Paul Stafford of the British Franchise Association explains the value of bfa membership to prospective franchisees
Starting a franchise business is not a decision to be taken lightly. It requires a serious investment of time, emotion and, potentially, capital. If you’ve ever read or heard advice from somebody qualified to give it, they’ll rightly tell you it’s something you should take your time with and research carefully.
Part of that research should involve a brand’s British Franchise Association membership status. The bfa is the body that protects and promotes good franchising practice in the UK and is recognised nationally and internationally for its ethics, standards and credibility.
What does that status mean to you as a prospective franchisee and why should you consider membership to be a powerful indicator and one you should actively seek?
Not all franchises are equal
First, it’s important to note that membership of the bfa is not achieved simply by paying a subscription fee. The organisation is based on standards of good franchising and has been since its formation in 1977. If a franchisor can’t meet those standards, then it cannot join - each year companies have applications refused.
Membership is only granted following an in-depth examination of the franchise model and the business’ proven performance. Among many other aspects, the accreditation team looks at the company’s franchise agreement, its marketing collateral, accounts history and, where appropriate, asks existing franchisees for confidential feedback on their experience in the network.
The banks involved in franchising all respect the standards represented by the bfa. They understand the accreditation process and the quality needed to gain and retain it, so therefore look more favourably on funding applications from franchisees of those brands.
Help in your research
As well as supplying the information that’s required to pass accreditation, bfa member franchisors adhere to the guidelines in the code of ethics and rules of membership, which enshrine the principles of best practice in franchising.
For you, that means the projections you’re given on the level of turnover and profit you can achieve as a franchisee should be based on historically achieved numbers - either by another franchisee or a company owned outlet - with proof available.
It also means you should be given the chance to speak with franchisees already trading in the brand, a crucial part of your research into the business.
A couple of points that are easily overlooked come later down the line in your franchise journey, but are worth bearing in mind from the outset. When it’s time to renew your franchise agreement, bfa rules state that any renewal fees should not be a profit making opportunity for the franchisor.
Rather, they should simply cover any associated administrative costs. Second, when the time is right for you to sell the business, being part of a member franchise can help you maximise its value, because a credible brand is worth more to a buyer.
Franchisees can join
Franchisees of bfa members can join the association for £10 per month, which gives them access to a host of business and personal benefits that make membership cost neutral or better. Legal, human resources and business support combines with deals on everything from car hire and shopping to holidays.
And with that membership comes the opportunity of representation. Three franchisees sit on the bfa’s board of directors and many more on the committees that govern its future direction. This year a franchisee will chair one of those committees.
Membership of the bfa is not a guarantee of franchisee success, as starting any business comes with risks and becoming a successful franchisee depends on many factors, not least your own passion, the right match and your work ethic. Your due diligence is critical before signing any contract.
But what membership does show is a franchisor saying: “We’re proud of our franchise model and how we support our franchisees and have chosen to put it up against the toughest industry standards to affirm that.” And one that’s been vetted by a third party.
Isn’t that the kind of franchise worthy of your time and effort?