Beatrice Bartlay discusses the ins and outs of converting your company into a franchise format.
Transforming a successful business model into a franchise is not for everyone and running a profitable organisation does not necessarily mean that it can be franchised. However, if the right mix of dedication, determination and discipline is applied to adapting an already successful business, the company can grow from strength to strength. An entrepreneurial spirit and heaps of patience are definite musts.
This April, I launched a franchise scheme for my recruitment business to keep up with the growing demand of our specialist services and we’ve already completed the first stage of training for our first franchisee, with further franchisees in the wings that have recently signed up to the programme.
The great thing about launching a franchise is that you already have the experience of putting together a business plan, the sourcing of funds and general set-up of a business. However, there’ll be plenty more obstacles in the lead up to the launch of a franchise, and certainly challenges during the signing and setting up of franchisees. Through my experience, I would advise researching until you’re an expert and plan ahead until you know the scheme like the back of your hand.
Find your forte
Before even considering launching a franchise scheme, you need to consider your current business model and whether it’s established enough and competitive enough to work in such a model. Define your business and what it provides, and assess whether the service or product is required in other areas, or whether it’s specific to your current location. This can be extremely difficult for some business owners, since you need to be able to take a step back and try to view the company objectively in order to accurately assess the strengths and weaknesses.
Do your research! It took me a good two years to prepare the franchise package for my company, based on my ten years of experience in the recruitment industry, as well as business plans, sales, budget and financial forecast, and real figures from our accounts. This is a lengthy process and must not be rushed. Take as much advice as you can get from all available sources and become an absolute expert about your business and your industry. Speak to your suppliers, advisers, customers and importantly, your current team. Attending networking events and trade shows are immensely useful for me as it enables me to draw on the experience that lies all around us. You also need to do your desk research and fully understand the areas you want to branch out into.
Map it out
Have a clear idea of your target geographies and where a branch could be successful. Your business may only be relevant to certain demographics and you need to carefully plan out where these are. Before launching the franchise model, we created a map of the UK broken into target territories. We know the number of businesses in each area that our services are relevant to; how widely our services are needed in that area, the distance one branch could cover, and so on.
You also need to know the locations you want to target first: the areas you’ve already received demand and plan out a growth strategy of when you want to build a franchise there. Decide how many franchisees you want to take on year-on-year, and don’t be too ambitious in the first 12 months. One or two franchisees within your first year of franchising is considered successful. How those initial branches overcome the individual challenges – and there will be challenges – will impact those that follow, so its crucial to take as much as you can from that learning curve.
Plan a strong training programme that not only gets the franchisee owner up to speed on the business duties, but also gets them engaged and excited to be part of a successful team. The training needs to educate and inform the owner on your business’ corporate identity, working ethics, sales and delivery of the service/product, office functionality, finances, legislation, and much more. If you want this branch to represent the brand as well as you do, then training is an essential part of ensuring this.
Don’t be too eager
There’s no harm in taking your time. Think of how long it took you to start your business and consider that you’ve got to continue running it while planning a whole new business model, with as much – if not more – work involved. It took me a good two years to get the franchise scheme for my company ready and since the launch, I’m pleased to say that the wait definitely paid off. All the planning cannot be rushed and if you’re too eager to launch, you may have missed key considerations.
Starting your first franchises will be similar to having a young child to look after; one that requires a lot of attention and time. The set up of our first branch, which is in the process of being franchised, required far more of my time than I had initially expected. There will be plenty of questions from your owners, and if you want the franchisee to be a success, you must be available to provide the support required.
Transforming my business to incorporate a franchise model has certainly been a difficult and demanding task and anyone considering the change should not take the commitment lightly. However, the joy of opening a new site is fantastic and it’s exciting to see the company grow and look forward to what the future will hold.