Interview: Pip Wilkins, chief executive of the British Franchise Association

Posted: 07 Nov 2019
Estimated Read Time: in about 16 minutes

The UK franchising industry is not regulated and therefore it is imperative for the bfa to build a strong industry collective, emphasizes Pip

Interview: Pip Wilkins, chief executive of the British Franchise Association

When was the bfa established?
PW: Over 40 years ago, in 1977. I have been at the association since 1999.

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Why was it necessary to start an association representing the industry?
PW: At the time, there were not only a lot of misconceptions around franchising but honest, ethical franchise systems also wanted to stand out from the crowd, distinguishing themselves from pyramid schemes wrongly calling themselves franchises. Eight large franchises got together to differentiate themselves – ServiceMaster, Dyno-Rod, Holiday Inn UK, Prontaprint, Zibart GB, KFC, Budget Rent a Car and Wimpy – setting up an association to represent the interests of the industry. The bfa was born!

Summarise the bfa mission. What do you represent as an organisation?
PW: The UK franchising industry is not regulated and therefore it is imperative for the bfa to build a strong industry collective. The bfa aims to be the leading educator in franchising and it does this through an enviable catalogue of events, workshops, online tools and more. At the heart of everything at the bfa is standards. To become a member of the bfa, the business has to go through a rigorous accreditation process adhering to a strict set of criteria and code of ethics.

Why is franchising becoming so popular in the UK?
PW: Franchising has continued to rise in popularity as a business model since the bfa started recording data. Recently, there has been a large spike in the number of franchise systems and the number of units in personal services, from pet services to tutoring for children. Many of these can be part-time and run from home, so you still get the autonomy of being your own boss, alongside a malleable working environment that can be ideal for a work/ life balance.

Why is franchising such a great choice for women?
PW: There are more female franchisees than ever before and there are many reasons for this. First and foremost, franchising is ideal for people who want to work for themselves, but not by themselves. It is also a really good option for people who want a complete career change, with many females choosing franchising as an ideal way to exercise their entrepreneurial spirit, learn new skills and be part of a successful brand. As already stated, there has also been a sharp rise in the number of franchise units in personal services, many of which have predominantly female franchisees. 37 per cent of all new franchisees in the last two years were female, and they now contribute 30 per cent of all franchisees. Out of the 710,000 people employed in business format franchising, 65 per cent are women. Nearly half the roles are parttime, which can be beneficial if full-time employment is not feasible.

What benefits does the bfa offer to members?
PW: As a member, you get the support of the bfa through a plethora of educational resources. The bfa has established the Franchise Training Academy, which holds a suite of educational training tools, as well as a host of events, educating both franchisors and prospects alike around ethical franchising. Whatever stage someone is at in franchising, the bfa is able to offer the right support, in the right way, at the right time. But there is so much more than that. The bfa also offers ongoing support to franchisors through the Franchise Gym, where franchising experts can review your business and give it a health check. These are just a small part of the benefits of a bfa membership.

“There are more female franchisees than ever before and there are many reasons for this”

Why can you trust a franchise that is a member of the bfa?
PW: If a franchise system is a member of the bfa, you know that the company has had to undergo a strict accreditation process to ensure its practices are wholly ethical and must continue to do so in order to be reaccredited.

How do you support franchisees?
PW: The bfa offers specialist courses, both online and at events, for franchisees to learn about the industry. Furthermore, franchisees and prospects get the help of bfa staff at exhibitions, as well as signing up for a monthly franchisee newsletter. A large growth area for the bfa is the representation of more and more franchisees in the industry.

Do you work with other global franchise associations?
PW: Yes. I go to numerous meetings every year, and the bfa has a seat on the European Franchise Federation and the World Franchise Council. The bfa is the only association in the UK to have this.

Tell us about your awards and conference?
PW: Kindly sponsored by HSBC, the annual awards were created over 30 years ago in order to showcase and celebrate excellence within franchising – there are franchisee and franchisor categories and after a rigorous sifting process and judging days with a panel of experts, the finalists and winners are determined. Our annual conference is very much about the entire industry together. With an agenda stretching two days, it covers a wide range of the hottest topics that matter to franchising as the industry continues to evolve.

What is Empowering Women in Business?
PW: Empowering Women in Business, now in its eighth year, is an annual event on the bfa calendar. The concept is for women to discuss the business place and how it changes over time. This year, it is taking place at the Oxford Belfry on November 14. The theme is ‘The changing face of business’. Our website has all the relevant details.

What challenges does the franchising industry face in the UK?
PW: Despite the economic uncertainty of Brexit, both franchisors and franchisees, as per our recent survey, remain upbeat. The biggest challenge for franchisors continues to be finding good quality franchisees, which is why our role as the leading educator is so important.

What do you think the future holds for franchising?
PW: Franchising will continue to grow as it has done since records began. Furthermore, more women will continue to benefit from the unique benefits the industry provides.

Summarise franchising in five words.
PW: Tried. Tested. Collaborative. Adaptive. Fun.

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