Business Advice spoke to Linda Price, founder and director of Swimtime, and chair of Northern forums for the British Franchising Association, for her thoughts on what all new franchisees should prioritise in the crucial first year.
Driven by the rising number of people setting up or taking on a new business, franchising is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK. From outsourced secretarial services to Subway, the franchising model is thriving. There are now close to 40,000 franchise outlets operating in the UK, with 92 per cent of franchise model businesses reporting profitability.
It has become an attractive proposition for many business people, but there are some important reminders to keep in mind for the early stages, to make sure you set up the best foundations possible. Here are Price’s top five guidelines for a successful year one.
(1) Follow the model
From day one, franchisees need to have a real understanding of the franchise model and the products or services they have committed to. They need to pay attention to information provided during the initial training. Ensure that the franchise USP and key marketing objectives is kept front of mind – and keep focussed! I recommend talking to existing franchisees about their own businesses and the challenges they face to learn from their failures and successes.
(2) Have a clear marketing plan – review often
Have a clear business plan and know how you are going to bring customers to your business. Some franchises can just sell themselves, as they are already part of the high street furniture (look at Domino’s and Claire’s Accessories, for example), but their success is built on an efficient, evolving marketing machine. Franchisees need to devote time in year one to find out what works, what doesn’t work, where new business is coming from, and to understand what is offered by competitors.
From using and refining the approach on social media channels, to attending the right local networking events, time and energy needs to be invested by franchisees into this task. I advise getting to know the local business press and find out if there are any advertising incentives for new businesses. Marketing needs to be a daily priority, to help keep existing customers, and bring new customers in.
Working closely with the franchisor is paramount when paying for these types of services. Remember they’ve tried and tested every part of the model.
(3) Keep your data up front and at hand, and plan for growth
Whether it is through pen paper and calculator, spreadsheets or a software system provided by the franchisor at the outset – franchisees have to use any method to make sure they stay on top of what is happening in all aspects of the business. Keeping a close eye on cash levels is also key – under capitalisation is a killer for fledgling businesses.
With true understanding and a complete overview of what is happening in your business you will be able to grow.
(4) Work at building strong relationships
There are two important relationships for a franchisee; the relationship with their franchisor and their relationship with other franchisees. The franchisor has the knowledge, has been there and done it so keep good open conversation on a regular basis. Having good relationships with other franchisees within the network is also very important in what can be a lonely and isolating role. Being part of a network of franchisees provides a ready-made group of like-minded people who are going through the same experiences and so are a great source of knowledge and support.
(5) Enjoy your business
Take a breath, and look around once in a while – you are running your own franchise business! If a franchisee is passionate about the brand the product, the customer service and the staff, then with some hard work, the rewards will come through.
At Swimtime, we developed our franchise model from scratch nearly 20 years ago. We have had ups and downs like all businesses, but Swimtime now operates through a network of 26 franchises, teaching children and adults swimming skills in over 18,000 swimming lessons every week in over 200 locations throughout the UK.
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