It’s been six years since we first thought of franchising our business and a lot has happened in that time. Are we glad we did it? Absolutely, yes. But there have been some interesting and challenging times along the way.
When it comes to growth, franchising can be a great way of expanding your business and your brand – but, in my opinion, you need to have a successful, established and strong business to start with. Alongside the growth of our own business, I’ve seen owners of failing businesses that have tried to use franchising as a way to prop it up. I’ve seen entrepreneurs that believe they have a good concept, but one that’s ultimately untried, and have treated franchising as a way to earn money fast.
Both circumstances have lead to disaster – not only for the franchisees that buy into these businesses, but ultimately for the original business itself. Franchising your business can only be successful with a time-proven, profitable business: one that has already made and learned from its mistakes, and refined its processes as a result.
After all, that’s what franchising is all about isn’t it? Building a brand, creating something special, and making it replicable for others to pick up the reins in a different location.
To get to place at which you can do that takes time and effort. You need to invest in all of the various things that will help your franchise plans grow smoothly. Everything from consulting to spending time documenting your processes and procedures, liaising with suppliers and writing down everything that you have learnt along the way. This is the approach we took, and it has paid dividends time and time again.
Of course, as you grow, the franchise network and the systems that you have will naturally change and evolve. But a strong starting point is vital.
To me, franchising always seemed to be the logical way to expand my business. By developing a network of hard working, like-minded business owners that had a vested interest in the success of the business seemed like a simple growth decision. And growth is self-replicating – the majority of franchisees want to grow and work their own franchise – why wouldn’t they?
But naturally, there are challenges. Franchising ultimately means giving up a part of your brand to a newcomer. No matter how much you trust them or how great their previous successes, you can never be 100 percent certain about whether or not it will work out.
Unfortunately, you do get some franchisees who will challenge everything, and not in a constructive, network-building way. When we experienced that challenge, it threw us for a little while. It made us question our own model. Were we doing something wrong, or not supporting them in the right way, for instance?
It wasn’t until we began to meet other franchisors that all became clear. These guys had been franchising for decades and had seen it all. It was tricky to ask them for advice – it felt that I was admitting some kind of failure – but eventually,
for the good of the business, I did.
It was good to find out that we weren’t alone. One franchisor, who had been in franchising for over 25 years told me that “some will never be content, it’s just the way of things”. He applied the good old “80/20” rule and told us not to worry about it but to continue supporting the guys that wanted to make it work. That lesson has stuck with me to this day, and it has really helped us focus on how to grow.
So those are my three initial tips for anyone looking at franchising as a route to growth:
1. Make sure that you have a business model that has stood the test of time, is profitable and successful
2. Do your homework, make sure that you’re prepared for what’s ahead
3. And never be afraid to ask questions. Get the right advice from people that really know and have been there before.
Keep those things in mind and I believe that you’ll find franchising to be a fantastic way of growing your business – and you’ll get to work with some great people along the way.
Ginny Murphy is owner of The Wheel Specialist. She and her partner Neill Murphy opened the first franchise in 2007, and currently have 14 franchisees across the UK.