Answer theses eight questions for prospective franchisees to find out, Tim Harris, CEO of Ovenclean, says
If you’re thinking of going into business for yourself, franchising is a great option. As independent research regularly proves, the failure rate for new businesses is significantly lower for franchises than ‘go it alone’ start-ups and the reasons for this are well documented.
With a franchise, you’re buying into a proven business model with a recognised brand and the benefits of having an experienced management team behind you to provide training, advice and support. Franchisors clearly have a vested interest in making sure their franchisees succeed, so although you’re self-employed you are also part of a kind of ‘extended family’, which will provide all the encouragement you need and share their experiences - good and bad - with you.
However, the franchise route is no easy option. As with any other new business, hard work, long hours and total commitment are required. Not everyone is ideally suited to franchising, so before you take the leap, ask yourself a few questions:
Are you a self motivator?
It virtually goes without saying that to make a success of running your own business you must be self motivated. You have invested in the opportunity to become independent and be free of other people telling you what to do - there’s no boss breathing down your neck if you turn up late at the office, so arguably you could stay in bed that bit longer. If that sounds like you, you’re probably not suited to franchising. With your own franchise, you are your own boss. Lay down some rules and stick to them, as only your own ambition and determination will ensure you succeed.
Can you work within a prescribed business model?
Although we hear a lot about the franchise industry wanting ‘entrepreneurs’, in some ways this isn’t strictly true. We want successful business owners with the vision and tenacity to build and develop their own operations. We also want people with initiative who have good ideas.
However, key to franchising, compared to independent business start-ups, is that there is a given template to follow. We know that if franchisees operate within the proven business model and listen to the franchisor, they can achieve success. It’s a matter of taking advantage of an established brand and product or service that is already ‘out there’ and a system that works. If you prefer to do your own thing, with your own plans and ideas, great - but you might be better off considering setting up on your own rather than becoming a franchisee.
How organised are you?
Good organisational skills are vital to effective business management. In the early days you will need to learn to utilise your time effectively, while later, when you are more established, operating efficiently will be key to keeping customers happy and maximising profitability.
For example, maintaining a comprehensive, up-to-date customer database prompts Ovenclean franchisees to contact customers at the right time to remind them their next clean is due, while a well maintained work diary enables them to schedule their week efficiently.
You can expect your franchisor to provide time management skills training at the outset, helping you plan your days and weeks to include new sales prospecting, handling enquiries, managing your database and keeping paperwork in order, as well as actually delivering your product or service. However, on a day-to-day basis it will be up to you to plan for success.
Do you have realistic expectations?
Come into franchising with your eyes wide open. A good franchise can provide all the tools you need to become a successful business owner, but any credible franchisor won’t promise that you’ll make a fortune overnight.
People become franchisees for many reasons - flexibility, autonomy and, of course, to make money. While a new franchise business has the edge over individual start-ups in that its brand and the marketplace already exists, as a franchisee you should expect to have to build the income you aspire to over a realistic period. That means budgeting and planning carefully for the early months of your franchise.
Can you afford it?
On a related point, make sure you can afford to take the leap into franchising. Franchise investment levels vary from less than £10,000 to over £300,000. Your overheads and lifestyle expectations should suggest to you what income you need and how quickly you need to achieve it. Some franchisors can offer help with sourcing funding if you don’t have the capital, but make sure you check rigorously the true level of outlay required, including working capital, and ask what returns you can reasonably expect over a given period if you perform to the prescribed levels.
What about support from your family?
Becoming self-employed is a major life change and not a decision to be taken lightly. You should be able to depend on support from your franchisor, but the support of your family and friends for your enterprise is imperative.
Sometimes partners or other family members are part of the franchise from the start, others begin by providing a little practical support in terms of paperwork or manning phones and end up joining the business. In other cases, family members simply lend their enthusiasm, interest and occasional advice, sharing the ups and downs that inevitably come with running a business. Whatever the situation, such support is invaluable and often makes a significant difference to the success of the franchise.
Are you a positive person?
Possibly the most important point of all is your personality. Running your own business is incredibly satisfying and rewarding, but it’s challenging too. You need to be a positive person, always seeing the opportunities and potential ahead of you, rather than being discouraged at the first setback. Investing in a franchise is not the same as buying a job. It takes hard work and commitment to get it off the ground and continued dedication to keep it going and growing. The rewards are there for the tenacious of spirit. If you are ambitious to do well and have a strong determined streak, you’ll likely make a great franchisee.
What do you want?
You’re a determined, hardworking and organised person able to get out of bed in the mornings, but what about choosing the franchise that’s right for you? Think carefully about what you want from your business.
Consider your strengths and attributes before drawing up a shortlist of potential opportunities. You’ll certainly need to be a good communicator, whatever route you choose, but ask yourself: ‘Am I happiest in a white collar role in an office environment or would I prefer something practical and hands-on that I can get stuck into?’ What about the responsibilities of staff? Do you like working in a team or does the flexibility of an owner/operator appeal?
For some franchises previous experience is either essential or preferred, but for others, like Ovenclean, the necessary skills and techniques can be taught. At Ovenclean we have a healthy mix of practical people to whom we have taught the necessary sales and business admin skills, as well as former corporate executives looking for a low stress, family centred role who understand sales and marketing, but who perhaps needed more support on the practical side. Whatever the skills and knowledge potential franchisees bring, we like to think we’re flexible enough to fill in the gaps.
Last, but not least, do your research. There are plenty of franchise opportunities on offer, so make sure you take the time to visit those on your shortlist. Scrutinise their operations, staff, infrastructure and the detail of their franchise packages, ask as many questions as you can and speak to franchisees who can tell you how it feels to be self-employed.
If you think you’re cut out to be a franchisee, look for a business you can afford that will deliver the lifestyle rewards and fulfilment you’re looking for and you’ll be sure to find the perfect fit for your successful future in franchising.