Franchising is not a guarantee of success, but it does improve your odds, Suzie McCafferty says
Figures vary, but it’s widely accepted there are around 900 franchise brands across the UK. Some of these will be excellent, some of them won’t.
Choosing the right one for you takes time, planning, research and complete honestly from everyone involved - you, the franchisor, even your partner or family.
So while the banks can supply you with a list of great questions to ask a prospective franchisor, it’s crucial to start with some questions closer to home:
- What are you good at?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- How much money can you invest?
- How much money do you need to make in return?
- Are you prepared to put the work in?
- Are you able to commit long term?
- Do you just want to be your own boss or build a successful business?
Then there’s the question of what kind of franchise you should consider. Many people look for something completely different to what they may have spent their career to date doing.
For example, you might think that what you really want to do is get outdoors and build a business that keeps you active and healthy and learn new skills. You could look at a garden maintenance franchise.
You might want to put your management skills to the test in a new sector, so perhaps a food franchise could be the way to go. Or if you simply want to keep more of the money you make for yourself and be your own boss doing what you know, there are plenty of white collar franchises that will suit you.
One key part of your due diligence process will be attending a discovery day. It represents a great opportunity to meet the franchisor, the management team and often existing franchisees, as well as gain a more thorough understanding of the franchise opportunity and culture of the business.
Discovery days are also about building mutual trust. You’re entering into a business partnership that’s expected to last a minimum period of five years. It’s therefore important you like, respect and trust the franchisor - it will be looking for those qualities in you.
Don’t be afraid to ask searching questions when you’re there, either. The franchisor should be able to answer them, unless there are valid reasons such as company confidentiality, which would preclude disclosure of the information.
Speaking informally to existing franchisees about their experiences is invaluable, but be respectful of the franchisor’s guidelines here - it’s likely to want to at least know you’re semi-serious before it lets you disturb franchisees at work.
Bottom line, use your instincts and walk away if it doesn’t feel right. Take all the advice you can, but it’s far better to consult organisations like the British Franchise Association or check out the many articles in What Franchise magazine, rather than be turned off franchising by the bloke in your office who once heard a story about a friend of a friend who bought a franchise in the eighties.
About the author
Suzie McCafferty founded Platinum Wave in 2010, after gaining more than 10 years’ experience in the engine room of franchising, first as a franchisor who built her own retail brand from a single store to a network of over 60 outlets in six countries, then as the franchise director and board member of a multi-million pound division of a recruitment plc.
She is the chairperson of the British Franchise Association’s Scottish regional forum.