Even though many of the principles of running a successful franchise are the same as for any other business, getting a franchise up and running does come with a unique set of challenges.
We wanted to give those just setting out on their franchise journey the benefit of our experience with a few helpful tips. Some of this advice might even prove useful for franchisees who have been in the game for a while.
1. Make sure you have sufficient funding
While it’s tempting just to dream about all the money you’re going to make when you start a business, you also need to think about ensuring you have enough funds to get your franchise properly off the ground.
The specific amount you need will depend on the franchise but, whatever it is, make sure you have that sum in your account, with a little bit more as a contingency. There are enough things to worry about during those first few months without having to concern yourself with how you’re going to pay your employees, for example.
You might want to consider getting an injection of capital with a special Start-Up loan for franchisees from British Business Bank. This programme is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and is delivered by The Start Up Loans Company (SULCo), a subsidiary of the British Business Bank.
The programme aims to encourage entrepreneurship in the UK, increase the rate of business creation and improve survival prospects. It offers loans (from £500 to £25,000), alongside free mentoring and support to individuals who are starting a new business or who have been trading for less than three years.
2. Take advantage of franchisor support
Most good franchises come with a ready-made support network that is available for you to access whenever needed. That certainly helps beat the feeling of loneliness and isolation that can come from setting up your own business from scratch.
The franchisor will have already developed the core concept and the underlying brand. This gives them plenty of business experience and knowledge of the things that tend to work, as well as those that don’t. Tap their brains for as much of this information as they’re willing to share with you.
Something you might want to take advantage of if you haven’t yet committed to joining a franchise is Discovery Day. This is an in-depth meeting between the franchisor and one or more potential franchisees. This can either happen in person, usually at the company’s headquarters, or online.
Swimtime is one of the organisations that regularly runs online Discovery Days. These are hosted by Managing Director, Rachel Brooks, and provide fascinating insight into everything from an overview of franchising to Swimtime’s history and values, and from franchise finances to a typical day for a franchisee.
3. Develop a strong marketing strategy
The extent and type of marketing you’ll need to do to attract customers will depend on the strength of the brand. Some franchise organisations are household names, but most aren’t. Of course, the less well-known the business happens to be, the harder your marketing is going to have to work.
Many franchisors will do much of the heavy lifting for you by producing central marketing campaigns that you can use, usually at a much lower cost than if you had to produce the same assets under your own steam.
Digital marketing can be a great option for franchisees because it’s a cost-efficient way of talking to the kind of people who are likely to be interested in what you’re selling.
Special offers are likely to catch the eye of the consumer and setting up a loyalty programme can also attract business. Of course, you’ll need to work with the franchisor as all your marketing efforts will need to be on-brand and work within the terms of your initial agreement.
Another strong marketing strategy worth pursuing is good old-fashioned word of mouth. You should always be looking to capture testimonials and referrals to add to your database. You can make good use of these in the future.
4. Choose the right franchise
By this, we mean the right franchise for you; one that’s in a sector that motivates you and that plays to your strengths. It makes sense to opt for something relevant to your professional experience and qualifications, although this is by no means mandatory if
there are good reasons for you to head in a completely different direction.
Beyond that, you want to ensure you’re working for a reputable organisation that likes to do things in the right way. One good benchmark you can use to make a quick judgement is the British Franchise Association (BFA) membership. The BFA has been setting the standards for ethical franchising in the UK since 1977. To become a BFA member, a franchisor must follow various regulations and comply with the Code of Advertising Practice set out by the Advertising Standards Authority.
Joining the BFA is purely voluntary, so membership strongly suggests that a franchisor is highly likely to be trustworthy. Especially when you consider that not every franchise applying for membership is accepted into the organisation.
5. Employ the best possible people
Last, but by no means least, make every effort to assemble a winning team around you. Your employees will be the public face of your franchise, and if they look after customers and clients well, then you already have the first stepping stone of a successful business in place.
Of course, it’s not just about appointing the right people. You need to look after them well and make sure they have everything they need to shine. That includes good support, good technology to assist their efforts and good financial rewards.
Assuming you achieve the growth you’re looking for, you need to be aware of the latest employment regulations. A good franchisor will have plenty of experience in this area and might well have an HR expert, on hand, to give you advice when needed.
It’s a good feeling to know you’re supporting the local community by providing employment, but it’s not just about the jobs. You’re also providing a place where local people can exercise to promote their physical and mental wellbeing. Equally important, you’re giving children who live in the area something worthwhile to do and you’re teaching them a vital life skill. You really will be making a difference.
Wishing you the best of luck (and judgement)
Success can never be guaranteed, of course, as that comes down to a number of different factors, some of which will be outside your control.
But, make no mistake, luck will only play a small part in how well the first year or two goes for your franchise. By far the biggest factor will be you; your ideas, your energy and your business judgement. The future is firmly in your hands.