Paul Fennell, managing director of Autosheen, explains what it takes to be a successful franchisee
I spent 11 years as a franchisee, initially operating as a ‘man and a van’, before expanding into a multi-vehicle franchise. I subsequently sold my business and joined the franchise management team, finally joining Autosheen to reinvigorate and expand the company.
Here are my thoughts on what makes a good franchisee, both from a franchisee and franchisor’s perspective:
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 free office 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. But 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 hard work will ensure you succeed. Franchising is a proven and safer route to successful selfemployment, but it’s not an easy ride.
Can you follow a plan?
Before becoming a franchisee I was in the British Army, which meant I understood how to follow a plan. This stood me in great stead for franchising. 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 ‘go it alone’ start ups, is that there is a given template to follow. We know that if franchisees follow 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 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 ensure you utilise your time effectively and later, when you are more established, operating efficiently will be key to keeping customers happy and maximising profitability.
Your franchisor will 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 up to date, 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 no credible franchisor will 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 their brand and the marketplace already exists, and in some cases franchisees have access to an income stream generated by existing national account customers, as a franchisee you should expect to have to build the income you aspire to over a realistic period. That means budgeting and planning very carefully for the early months of your franchise.
Can you afford it?
Make sure you can afford to take the leap into franchising. Your overheads and lifestyle expectations should suggest to you what income you need and how quickly you need to achieve it. Obviously, you cannot expect the same returns from a franchise that costs you £10,000 compared to a business that costs £250,000, so invest wisely. 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 start off providing a little practical support in terms of paperwork or manning phones and end up joining the business. Others simply lend their enthusiasm, interest and occasional advice, sharing the ups and downs that inevitably come with running a business. In either case, such support is invaluable and often makes a significant difference to the success of the franchise.
Is your glass half full?
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 the potential ahead of you, rather than seeing your glass half empty.
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?
So far, so good. 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 many others the necessary skills and techniques can be taught. What matters is that round pegs are finding round holes. At Autosheen, for example, 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 who understand sales and marketing, but needed to be taught the basics of car maintenance. Whatever the skills/knowledge potential franchisees bring, the franchisor should be flexible enough to fill in the gaps.
Last, but not least, do your research. There’s plenty of opportunities on offer, so make sure you take the time to visit all the franchisors on your shortlist. From personal experience, I cannot emphasise this enough. Yes, it may take up a day and cost some fuel but, as you are making a life changing decision, you and your family deserve this extra effort. 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 really feels to be self-employed.
If you’re cut out to be a franchisee, go ‘APE’ - look for affordability, profitability and enjoyability and you’ll be sure to find the perfect fit for your successful franchising future.