Kare Plus franchisee Jamie Hickson outlines seven key areas to consider during your franchise search
According to the most recent NatWest/British Franchise Association survey, there are around 900 different franchisors in operation in the UK, with an astonishing 83 new concepts launched during 2010/11 alone. That’s potentially a pretty daunting array to choose from if you’re just starting out, so here are my top tips to help you sort the best from the rest.
Suss out sustainability
In my previous life I worked in the financial services industry. Until the downturn I’d earned a pretty decent salary with good bonuses, but after the banking crisis customer confidence fell, fewer people were seeking loans and my income was affected. So when I decided the time had come to set up a business of my own, my first priority was to look for something that was sustainable and as recession proof as possible.
For me, the need for health and social care services is not one that’s going to go away any time soon, so it seemed logical to investigate opportunities in that sector.
Measure market potential
It makes sense to look at how large your potential marketplace is, both in terms of the number of potential customers and also in value. But you should also consider whether that marketplace is growing, find out to what extent demand for your services is being met by competitors and ask whether your customers are likely to be regular, repeat customers or people who use you on a one-off basis - in which case you have to keep seeking new avenues of business.
I liked the fact the marketplace for Kare Plus was expanding and was projected to continue to grow further. The combination of an ageing population and a health service struggling to cope with rising demand for care, together with a business model built on long-term customer relationships, meant I could put a definite tick in this box.
Check out training and support
As I was looking to set up a business in an area where I had absolutely no experience, it was essential to me that the training and support I received were of the highest quality. In fact, initially I investigated setting up from scratch on my own rather than investing in a franchise, but I quickly realised that to obtain all the necessary accreditations and meet complex compliance requirements would take me a very long time indeed and cost a considerable amount of money.
In the end I realised that Kare Plus had already leapt through all those hoops so that I didn’t have to. Ongoing support to ensure your compliance is up to date is also essential, as is the knowledge that in the event of something going wrong you have all the clinical support and business experience you need right behind you.
Look for a unique selling point
Where there’s a large marketplace and proven demand, you can bet there are a number of businesses operating in that space - unless you’re becoming involved in something totally new, and that in itself comes with obvious risks.
Clearly it’s important to ensure the business you intend to become part of has a unique selling point that gives you the edge over competitors. In the care services sector, there are a number of alternatives, each with their own approach, but the reason I chose Kare Plus was that it offered me the opportunity to provide medical as well as non-medical care services, unlike most others. I felt this wider service offering would generate an additional source of revenue and set my business apart.
Test the track record
When you invest in a franchise, it’s not only the brand and concept you’re buying into, but also the experience and expertise of your franchisor in the marketplace in which you will operate. So take a close look at the track record of your chosen franchisor. How long has it been operating in that market sector and how successfully? Is it well known and how does the reputation of the brand sit with customers?
For me, the fact that Kare Plus has been established for 12 years was a key consideration, but its existing links with large-scale customers was more important still. Kare Plus is already providing services to some of the UK’s largest private hospital and care home groups, so as a new franchisee I was able to tap into those established connections on my own territory and capitalise on a brand name that was already known and recognised elsewhere in the group.
How much of a helping hand?
Although as a franchisee your business is your own responsibility, and once you’ve been suitably trained you should expect to work hard to build it, some franchisors are clearly more geared to helping you than others.
So it’s always worth asking what additional help you can expect on the business development front. Apart from providing sales and marketing training is there, for instance, a central marketing and sales function? If so, can you expect to tap into national accounts? As I’ve mentioned, Kare Plus is already on the approved list of leading groups of private hospitals and care homes nationwide, which is an obvious benefit, but in addition the franchisor has recognised the opportunity created by new health and social care legislation to tap into lucrative contracts from the NHS.
As potential outsourcing contracts are announced in different areas, Kare Plus is busily tendering for work on behalf of its franchisees. Is the franchisor you are considering doing the same in its marketplace?
Do something you care about
Deciding to run your own business means a major life change. It’s certainly not easy and requires hard work, long hours and a high degree of commitment. However, providing you choose something you care about, the rewards can be immense. I chose a Kare Plus franchise because an illness in my family meant I witnessed poor quality care services at first hand. Now I’m making good money and have a growing business, but most of all I’m doing something I believe in - and that makes me feel great.