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What makes a successful franchise?

What makes a successful franchise?

Top performers from the X-Press Legal Services franchise network give you the benefit of their knowledge and wisdom

Generations of prospective franchisees have pondered this question, seeking the elusive magic recipe that turns a raw recruit into a successful businessperson.

Ask franchisors and they are likely to say that there is no single answer. In truth, there are many different contributory factors that combine to create success. Starting with the same basic formula, franchisees learn by their own experience and other people’s advice as they evolve their own way of approaching individual goals.

Golden rules

There is no shortage of advice for prospective franchisees from a wide variety of sources covering the fundamental golden rules of franchising. These include:

* Follow your franchisor’s tried and tested system for best results.

* Don’t try to do things ‘your own way’.

* Accept advice, guidance and practical help offered by your franchisor

* Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and guidance when you need it.

* Make sure you understand that you are in business for yourself when you buy a franchise.

* You are responsible for everything.

* Keep promoting your business to ensure it grows and develops.

* Maintain excellent customer service. Always strive to be efficient and professional.

* Ensure your staff are properly trained and adhere to the same high standards.

* Keep up to date with changes in your sector, especially changes in legislation.

* Take the time to attend training courses and franchisor organised events and meetings.

Nothing is as valuable or can truly compare with the advice given by people who have achieved success, simply because they know from experience what they’re talking about. Top performing franchisees from X-Press Legal Services’ 40-strong network gave the benefit of their knowledge and wisdom. Each of these five award winning franchisees - all female, incidentally - have a different top tip to offer.

Be self-disciplined

Penny Brierley, X-Press’ 2012 Franchisee of the Year, has some good advice. A franchisee for six years, Penny now employs eight people and enjoys a six-figure turnover. She believes the foundations of successful franchising are hard work, proactive marketing, a good relationship with the franchisor and following its system.

But above all, Penny’s top tip for success is being self-disciplined. She says: “Being focused enables you to overcome obstacles and to maintain a positive outlook.It can be easy to ignore a task you don’t like doing, especially if there is something else you think is more important. I find the best way to tackle this problem is simply to set a goal, a time to do it and then get on.

“For example, I know some people find marketing activity difficult, especially when they first start up, so they put it off, lose confidence and it becomes an even harder task. Even though we have a healthy business, I’m always looking for more growth and new clients. I have a fixed time every week to make calls, so I decide how many new appointments I need and then stick at it until I’ve finished. Marketing and growth are crucial to the business, so I don’t deviate nor allow myself to get sidetracked. I feel so good when I’ve achieved my goal.”

The personal touch

Jane Hay, winner of X-Press’ 2012 Business Development Award, thinks that determination and dedication are essential to keep a business growing. Like Penny, she has been a franchisee for six years and is a firm believer in the importance of staying focused.

Jane advises: “I think the most important thing is to concentrate effort and time on your customers. The personal touch - backed by exemplary service - will set your business apart from the competition. Building a business is all about relationships, delivering promises and keeping in touch. You are likely to retain your clients this way and they will recommend you to others.

“You have to stay on a steady course and be determined to get through any difficulties you meet on the way.”

Support - at home as well as from your franchisor

“Don’t underestimate the vital importance of support, both from your franchisor and also from your spouse or partner,” says Karen Underwood, X-Press’ Brand Builder of the Year. She comments: “The family’s support and tolerance are essential to ensure the smooth running of both household and business - for example, when it’s necessary to work late or at weekends. There must always be flexibility to be able to work around commitments.

“Knowing there is reliable support from the franchisor also makes a big contribution to an individual franchisee’s performance and success. Working on your own can be a very lonely experience and from time to time you may need some advice or practical help. It’s very reassuring to know you can always ask your franchisor for whatever you need, whatever stage your business is at, and that they will respond in a positive way.”

Prospective franchisees should understand that buying a franchise means not only succeeding in a specific sector, but also being an efficient jack of all trades, able to do the 101 mundane tasks that need to be done in a small business - everything from ordering the stationery to cleaning the floor.

Thorough research into franchising is vital before making the long-term personal and financial commitment that becoming a franchisee requires. Buying a franchise is not the same as buying a job and its success or failure is directly related to the effort the franchisee invests in marketing and promotion, particularly in the early days.

Cultivate confidence

Recognising the importance of proactive marketing from the very beginning paid off and achieved great results for Steph Hector, X-Press’ Newcomer of the Year. She says: “I was accustomed to dealing with very senior people in my former career, so I was not daunted by having to meet important new prospective clients after I bought my franchise. I think networking is so important because people are more likely to remember you when they can put a name to a face. It is also much more successful than cold calling.

“I recommend research to find out the best places to meet prospective customers. Accept invitations to local business marketing events, such as those that some banks run. Remember this is your business and you must ensure that people know who you are and what your business can do for them. Develop a positive attitude to give you the confidence to talk to people.”

Take control and don’t compromise on quality or price

The final word comes from Suzanne Allen. The phenomenal growth in the last 12 months of the franchise she runs with her husband Charlie has ensured their place in X-Press’ X-Cellence Club.

Suzanne advises: “Fix the right service levels. Never compromise on qualityor price. Provide exceptional customer service at a fair price that delivers a good margin - you’re in business to make a profit. Don’t agree prices you cannot sustain just to get the business, as you won’t be able to pay for good quality staff and provide a first class service, so you will risk losing customers in the long run.

“My second tip is about control - do a sales forecast and run a weekly report to analyse your sales. This will show many aspects of your business, including whether sales are up or down, variations in orders, profitability and so on. Managing your business in this way enables you to see immediately exactly what’s happening.”

The advice these franchisees give is as individual as they are. If you were to combine all their recommendations - be self disciplined, look after your clients, expect support from family and franchisor, be confident, take control and be proactive in sales and marketing - you would have an excellent start for searching out that elusive magic formula for franchising success.

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