How can you decide whether your chosen franchisor will prove a perfect match? Right at Home offers some words of wisdom
Starting your own business is, for most people, a life changing event. It will ask a lot of you and the impact of that will filter down to affect those people closest to you.
And while choosing a franchise business can undoubtedly reduce the risk, given that you have a proven business model to follow and the support of an experienced franchisor behind you, it also puts a little known third party into the mix - the franchisor.
Committing to a franchise agreement can be likened to getting married - you’re making a long-term commitment and signing a legal document that binds you together and delivers an opportunity for a happy future.
However, most people would agree that the consequences of rushing into matrimony without getting to know your partner first can be disastrous. So how can you decide whether your chosen franchisor will prove a perfect match?
As a prospective franchisee, you have a limited window of opportunity while completing your research and due diligence to assess not only the system you are buying into, but the people who manage it and who will be supporting you in your business. Thankfully, a lot can be learned in a short space of time during the process of evaluation that you follow before deciding whether to buy the franchise.
To start with, the way your franchisor manages your evaluation of their system can give a great insight into the kind of relationship you can expect with them.
Ask yourself: are they interested in you or interested in a sale? Are they proactive in supporting you to research the market in your area? How quickly are your calls and emails responded to? Are the people you speak to open and honest about the challenges within their sector, as well as the opportunities? Will they give you access to talk to members of the national offi ce team and are they willing to introduce you to franchisees who have struggled, as well as their best performers?
Being open, giving you the time and information to make an honest appraisal and measuring you against their known successes are all good indicators that you can trust your franchisor.
It’s also advisable to look at their network of franchisees to gain insight into the culture and relationships within the franchise system. Do franchisees get to meet and chat online to discuss best practice with one another? Structured support from your franchisee is important, but so is the shared experience of other owners, who have taken your journey and learned a lot along the way.
Will you have access to the decision makers in the business? Do the franchisees you talk to have a good working relationship with the central support team and national management? A good franchisor should carry out an annual franchisee satisfaction survey and be prepared to share its results with you.
Your initial enquiries will tell you how many franchise units there are within the network and how long the business has been in operation. But don’t be afraid to dig deeper. Find out how many businesses have closed (and why), how many times the franchisor has terminated franchise agreements (and why) and what kind of resale value outgoing franchisees have achieved.
Current franchisees might not want to share the full detail of their profit and loss with you, but they could tell you in general terms how their own growth has compared against the financial forecasts you are given.
What is the franchisor’s network growth strategy? Are their expectations of franchisees clear? Have you been encouraged to have the legal agreement reviewed by a solicitor who specialises in franchising?
Homecare provider Right at Home is an example of a franchisor that focuses on being transparent with candidates considering their system - and if that puts someone off joining well, according to CEO Ken Deary, it’s better realised sooner rather than later for everyone concerned.
Ken says: “We have always followed an approach of being 100 percent honest with people about the realities of running our business.
“When someone is making that kind of investment, they need to be well prepared for the highs and lows of running a business and aware of the kind of sacrifices they might have to make, especially in the early days of getting the business established.
“To send someone in underprepared is not only unethical, it’s also totally counterproductive in my view, as it will limit their chances of success - and our success comes from our franchisees’ success.”
Ken adds: “The care sector has its challenges, as well as fantastic opportunities. It’s highly regulated and a shortage of good care workers makes recruitment an ongoing challenge in most businesses.
“It’s not for everyone and we want to build a network of franchisees who are not only successful, but enjoy what they do. Someone who naturally has a real empathy for their clients and is absolutely committed to giving it their all will always run a better business than someone whose heart is not in it.
“We make it clear in our first conversation that, with Right at Home, it’s a two-way evaluation process - experience has shown us what it takes to be a successful franchisee in this sector and our owners trust us because we took the time to make sure they had those attributes.
“That way, by the time we come to sign an agreement, we both know we’re making the right decision.”
Prospect franchisee certificate
Right at Home are among a growing number of franchisors who now ask all potential franchise buyers to complete a free online course through the British Franchise Association as part of their recruitment process.
The Prospect Franchisee Certificate is a series of learning videos and follow-up assessments aimed at helping people go into franchising fully informed. It covers the legalities of franchising, the recruitment process, financing and pertinent questions to ask franchisors. Register at bfa.trainme. tv or visit www.thebfa.org for more details.