Jo Vorwerg says: “We’re so pleased to welcome our first mother and daughter duo to the Bright & Beautiful network.

“The combination of Jane’s organisational and people management skills combined with Katie’s knowledge of psychology to deliver great customer service should make them a winning team.”

Top tip for working with family members: Share the vision

Jane says: “When I was considering a new career, the chance to run a business with my daughter combined with our mutual love of houses and interior design made the decision to launch our own professional and ethical housekeeping firm a very easy one.”

National success story

Brother and sister Hannah MacKechnie and Alex Green grew up alongside residents at the care home owned and operated by their parents. This early involvement in the sector led Hannah to train and practice as a GP, before launching Radfield Home Care with her brother in 2008.

Together they spent the next eight years developing the business model across multiple branches, ensuring its success with different demographics and in numerous locations.

Hannah says: “Today, we have a lot of interest from husbands and wives, brothers and sisters - we even have cousins in the network.

“I think Radfield’s specific focus on family values drives enquiries from family members, but the wider health care sector also supports this. Home care is a very emotive purchase and the decision to invest in care for a loved one can involve a number of people in a family - this is something we hear a lot when speaking with prospective franchise partners.

“Their inspiration has come from the experience of organising care for a relative and the challenges they may have faced while undertaking this has sparked an interest in improving the service for other families in their local community.”

Business is a pleasure

Barking Mad franchisees John and Elaine Warburton are a husband and wife team whose bespoke dog holidays business is thriving.

Their love of dogs has been key to their success and the pair have made the franchise work around their daughter and other commitments.

This year they were crowned Lifestyle category winners at the British Franchise Association HSBC Franchise of the Year Awards for showing exceptional business acumen over the past 12 months.

Andrew Brattesani, head of franchise at HSBC, says: “John and Elaine are living the dream working for Barking Mad. Working with animals all day and looking after their own gives them great pleasure and for them to make a successful business out of this is testament to their hard work and passion.”

With the value of the UK pet market predicted to hit £2.1 billion by 2023, demand for dog holidays is predicted to grow.

Top tip for working with family members: Have a mutual trust

Former marketing director John keeps a close eye on the figures - the business achieved a cumulative turnover projected to be £400,000 in just five years. The couple say they aspire to grow their business to a level where they can recruit more staff.

A common goal

Mitch Howey, owner of MyWaggyTails Chinnor, is the inspiration for a new pet care franchise, which was founded by her brother Randle Stonier.

Mitch says: “Varied skill sets is definitely one of the benefits of going into business with a family member, as was the case in my scenario. I needed a career change that was more suited to my family life and it was Randle, with his inside knowledge of my interests, who helped me decide to launch my own dog walking, day care and home boarding business.

“After five months of operating, I knew I could do better, but I was overwhelmed by all the red tape and found marketing a challenge. It was at this point I turned to my brother, who is a marketeer and business consultant, for support.

“He helped overhaul my brand, website, messaging, promotion, digital marketing and operational processes - so successfully in fact that I had to beg him to stop as demand was so high.”

Tapping into her brother’s skill set was invaluable, according to Mitch: “He took away the pressure of things I was less good at and helped provide a solid infrastructure to allow me to focus on the real reason I got into this - the dogs.

“Everyone is competent and confident at different things, so bringing that together for a common goal of family success makes a lot of sense.”

Top tip for working with family members: Give unconditional support

Randle overhauled his sister’s brand, enabling her to grow her business quickly and with his full support.

The author

Catherine Eade is assistant editor of What Franchise

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