Paul Hansen looks back over the journey of Franchise Finance and explains why he loves the business
Since we helped our first client, Prontaprint, fund the graphics equipment for their first franchisees as they rolled out their network across the UK nearly 40 years ago, we have been helping and supporting both franchisees and franchisors on their business journeys and have never looked back.
Sure, there have been some challenges along the way, not to mention the three recessions of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Yet with exceptional leadership, planning and guidance, Franchise Finance has always managed to flourish.
As business advisers and consultants, whenever we talk to franchisees or franchisors we frequently refer to their ‘business journey’, where exactly are they on that journey and where do they want it to take them in the next 18 months, five years and beyond. We then help them achieve those goals.
As you can imagine, we apply the same concept to our own business planning process and over the last 10 years Stuart Walsh and Chris Roberts have successfully navigated Franchise Finance on an incredible journey.
Their goal was to be the UK’s leading franchise finance business, with a reputation for delivering the right financial solutions to our clients, while focusing on our core values of integrity and superior customer service.
Our positive reviews and client feedback, our 95 per cent credit approval rate on funding applications, our 100 per cent delegate recommendation on our training courses and, of course, being awarded the Best Service Provider at the Best Franchise Awards in 2017 clearly demonstrated we were delivering the services the industry wanted.
Acquisition by Hitachi Capital UK
However, we wanted to be delivering that excellence to a bigger audience and to do that we would need investment. That investment was to come in the form of an acquisition by Hitachi Capital UK plc, which completed in June this year.
Our relationship with Hitachi had been developing over the last couple of years.
When Hitachi started working with us, franchising had been a relatively new sector to them. We liked the approach they took to the franchise market. They wanted to truly understand it and their team spent time with us to ensure they fully understood the risks and potential rewards for them as a lender. It was a very refreshing approach.
Since entering the franchise market, Hitachi have not only developed an appetite for the sector, but more importantly they brought a fresh approach to lending to the market.
Hitachi initially supported Franchise Finance by providing us with access to an exclusive £50 million fund, available only to franchisees and franchisors. In addition to this, their funding team and straightforward systems enabled us to submit credit applications online, with facilities being approved in under 48 hours.
With the ability to lend clients up to 80 per cent of the total facility required and on an unsecured basis, they quickly established themselves as a funder of choice to our clients.
Hitachi’s mission is to employ exceptional people, who provide outstanding customer experiences every day. They encourage a pioneering spirit and are committed to always doing exactly what they say they will do.
Hitachi’s mission and values were very similar to ours at Franchise Finance. Their attitude to customers and their focus on delivering excellent service clearly demonstrated why we were a perfect match.
Stuart and Chris selected Hitachi because it was clear they valued what Franchise Finance does and appreciated what had made us so successful. They didn’t want us to change what we did or how we did it, they simply wanted to enable us to take our products and services to more franchisees and franchisors without compromising the exceptional customer service we were known for.
Working closely with clients
We have always focused on working closely with our clients to establish what their individual needs are and to ensure we help them achieve them.
Our clients’ needs vary from a £5,000 working capital loan to a multi-million pound finance facility, including business planning, business banking, loan funding, working capital funding, equipment leasing and training.
Our clients credit profiles vary from ‘challenging’ to ‘excellent’. We have always prided ourselves on constructing and delivering the most suitable and cost-effective solution that matches their needs.
To continually deliver solutions to such a broad range of clients, we use a specially selected panel of partners - from high street banks to alternative finance providers and crowdfunding.
Franchise Finance clients have always valued our ability to structure and deliver suitable solutions sometimes through several different suppliers. This one-stop shop approach makes it easy for clients to secure the funding they need by telling their story once, to us, not multiple times to different institutions, only to still get multiple rejections.
Dreams to reality
I really do love my job. Every day the Franchise Finance team help start someone’s dream. It is incredibly satisfying and rewarding to be able to do that - every day. My personal goal for 2018 and beyond is to make more dreams come true than ever before.
If you’re dreaming of achieving something exciting in franchising and believe our services could help you, your franchisees or your clients, stop just dreaming and make it a reality. Get in touch with me or the team or come and visit the Finance Clinic at The National Franchise Exhibition at the NEC in October. We look forward to meeting you.