Kevin Thackrah, managing director of Petpals UK, reveals what it takes to make a successful transition
According to the 2015 British Franchise Association industry survey, there are currently 901 franchise brands operating in the UK, with 44,200 outlets employing 621,000 people making up the industry’s £15.1 billion annual turnover.
The report also states 97 per cent of franchise businesses are profitable.
For people who’ve maybe had a long career in one specific job or sector, becoming self-employed in an entirely new role can be daunting. But it’s made far less so with an experienced franchisor that has a proven track record of multiple, profitably trading franchisees to guide, support and encourage them.
Add to this a network of fellow franchisees, who will share their experiences and top tips for success, and it isn’t hard to see why franchising is an attractive proposition for many people.
Not buying a job
It’s important that franchisees understand they’re not buying a job, but a business opportunity whose eventual success or failure will be entirely down to them, not the franchisor.
They will receive support and the franchisor has taken a lot of the risk away by testing the model, making the mistakes and learning the lessons, finding out what works and what doesn’t, but ultimately the franchisor can only advise and encourage a franchisee.
If they choose not to listen or follow the business model or don’t have the appropriate work ethic, they will fail.
Your time is your own
The morning alarm rules most people’s lives. If we don’t get out of bed when it goes off, we won’t get to work. If we don’t go to work, we’ll probably get fired - so we get up.
On day one of being a franchisee, there’s no alarm. No boss. No threat of being fired. There’s only the franchisee and their need to motivate themselves to get up, get out and run their business. Many people can find these early days challenging, but a good franchisor will provide you with expert support during this period.
You may be tempted to only work in the business in these early days, but neglecting working on the business is a route to failure. You need to give attention to both in order to build a balanced, sustainable business.
Set yourself regular goals, six, 12 and 24 months ahead and regularly review your progress with your franchisor.
Using the systems your franchisor has put in place, you’ll be responsible for making sure all your financial information is recorded and submitted regularly to head office.
A responsible franchisor will monitor you via regular business and operational reviews to ensure you are following the model, your profit and loss is under control, you’re spending enough on marketing and advertising and you’re building your business in an ethical, sustainable and structured way.
You’ll need to set money aside for tax and other expenses and ensure they’re paid as required. If you employ staff, you’ll need to deal with their wages, contracts and general human resources matters. If you rent a property, paying the rent and maintaining the property will be your job too.
If your franchise is mobile, you’ll need to keep your vehicle maintained and clean at all times. Remember, you’re a mobile advert for your business and the brand - no one wants to buy from an uncared for vehicle/company.
How long is my annual leave entitlement?
Welcome to the world of selfemployment. In the early years, you probably won’t take a holiday, but you may be able to take long weekends and the odd afternoon or day off here and there, plus with careful planning you’ll be able to attend important events like school plays and sports days.
Make no mistake, being selfemployed is hard work, but the rewards can be very satisfying. Most people find they don’t miss holidays, as the ability to feel the financial benefit of their own hard work, possibly for the first time in their lives, more than makes up for lying on a beach in Spain.
Work becomes addictive and you’ll be itching to get back to the business, even after a long weekend.
All by myself?
Every year thousands of people set up businesses on their own and have no one to turn to and no one to seek advice from. Sadly, many of them fail.
As a franchisee, if you’ve done your research and chosen your franchisor well, you should receive comprehensive support, not only from head office, but also from the other franchisees in the network.
Not sure how to record your profit and loss? Call the franchisor. Leaflet drops not producing any leads? Seek advice from a franchisee working a similar territory to yours. Not sure how to market your business on social media? Talk to the franchisor.
Regular self-employed people would give their eye teeth for this kind of support and many fail because of a lack of it.
After your launch, you’ll receive regular in-territory visits from the franchisor and, depending on the size of the franchise, you may have regional meetings, where all franchisees in the area get together for training and an update on the business.
There will almost certainly be an annual conference and regular email/ phone support. This is the beauty of franchising, why it works for so many people and probably why you’re considering it yourself.
What to expect if you do buy a franchise
You should expect to work hard, but ultimately enjoy being your own boss, owning a profitable business that can fit around your family and be sold or handed on to a family member, should you wish to in the future.
Realistically, you may have to give up on dreams of long holidays for a while to focus instead on the possibility of retiring early, having built a business that will sustain you through your retirement.
You should expect support from your franchisor and look forward to making new, life-long friendships with your fellow franchisees.
All that’s left is to choose the right franchise. Good luck.